How A Woman-Owned Enterprise Brought Innovation And Cost Savings To PG&E
For more than a half-century, Northern California-based K.W. Emerson, a woman-owned business, has specialized in all kinds of general construction work. If the job requires moving underground utilities, excavating or road construction, many municipalities and utility companies rely on this enterprising company to provide them with innovative money-saving ideas.
One of those companies is Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), which provides energy to 15 million customers in Northern and Central California.
K.W. Emerson does a lot of work in remote areas of California where PG&E has hydroelectric plants. The company’s assignments involve projects such as repairing canals and dams. Many of these plants have narrow roads which need frequent repair because of the stress from the weight of 18-wheel trucks transporting materials to and from work sites as well as seasonal weather damage.
K.W. Emerson’s team came up with a way to reduce the frequency of road repairs by using a 10-wheel dump truck instead of an 18-wheel hauler to transport materials to and from the construction site. The 10-wheelers aren’t as long as the 18-wheelers, so the dump trucks minimize damage to the edges of the road and are quicker to load and unload. In addition to less damage to the road, 10-wheel trucks provide more control and safer driving conditions.
For about a decade, K.W. Emerson has proven itself to be an innovative resource in the successful completion of many PG&E projects. However, they never measured the dollars that were saved as a result of their innovations. Recently, K.W. Emerson was encouraged by Ron Martine, a PG&E senior category leader in Power Generation, to establish metrics that help quantify the value of their innovations.
Martine analyzed the supplier’s cost avoidance calculations and determined that the construction transportation changes helped PG&E avoid a 10 percent increase in road repair costs. This savings came from not having to grade, prep and pave roadways equivalent to nearly one mile.
“K.W. Emerson sets itself apart from the competition in establishing and maintaining safe and efficient access to difficult, tight and dangerous project sites,” said Martine. “Their methods and innovations have allowed us to be successful in completing projects on time and through rough weather situations.”
K.W. Emerson also devised another solution, which saved PG&E additional work hours. The company stabilized isolated soft spots in the ground on the bottom of canals simply by mixing cement with dirt. This method reduced the time it would have taken to truck in additional material to stabilize the ground.
They shared their best practice with another supplier working on the same project. As a result of K.W. Emerson’s partnership with this second supplier, PG&E avoided potentially an additional week of work for the overall project.
Their ongoing effort to bring innovative ideas while saving money was a clear indicator they were a good candidate for PG&E’s Supplier Development Program. For the last eight years, this program has provided participating suppliers with mentorship, capacity-building resources, opportunity identification and value chain analysis. As part of that program, K.W. Emerson received a scholarship from PG&E for recently completing the UCLA Management Development for Entrepreneurs Program where they designed and implemented a Business Improvement Project.
“Rusti and Dan Emerson (company owners) attribute their company’s success to their employees,” said Martine. “Many have worked there for 10-15 years and take great pride and ownership in their efforts. These attributes are reflected in what K.W. Emerson has done for PG&E.”