Upskilling Operators to Mitigate the Deferred Maintenance Bubble

Unique Challenges faced by rural microgrids during a pandemic.

From in the deserts of Africa to the Arctic tundra, many rural microgrids and mini grids leverage a regional maintenance model that dispatches an advanced, skilled technician to work with local site agents. During normal operations, the regional technician will deploy from his/her home community to provide on-the-ground support and service to 5 to 10 communities in their area in what is often known as a hub-and-spoke model. The technician teams with local operators to conduct a host of advanced services and repairs. 60Hertz’s research repeatedly finds that local operators crave visits from their credentialed counterparts as invaluable learning opportunities; together they make repairs or maintenance. This model drives operational efficiencies and encourages mentor-ship.


Regional technicians are grounded.

But in the era of COVID19, what if these beloved, skilled mechanics threaten outlying communities as possible vectors for virus? Across 60Hertz’s user base, we now have data that this stark concern has halted skilled technician travel. Many rural utilities decided to limit travel to absolute emergencies. One operator told me that 100% of his utility’s technicians must remain grounded. They will travel only in the event of a prolonged power outage.


Overcoming deferred maintenance bubble – teaming technicians and local operators.

The impact? A forthcoming balloon of deferred maintenance work. How should utilities best respond to this backlog? Upskilling your local operators may be a sound decision to mitigate the volume of work that is building. 60Hertz is a purpose-driven Computerized Maintenance Management Software, meaning, we attend diligently to increasing human potential through our software platform.

Here are some thoughts about how your rural utility may be able to efficiently upskill your local operators.

  • Identify Capacity. Your OPS team and technicians likely have solid anecdotal knowledge about the skill levels of your local operators. Together the team may be able to suggest which operators are capable of performing more skilled tasks safefly. The OPS team may also be able to rapidly curate content that would be the assist needed to ensure the local operator is successful.
  • Build Job Aids. Sharing a view of the assets between the local operator and the technician is invaluable.
  • Increase visibility. Perhaps during normal operations your local operators play a very minor role in data capture. Your technicians may be able to quickly curate a list of expanded values and checks that can be added to your local operators checks. This increased visibility broadens the opportunity to assess the needs of the asset.
  • Support & Oversight. Re-purpose your roving technicians to provide oversight on the data that is coming in from the field. A phone call or in-app message could inspire attention to an imperative maintenance issue. Now is the time to avoid catastrophic failure, which may become more likely during this time of reduced on-site visits from technicians.
  • Increase your attention to diagnostics: From diesel engine fluid-sampling to correlating solar production with irradiance meters, query the data sets available to you. Now is the time to lean on performance data that can be easily overlooked.
  • Leverage outside resources: Naturally, 60Hertz stands ready to assist with each of the above suggestions through our platform. We are eager to understand your unique challenges and collaboratively create solutions.


60Hertz has been actively engaging with developers, operators, and manufactures to determine ways we can support and maintain uptime. We would be happy to engage, share and learn with you. How are you mitigating the deferred maintenance bubble? Care to join us during an upcoming peer group discussion? Please follow this link to provide your contact information.


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Tonya James

Tonya James holds a Masters in Business Administration and humbly admits she is the 17th generation to serve in our nation’s military and the first female combat veteran. She has spent the last 6+ years in the renewable energy industry and has played an essential role in assisting the launch of 60Hertz. Tonya is passionate about supporting energy sovereignty for rural populations.