Cody Karre wasn’t sure he was heading in the right direction – literally – when he came to Omaha from southwest Nebraska for a job interview with OPPD.
Karre was given a map – which amounted to a squiggly line and some squares – to North Omaha Station, where his interview was to take place.
“I drove for almost an hour and at one point I said to myself, ‘I am so late I am never going to get this job,’” Karre said.
When he finally got there, his lateness wasn’t a factor. His willpower to find the plant and get the job done impressed the supervisor. He started at the plant in 2003 as a plant electrical helper and is now supervisor of Instrument and Control in Electrical Maintenance at North Omaha Station.
It’s a job Karre takes seriously, making sure all of his customers’ needs are met every day, even though every day is different.
“Some days there is equipment not working as designed and other days we’re working on equipment that is a lower priority,” he said. “We approach every single job with a safe and positive mindset. The motto in our shop is, ‘if you can dream it we can make it happen.’”
The primary responsibility of Karre’s team is to maintain the turbines and other equipment at North Omaha Station. That can sometimes involve looking at different ways of doing something in order to save OPPD time, money and effort.
Karre recently took that practice to the next level by suggesting the use of wireless tablets to streamline his group’s work, saving time and money. The idea was selected as part of the OPPD Innovation Team’s second
“burst” event and presented to the utility’s senior management for approval.
“I knew it would help us in our daily tasks, but what was interesting is that one idea can sometimes help others, too,” Karre said. “Once we began to work on the idea, we could see the potential for other groups to use this technology. That really is what an idea should be about. Not what it can do to help me, but what it can do to help the company.”
The work Karre and his team do may surprise people. On a daily basis, the technicians are responsible for 125,000 different inputs or outputs, in addition to being quick-thinking and precise. Precision is key when working around voltage on a consistent basis.
The plant electricians deal with jobs at 120 volts alternating current (AC) up to 4,160 volts AC. They spend most of their time working around live, 480 volts of AC to troubleshoot effectively.
“To work for OPPD you really have to be a skilled person,” Karre said. “It takes a high level of ability to get a high level of reliability. Our job doesn’t stop once the eight hours are up. The generators are running seven days a week, 24 hours a day. With a small team it takes a lot of dedication to accomplish this.”
Karre said he and his 12 employees often sacrifice time with family to answer the call to come to the plant when needed.
The OPPD mission to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive power is a true and passionate thing, Karre said. When dealing with parts, outages and even overtime, each expense is carefully reviewed to ensure that it is cost-efficient.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about the money we spend on a piece of equipment so we can keep prices low for our customer-owners.”
Part of that is to perform predictive maintenance and environmental monitoring. Every day, a technician examines and maintains the plant’s emissions equipment. This is a role plant personnel take very seriously, Karre said. They know the importance of the environment and what it means to the public and the future.
That pride makes his job rewarding. But his greatest success is his family, Karre said.
“To make sure that my 12 team members are able to go home to see their success story waiting for them at the door is what I want to be known for,” Karre said. “Safety is the most important part of this job. We can make power all day long, but it takes important people to do that.”
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