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Central Machine Shop caps 40th year of service with four safe work years

by on January 7, 2015
Central Machine Shop retirees (shown above) and employees came together recently for a luncheon to celebrate 40 successful years of service and four years of injury-free work.

Central Machine Shop retirees (shown above) and employees came together recently for a luncheon to celebrate 40 successful years of service and four years of injury-free work.

(Story by Debra Pannell)

Central Machine Shop got its start at the John E. Amos Plant in 1974, soon after the plant’s two 800-megawatt units and its 1,300-megawatt Unit 3 were placed in service. By 1978, the shop had outgrown its space at Amos and moved to its current location in the South Charleston Industrial Park. Last month, employees and retirees gathered there to celebrate the shop’s 40th year of service.

CMS founder Harold Rulen, who came back for the anniversary celebration, explained how the shop came about. “Pretty much the only option we had when a turbine or generator part needed repair was to go to the manufacturer, which was sometimes a lengthy process and was always expensive,” he said.

A machinist who specialized in turbine and generator repair, Rulen provided AEP another option when he organized employees and equipment and set up a repair shop on Amos Plant property. “Once we had the expertise and equipment in place, we could do turbine and generator repair work much less expensively than if we sent it out,” said Rulen. “And when GE saw we could do our own work, they dropped their prices when bidding on repair work for us.” Over the course of its 40 years, CMS’ existence has provided AEP’s generating fleet a competitive advantage few other electric utilities enjoy.

Bryan Mabe, the shop’s current manager, cites a number of ways the shop contributes to the company’s bottom line. The most obvious is cost – even today there are only a handful of companies in the U.S. that can match CMS’ capabilities to repair the large, specialized parts found in generating units – and CMS’ costs compare quite favorably.

Perhaps as important, though, is time. Every hour a large generating unit is down for repair can translate into significant dollars in lost revenue. CMS can and does adjust its work schedule to accommodate AEP’s most pressing priorities. CMS also maintains spare parts, which can help get a generating unit back up and running while the damaged part is being repaired.

Finally, there’s quality. “CMS employees are also AEP employees, so we essentially have shareholders doing the work,” said Mabe. “When the owners are doing the work, they’re going to take extra care to do the job well.”

Mabe said production priorities shift as the complexion of AEP’s generating fleet changes. For instance, the shop is considering adding expertise around repairs for the company’s growing number of natural gas units.

CMS has also tapered its work force to match reduced repair needs at AEP’s smaller coal-fired units, which are set to close in 2015. But the one constant is the value proposition that has driven CMS since day one.

“We identify and focus on work where there is a high margin between CMS’s costs and those of its competitors,” said Mabe. “Doing that high margin differential work is where we bring value to AEP.”

From → News From AEP

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