Power Grid Engineering, LLC (PGE), a Qualus Power Services Company, is an electric utility services firm specializing in substation design, field testing and commissioning and consultation for investor-owned utilities.
A full-service firm, PGE’s clients turn to the organization for comprehensive solutions and consultation expertise within the power systems industry. Throughout the years, the company’s services have expanded to include four new service lines, power systems seminars, three regional offices and an employee base of over 300.
Evolving and expanding
The organization was founded by Michael Wright, Glenn Durie and Andre Uribe to provide high quality engineering and consulting services to the power industry. The firm’s three principals, were working for Progress Energy (now Duke Energy) at the time and there was a shared recognition amongst them to develop a unique set of quality assurance and control processes to set the bar of quality and safety and make a direct impact in the industry.
Wright, Durie and Uribe turned their vision into reality when they launched PGE in January 2007. What started out as a home-based operation turned into a larger office space with the opening of their first location in Winter Springs, FL in 2008.
“We started the company with three people working out of our home’s guest room,” said Michael Wright, President at Power Grid Engineering. “Through our core focus on culture of quality and employees who care, we’ve been able to expand as much as we have, not only in Florida but elsewhere in the Southeast and Midwest.”
The organization’s focus on culture of quality combined with the leadership’s technical expertise contributed to its strategic growth. The outward expansion began with the opening of the company’s office in Birmingham, Alabama. After a short year, PGE expanded its presence by entering into the Kansas and North Carolina markets with offices in El Dorado and Raleigh. As the organization continued to grow, the team outgrew their space in Winter Springs and in 2016, the owners moved into a larger office space in Lake Mary, Florida.
The company boasts four offices from which it seamlessly serves medium to large utilities at its operations in over 21 states. “One of our core values at PGE is ‘Here to Serve Our Clients’ and since the first day, our focus has been to develop strong partnerships with our clients through providing high quality services with the mindset of exceeding their expectations,” said Andre Uribe, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Quality – key to success
Quality is at the core of the organization and as the company grew, its leadership made it a priority that the founding commitment to quality was not lost or diluted. Maintaining this commitment required the institution of processes tied to its core values in the interest of unparalleled quality. “During our first couple of years, I supported various aspects of our business and as we grew, we realized that investing time and resources to a dedicated quality department would allow for streamlined processes and a sustainable structure for PGE to grow and better serve our clients,” said Glenn Durie, Vice President of Technical Services.
In the beginning, Wright, Durie and Uribe played a dual role as engineers and businessmen. They quickly recognized the need to work “on” the business, not “in” the business in order to grow and be profitable. The expansion of the departments allowed for the organization to improve efficiency and stratify responsibility for closer attention to detail in every aspect of work performed.
Today, as the president of the organization, Wright’s role is to guide, empower and support every department at PGE to ensure consistency in performance and maintain a positive work culture. Durie remains the driving leader for quality, safety and human performance practices across the board. Uribe continues to strategize initiatives contributing to the health and growth of the organization while expanding its service lines and capabilities.
The firm’s approach to quality assurance is premised on three very important tenets: develop and implement a set of well-designed standard PGE work processes; ensure a clear understanding of client requirements and work practices; and maintain a structured methodology for documenting project activities to ensure client requirements are met. Each tenet has an associated color-coded book (Orange Book, Gray Book and Yellow Book) that provides structure, described as being “key product and service quality differentiators” helping execute and reinforce PGE’s quality assurance program.
The standard PGE work practices can be found in the Orange Book, a reference manual that is referred to as “The PGE Way.” This manual lays out the firm’s core practices and describes the processes required to ensure project delivery. The Gray Book contains a collection of client-specific standards and procedures supporting PGE’s service to its clientele. The Yellow Book is a project reference manual containing documents that offer project scopes and quality assurance specific to each project.
Safety around the clock
Safety is a top priority at Power Grid Engineering and is reinforced through a dedicated safety department with a comprehensive safety program, onboarding, weekly and monthly safety reports and training. The organization is committed to protecting the safety and health of its employees, clients and the surrounding communities. Whether at work or at home, safety remains a priority for all members of the organization.
PGE’s safety program is designed to continually improve through routine self-evaluations, training, management support and employee participation. As such, the employees understand the importance of a positive and proactive safety culture.
The organization’s priority is to make every workplace safe by detecting and correcting unsafe working conditions, as well as the discovery and resolution of unsafe work practices. For its outstanding records in safety, PGE received recognition from one of its clients, American Electric Power, and won the AEP Contractor award in the small contractor classification in 2018. The organization continues to receive positive feedback from its clients in the industry.
Emphasis on training
As securing skilled talent remains a challenge across the industry, PGE understands the need to share expertise and provides training opportunities to industry professionals as well as internal staff. As a result, PGE has created a comprehensive curriculum that is offered through a series Power Systems Seminars and a Boot Camp program that cover key elements of safety, human performance and technical practices.
The Power Systems Seminars facilitated by PGE’s team of technical trainers have been specifically developed for engineers, engineering technicians and field relay technicians, and aim to provide attendees with a strong basis of knowledge in relay protection philosophy and design theory. These seminars are offered with open enrollment sessions in various cities and at client sites. Client-site seminars allow for topics be customized to fit an organization’s needs and priorities.
“We share our experiences and knowledge with industry professional through these seminars,” said Wright. “When I began teaching the first Relay Philosophies course in 2001, I did so by trying to answer all the ‘big picture’ questions that I had when I was new to the industry. I, alongside all of our instructors, still teach these training seminars with the same approach, covering complex topics in an easy and interactive way.”
Another training initiative is the Power Grid Engineering Boot Camp program. The Boot Camp is an intensive eight-week program designed to prepare entry level technicians for a career within the utility industry. “We take someone right out of a technical college that understands substations and their equipment, and we put them through a comprehensive training program,” Wright said. This program gives the students an opportunity in the field where they can gain invaluable hands-on and on-the-job training to serve as productive assistants upon graduation.
Power Gridders in action
Just as PGE supports internal workforce development initiatives, it also makes a point to support NextGen STEM programs to help shape students into future leaders. The focus of everything it does is long-term viability. The organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program has four areas of focus, which include NextGen STEM, sustainability, health and safety, and community outreach, otherwise referred to as “All for One, One for All.” The company’s mission through this program is to establish partnerships with communities on delivering solutions that contribute to a better future.
For its efforts to support both its own internal community and the communities it serves, PGE has been named one of the best places to work on countless occasions, receiving recognition from the Orlando Business Journal, PR News, Florida Trend and many others and was listed on Inc. 5000 in 2018.
Partnering for growth
For Power Grid Engineering, the market outlook is bright. There has been a lack of spending in infrastructure over the last decade or two and now, regulatory changes and increases in spending are signaling positive news for the firm and an opportunity for continuous growth.
While PGE’s growth has historically been organic in nature, the decision to partner with CE Power was described to be a “growth play” for the firm. The two operate as wholly-owned subsidiaries of a newly formed holding company, Qualus Power Service Corporation, positioning it as a leader in power engineering and field services. “Recognizing that we are in a very niche market, it was a strategic approach for us to diversify our portfolio of services to better serve our clients,” said Uribe about the decision to merge with CE Power. “The merger of Power Grid and CE Power has given us a larger footprint in our industry, servicing various sectors from investor-owned utilities to governmental entities.”
The merger more than doubled the number of employees to over 700, increased its financial strength and provided greater capacity to grow in terms of people, service lines and market reach while ensuring quality is paramount.
PGE will look to expand its reach nationally. With the support of its CE Power partners, the company has a greater presence beyond the eastern and southeastern regions of the United States. Uribe, now serving as the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, propels the organization’s growth objective by identifying market opportunities.
As Uribe said, “My primary role has been to lead the strategic growth and expansion of our service lines and empower our team to continue building and maintain long-lasting partnerships with our clients.” This approach will continue to be enacted through collaboration, new business strategies, initiating new market relationships and aligning the business goals to achieve the firm’s objectives for the long term.