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  Bar codes simplify reporting, inspections

Story by Randy Wilkerson

You have no doubt noticed the stickers on Western’s government-owned property. The stickers clearly identify items as federal property and display unique asset numbers. Most property stickers now contain a barcode as well.

Western uses a device like this to scan asset barcodes and record data.


Western uses a device like this to scan asset barcodes and record data.

We are all familiar with scanning barcoded items at the supermarket, and we are aware that the barcodes do far more than simply indicate the price of an item. Barcodes also help track inventory, both at the point of sale and on the shelf with the use of hand-held scanners. But why and how does Western use barcodes?

Maximo Project Manager Bill Bailey set the stage by explaining, “Barcoding items initially started with Western’s Property community more than a decade ago to inventory moveable property, like computer stations and warehouse stock. Rocky Mountain was the first to use barcodes and [this practice] was eventually accepted across Western.”

 He continued, “About eight years ago, Rocky Mountain initiated a pilot project to extend the use of barcoding to the substations. The project was driven by the desire to use Maximo capabilities to capture uniform asset information for planning and reporting. The project was very successful.”

 Desert Southwest Protection and Communication Manager Teresita Amaro explained that linking the barcode to Maximo ensures each asset is tracked and associated with the appropriate contract. When the barcode is scanned with the handheld scanner, the inspector can see the record for that asset and easily see what needs to be inspected. She said, “This will really help with substation and communication inspections.”

 DSW began to install barcodes on communication and meter and relay assets in 2008. Lewis Trujillo, then a protection and communication foreman III, said, “In 2007 we were reviewing assets in preparation for our first North American Electric Reliability Corporation audit. We determined that identifying meter and relay and communication assets was necessary to ensure that Maximo contained accurate records.”

Trujillo said the original scope of the project covered multiple facilities and involved “additions of a lot of communication equipment. The original entries in Maximo … did not include all the specific equipment like radios and multiplexers. The project also provided record updates to reflect asset change outs and verified that any equipment requiring preventive maintenance was entered as an asset and had a preventive maintenance schedule set up in Maximo.”

Maintenance Management Specialist Gretchen Harper shared, “DSW currently has more than 10,750 active protection and communication assets that are barcoded and tracked in Maximo.” The inventory process includes:

 A bar code identifies a transformer bank at Parker Substation in Arizona.

A bar code identifies a transformer bank at Parker Substation in Arizona. (Photo by Bill Burgin)

  • Identifying assets and information such as model and serial number
  • Verifying information in Maximo
  • Entering missing assets or information
  • Applying bar codes
  • Validating asset ownership and maintenance responsibility
  • Proper charging by asset
  • Verifying drawings

 Harper added, “We are about 96-97 percent complete with initial site visits and barcoding existing assets.”

Maintenance Management Specialist Valerie Berk said, “Desert Southwest began barcoding substation equipment in March 2012. The project is scheduled to take four years, but at the current rate, it could be finished in June 2015.”

Bailey summed up the importance of the barcoding project, “As the requirements for regulatory reporting increased, the use of mobile devices is becoming even more relevant today. The value for mobile data collection is overwhelming. The days of collecting information by pencil and paper are fading. Barcoding assets helps the craft quickly identify the correct asset in the field and presents the inspector with the proper list of measurement that need to be recorded.”