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ESMO 2019: Q&A With Carl L. Segneri, Jr.

ESMO 2019 is only a few short months away, and the early bird deadline of March 25 is quickly approaching. Don't miss your opportunity to attend the event, which includes a technical conference, trade show, tour of American Electric Power (AEP) Transmission Training Center and outdoor demonstrations. 

By attending the technical conference at ESMO 2019, from June 24-27 in Columbus, Ohio, you can earn professional development hours and learn about industry trends from experts in the field. Case in point: Carl Segneri Jr., vice president of business development for M.J. Electric, will participate in a session on the contracted workforce. Here's a look at his career and some highlights from his session at ESMO 2019, which is sponsored by IEEE PES and hosted by AEP. 

 

Q: In June in Columbus, Ohio, you will be presenting on a panel at ESMO. Talk about the focus of your panel and what attendees can expect to learn. What is the working title of the session? 

A: The opening panel session will focus on integrating field perspectives into all aspects of the delivery business. This contracted workforce brings a broader view of the industry to the utilities by introducing technology and innovative methods learned as best practices elsewhere.  I plan to review examples of these innovative approaches.  I have seen the great successes achieved by utilities and contractors when they engage the field workers in the development of solutions.  Just some of the examples are in safety practices, storm and service restoration, line construction and leveraging new equipment or technology.
 

Q: Why is this topic important to the industry? 

A: No matter how many improvements we make in equipment and technology, the labor to install, repair and restore is still one of the largest costs. Companies who engage and leverage their workforce will reap the benefits many times over. There are numerous examples where an engaged workforce is safer and more productive.

Q: During your session, you plan to talk about some of the innovative approaches and technology used by contractors in the energy industry. Can you give a few examples of these innovations? 

A: Some of the innovations I have seen contractors bring to the industry are tools and methods to perform line work in energized conditions.  Quanta developed the robotic arm and advanced training methods to provide energized and barehand transmission line work. Construction lead EPC projects leverage the constructability aspects of a project to ensure the designs can be efficiently built.  The use of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to pull wire in difficult locations has been successful and I expect this capability to grow and expand.
 

Q: Also, you mentioned that the availability of skilled workers is an issue not limited to just one geographical region of the United States. How do you think utilities and contractors can address this challenge?  

A: As with most of our industry challenges, there is no one solution that will solve the diminishing availability of skilled workers. Both contractors and utilities are a little late on bringing in more workers into the apprentice programs. The effort is there, but it will take some time to have an impact. Quanta Services has bought Northwest Line College so they can have more control of one of the leading schools training new hires into the industry. Some utilities have made a significant change in how they schedule and sequence projects to engage contractors earlier and award or plan multiple projects in order to keep contractor crews on property. This utility/contractor partnership arrangement helps keep contract crews who know the utility system and reduce the need for the extra training required when there is steady contractor field worker turnover. 
  

Q: Who do you think would most benefit from attending your session at ESMO? 

A: Our opening session should be relatable for executives, managers, field leaders and craft employees from utilities and contracting companies alike. Other vendors and suppliers in the industry can hear about some of the field and resource challenges that their customers are working to solve.  

Q:  How do you think the information and discussion during your session will help the attendees in their day-to-day jobs? 

A: No matter how much technology and equipment changes, the safety and the productivity of our workforce is the most important factor in our success.  If we can share how to better engage and leverage our skilled craft, we have a good chance to improve the industry.  Our workforce is the face of our company to customers. 
 

Q: You have worked for both electric utilities and contracting companies, and you have said that both are highly skilled and trained. How do you think this focus on safety and training has changed over the years? 

A: The focus on safety is definitely one of the most significant and necessary things that has changed over the years.   We have seen many improvements in safety equipment and tools that have saved many incidents. Bucksqueeze and other fall protection systems for linemen, expanded use of flame resistant clothing, face shields and capes have prevented many injuries.  The increased use of remote devices to operate breakers, rack in network protectors, remotely cut cables has moved workers out of the line of fire.
 

Q: How do you think these changes have benefitted the industry as a whole? 

A: These advancements in equipment have made the work safer, but I believe the most impactful factor in safer performance is the change in the attitude of the field leadership and the field worker. In the past, folks accepted that injuries happen because utility work is inherently dangerous. Today, the training and the behaviors are driven by the belief that all hazards can be identified, anticipated and mitigated. 

In the past few years, I have seen the drive for safety excellence move from leadership directives to true ownership by the field workforce. Today, it would be very rare to find a utility industry worksite that did not have a written job hazard and/or safety brief that was developed by the work crew. Utilities started this strive for safety excellence. They decided they could not accept that injuries “just happen." Utilities demanded that the contractor workforce adopted the same focus and behaviors that they expected out of their internal workforce. Contractors had no choice but to comply.  It has made the industry safer.
 

Q: Now please talk about your background and education. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with your degree in electrical engineering, you became licensed as a professional engineer for the State of Illinois. How did you get interested in studying to become an engineer? 

A: I always enjoyed math and science, and I enjoyed getting my hands dirty. Engineering was an easy choice.
 

Q: Do you have other members of your family who are licensed engineers? If so, who? 

A: There are no other engineers in my family, but I have a legacy in the utility industry. My grandfather was a welder for the gas company. My dad spent his 38-year career at ComEd. He started as a substation mechanic/electrician, then worked in the electrical testing and commissioning group where he trained many graduate engineers. He later finished his career as the company motor and generator expert. He earned an associate's degree at night, and most people thought he was a degreed engineer because of his incredible technical expertise. He learned the hard way.
 

Q: Prior to working for M.J. Electric, you had managerial positions at both ComEd and PECO. What drew you to the utility industry? 

A: My dad never pushed me to join the utility industry, but I am sure my respect for him was a factor.  I had a summer internship in the field engineering department at ComEd, and that hooked me. When I graduated in 1980, most of my peers were going to work for computer and high-tech companies. The utility industry did not have a reputation for being as cutting edge as it is right now. However, one of my engineering professors told me that I was going to a place where I would do some REAL engineering and he assured me I would enjoy a challenging and rewarding career. Boy, was he right.
 

Q: As the vice president of business development for M.J. Electric, what do you enjoy most about your job?

A: I love my job at M.J. Electric. I am able to work with multiple utilities, vendors and power developers on a wide range of projects to ensure that MJE and Quanta, our parent company, can bring the best solutions to their challenges.  I get a great overview of many best practices across the industry.  My experience as a utility engineer and executive allows me to understand what the customers want.  MJE and Quanta support my leadership role as the IEEE T&D Conference Director and long-time member of the AEIC Power Apparatus Committee.  These industry roles keep me current on the exciting technologies and methods that continue to improve the electric grid.  I have been in the industry for more than 39 years, and I continue to learn new things every day.
 

Q: What do you find most challenging about your current position?

A: I share some of the same challenges that the utility leaders face. The technical challenges to make the electric grid more reliable and safe are similar to when I first started. What has changed is the broad range of stakeholders who greatly influence utility decisions, strategies and success.  Cyber and physical security, higher customer expectations for choice and reliability, regulatory policies that drive investment and financial recovery, merchant transmission lines, etc. are just a few of the many factors that drive the decisions of my utility customers. My challenge is to stay informed on all of those things and more. 

As a contractor serving the industry, I can see many ways we can help our customers with early involvement and engagement in the solutions. Too often, contractors are brought in to merely build a project that has already been scoped and designed. This late involvement in a project greatly reduces our ability to bring in creativity and efficiencies. My challenge is to get utilities to engage us earlier in the process.

To learn more about ESMO 2019 and to take advantage of the early bird rate, visit the Web site

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