“It’s not an engineer hanging on the pylon outside”LEARN MORE
The 580 or so employees at the Graubünden-based electricity supplier Repower share a common goal: the energy of the future. A visit with an electrical engineer and a linesman makes it clear that innovations like a digital control tool can only emerge when the circle is complete.
A digital tool straight from innovation boot camp
It all started with a pen and paper. “Linespeople used to check their power stations and document inspections with ticks and crosses,” says Asset Manager Gerhard Bräuer. These inconsistent evaluations, however, revealed that analogue control was not effective, and was ultimately problematic for everyone involved. For Bräuer, it was clear that a digital solution was needed.
In the ultra-modern building in Landquart, one of seven Repower sites, the passionate developer explains how EASYASSET came into being. “The company organised an innovation boot camp where participants could enter their own idea.” The inventors received a budget of CHF 2,000 to develop their innovations and were allowed to spend ten per cent of their working hours on the project. Bräuer also took part with two colleagues and has good memories of the time. “We invested the whole budget in a well-known illustrator to perk up our pitch.” Whether it was down to the illustrator or the innovative concept itself, the effort paid dividends, and EASYASSET is now in use all over Switzerland.
Bringing know-how in from outside
Much of EASYASSET’s success is due to the linespeople who brought it down to earth with their practical knowledge. “It’s not an engineer hanging on the pylon outside, but an electrician: some of them have been doing this for over 40 years and know the systems better than their own living rooms.” So Bräuer and his crew invited their linespeople, who filed into the meeting room with their dirty shoes and work clothes. And the rest is history.
Linespeople keeping Graubünden in power
A little further away at a substation in Landquart, linesman Mike Gemperle is checking the system with a tablet in hand and is grateful for his digital helper: “Whether ten metres above or below ground, I never lose track with EASYASSET. And if I think of a function that would make my work even easier, we work with our IT people to enhance the tool.” For Mike, his job at Repower means freedom first and foremost. “We spend a lot of time outdoors with our well-coordinated team and are somewhere different every day, whether on the pylon in Bever or at the substation in Landquart. When I work, I feel myself and my body. I’m also able to decide each day how I want to approach a problem, and if I need my head free to do it, there’s no one bothering me ten metres above the ground.” A notification appears on the tablet. And up he goes.
Completing the circle with the electric car
When it’s time to move on to the next job, the electric cars are charged and ready. Repower distributes charging stations throughout Switzerland for this purpose. And you can feel the green energy outside office hours, too: as a part of internal campaigns, employees can test the electric cars in the region free of charge at the weekends, or explore passes and valleys using in-house e-bikes.
A place for free spirits and control freaks alike
It’s impressive to see how quickly a linesman can climb to the top of a wooden pylon. The view must be breathtaking. But the fresh air they enjoy also comes with a lot of responsibility. “Nature lends the profession a romantic touch, but in addition to a free spirit, linespeople also need sensitivity and meticulous attention to detail.” From atop the electricity pylon, Mike can see Repower’s 40-metre-high lattice tower in the distance, which ensures the supply of electricity to Klosters and Davos. “During the WEF, we all need to be on the ball. This is when we realise how important it is that we at Repower do everything right every day.”
Gerhard Bräuer’s mobile comes to life, set fittingly to play “Wind of Change” by the Scorpions. It’s already time for Mike to move on with his electric car and check on a power station in Ilanz.