Our Key Takeaways
- Advanced robotics, like Spot, have significantly increased safety by reducing human exposure to hazards.
- Practice and collaboration with technology partners have honed autonomous operations, enabling Spot's more efficient deployment.
- The integration of robotics in the workplace not only solves immediate challenges but also sparks broader innovation and learning.
Production Tool Maturation
Over the past year, a tool to enhance our operational effectiveness has matured from a preliminary concept to a robust solution ready for deployment. As a team member at Ontario Power Generation with a focus on leveraging cutting-edge solutions to improve workplace safety, I want to share insights on our journey of integrating innovative technologies.
Key Milestone: Our latest project involves 'Spot', a robot designed to minimize workforce risks by performing tasks in hazardous environments. Spot proved to be an excellent fit, demonstrating immediate advantages, particularly in radiation protection and conventional risk reduction.
Operational Advancements: We utilized Spot in a complex scenario where a circuit breaker posed an electrical protection issue, creating a hazardous environment for workers. The challenge was to remove the breaker without escalating risks, which typically would have necessitated a lengthy process. The alternative strategy we devised involved practicing the removal maneuvers within a controlled setting, utilizing Spot's precision to trip and ratchet out the breaker.
Collaboration and Refinement: After achieving the required confidence through extensive practice, we successfully executed the operation in the field. We capitalized on the expertise and direct input from Boston Dynamics for refining the robot's ratchet motion, simplifying and automating the process.
Performance Enhancement: Compared to manual interventions that necessitated cumbersome equipment and exposed personnel to risks, Spot's integration simplifies the task significantly. It autonomously performs the entire breaker removal process, from tripping to racking out, without human proximity to the hazard.
Operative Efficiency: This streamlined process not only enhances the safety and efficiency of the task but also facilitates a straightforward explanation to our operations staff. The evolution of this tool into a more autonomous solution marks a significant improvement in practical field applications.
Inspiring Innovation: Spot's presence has sparked enthusiasm and innovative thinking throughout the plant. It's not just about Spot's ability to perform a specific task; it's about empowering our workforce with knowledge about the robot's capabilities, inspiring them to discover and propose new applications.
As we incorporate these technologies into our workflow, we're committed to fostering a culture that embraces flexible and versatile solutions like Spot, aiming for broad applications and continuous improvement in our operational procedures.
OPG's In-House XLab Team Contributions
As part of the XLab team at Ontario Power Generation, we've been instrumental in turning emerging technologies into robust tools for deployment within our operations. With a focus on improving safety and efficiency, our team specializes in finding and adapting new technologies for specific use cases at OPG.
The Integration of Robotics for Enhanced Safety
- Separation of Humans from Hazardous Tasks: By leveraging robots like Spot, we've managed to significantly increase safety. This separation decreases risks associated with radiation and conventional workplace hazards.
- Radiation and Conventional Risk Reduction: The utilization of robotic technology helps in minimizing radiation exposure and other physical risks to our employees.
Case Study: Circuit Breaker Operation with Spot
- Hazard Elimination through Robot Deployment: In an instance where a circuit breaker presented an electrical issue, using Spot translated to avoiding human risk and negated the need for a large-scale operational shutdown.
- In-Depth Preparatory Work: Before carrying out fieldwork, we undertook extensive practice at the Darlington Learning Center breaker lab, which led to successful task execution.
Enhancing Skill with Robotics
- Leveraging Direct Support: Collaborating with Boston Dynamics, we developed specialized robotic functions to perform tasks efficiently and autonomously.
- Streamlined Approach & Efficiency: Our strategy allows a robot to conduct the racking out process independently, simplifying field operations and reducing the need for human proximity to hazardous conditions.
Sparking Innovation and Excitement
- Engaging the Workforce with Technology: Spot invigorates employees and instigates discussions about new, innovative applications within our facilities.
- Building Blocks for Future Applications: More than a tool for breaker racking, we aim to educate our staff on the robot's full potential, spurring them to identify additional applications and opportunities for Spot's use.
By integrating and nurturing these technological advancements, we not only enhance the capabilities of Ontario Power Generation but also create a safer and more innovative environment for all stakeholders involved.
Utilizing Spot for Workplace Safety
Over the past twelve months, our journey has transformed an emergent idea into a robust, operationally ready instrument that’s deployable in the field. My name is Mike Delisi, and for a decade and a half, I have been part of the dynamic team at Ontario Power Generation, where my role has revolved around pioneering technological integration. Our mandate involves the exploration and application of cutting-edge technologies, with an objective to pinpoint and harness them for enhancing efficiency and safety within our operations.
Safety Through Distance
One principle we firmly stand by is the minimization of human risk through physical separation from hazardous work environments. This is where Spot, a robotic innovation, showed promise. Upon integrating Spot into our operations, we noticed substantial positive outcomes. Its remote operational capabilities enabled us to collect vital data while significantly reducing the radiation exposure risk to our personnel. Essentially, Spot acts as a proactive measure in radiation protection and mitigating conventional workplace hazards.
Case Study: The Circuit Breaker Challenge
A notable application of Spot was in the circuit breaker replacement operation. Faced with a faulty breaker needing removal, the associated risk was too high for a manual approach. Typically, this would necessitate a prolonged shutdown of larger systems, delaying the resolution by several months. However, Spot offered a viable alternative that ensured worker safety.
Table 1: Spot's Implementation Steps
|Arm manipulation in a Darlington Learning Center replica setup
|Specialized built-in function for efficient arm motion
|Intensive practice and Boston Dynamics’ support in lab settings
In the past, meticulous manual handling was the norm for such tasks, requiring individuals clad in protective suits to engage in high-risk operations. Now, with Spot's advanced technology, these processes are streamlined, allowing for autonomous racking processes and minimizing the need for close human interaction.
Spot's Expanding Role
What excites me most about Spot isn't just its operational capabilities—it's the enthusiasm it stirs within the workplace. Its mere presence sparks conversations and ignites new ideas for innovation. Witnessing Spot in action is a tangible demonstration of our commitment to a forward-thinking and innovative culture within the power generation sector. By acquainting our team with Spot's functionalities, we are laying the groundwork for a myriad of potential applications. It's Spot's adaptability and the fostering of our team's innovative spirit that truly encapsulate its value.
Spot’s Capability Summary
- Remote Deployment: Enhances safety by performing hazardous tasks.
- Radiation Dosage Reduction: Preserves worker health by limiting exposure.
- Autonomous Operations: Executes tasks with less human intervention, streamlining processes.
- Educational Tool: Spot is a catalyst for innovative thinking among staff for future applications.
Mitigating Radiation and Workplace Hazards with Robotics
With a 15-year tenure at Ontario Power Generation and a primary focus on the X-LAB team, I bring forward expertise in integrating cutting-edge technology to solve specific challenges faced within the organization. Recognize that distancing our workforce from hazardous environments is paramount for safety. The introduction of 'Spot', a robotic tool, has been instrumental in achieving this goal, benefiting us by significantly reducing radiation exposure risks and alleviating conventional workplace dangers.
The value Spot offers became evident through a particular incident involving a malfunctioning circuit breaker. The risk involved in manual intervention would necessitate a prolonged system shutdown, potentially lasting several months. The solution involved rehearsing with Spot at the Darlington Learning Center breaker lab, using an arm to trip the breaker and a built-in ratchet function perfected with Boston Dynamics' assistance. This allowed us to execute the task safely in the field without exposing workers to danger.
Moving from manual, laborious processes to an automated, robotic approach has not just reduced the complexity but also increased efficiency and consistency. Spot has been refined to perform tasks such as breaker tripping and ratcheting without direct human intervention.
The response to incorporating Spot into our operations has been overwhelmingly positive. Walking Spot through the plant sparks engaging conversations, breeding innovative ideas. More than a tool, Spot serves as a flexible platform, encouraging our team to uncover novel applications for robotic technology within various sectors of our organization. This progressive mindset among our personnel is where the real value lies; it's about empowering them to understand and leverage this robot's capabilities to continually enhance workplace safety and efficiency.
Addressing the Circuit Breaker Challenge
Over my fifteen-year tenure at Ontario Power Generation, particularly on the Innovation or X-Lab team, our goal is to integrate cutting-edge technology into our operations, enhancing safety and efficiency. We stumbled upon a robotic solution, Spot, which demonstrated immediate value in our work environment, particularly in separating workers from hazardous situations. This technology is vital in reducing harmful radiation exposure and other work-related risks.
Spot proved instrumental when we encountered a circuit breaker with a faulty electrical protection system. The danger involved in manual removal was significant, necessitating an extensive system shutdown that could span several months. However, by employing Spot to perform this task, we mitigated the risk to our staff. Through dedicated practice sessions at Darlington Learning Center’s breaker lab, we refined our techniques for tripping breakers and ratcheting using Spot's arm, including a unique, efficient rotation function provided by Boston Dynamics.
The real breakthrough came from sharing our insights on manual breaker removal with Boston Dynamics. They responded by automating certain aspects of the task with Spot, a leap forward in efficiency and skill transfer. Rather than requiring an expert operator for breaker tripping and ratcheting, now even those with minimal experience with Spot can achieve consistency and precision in these tasks. This automation simplifies the process for our operational staff and further distances them from potential hazards, as Spot can autonomously handle the entire racking process.
Beyond its immediate applications, Spot ignites enthusiasm and innovation among our workforce. As I navigate the plant with Spot, the curiosity and engagement from the staff are palpable, leading to a surge in innovative ideas. The platform's true merit lies not only in its capability to perform specific tasks like racking breakers but also in fostering awareness among our employees of its potential. This educational process aims to empower them to identify and implement new applications for Spot. The robot's adaptability is laying the groundwork for expanded applications, signaling a shift towards flexible and innovative solutions in our operational approach.
Skill Enhancement and Robotics Integration at the Energy Facility
Over the past twelve months, the transition from a spontaneous suggestion to a polished, deployment-ready instrument has been remarkable. Having dedicated approximately fifteen years to Ontario Power Generation's innovation sector, my team and I function as a technological nexus. Our role entails scouring the globe for cutting-edge technology that would enhance our company's operations.
One of our core objectives is to provide a safer environment for our employees by reducing their exposure to hazardous situations. A project involving "Spot," a robotic tool, demonstrated its usefulness in this regard, particularly in lowering the risks associated with radiation and conventional workplace hazards.
A notable application was the "Spot-controlled Circuit Breaker Task". Here, an electrical issue necessitated the safe removal of the breaker, a task too dangerous for humans without causing extensive system outages. Our response was meticulous practice at Darlington Learning Center's breaker lab.
- Model Familiarization: Engaged with a similar breaker model.
- Operational Trials: Perfected the breaker's tripping and ratcheting out using Spot's arm.
- Collaboration: Gained assistance from Boston Dynamics for specialized arm movements.
Our hands-on experience in manual breaker removal combined with the intricacies presented by Boston Dynamics paved the way for automating the task with Spot. This leap forward allowed a less experienced operator to execute the task reliably and efficiently, establishing a new operational benchmark.
Streamlined Robot-aided Interventions:
Before: A manual, delicate procedure requiring protective gear. After: An autonomous, seamless process managed by Spot.
This evolution simplifies both the actual task and the explanation to operational staff, greatly reducing human proximity to potential hazards. Beyond mere task execution, Spot has become a catalyst for innovation within the plant. Its presence sparks curiosity and encourages the exploration of additional applications, emphasizing its role as a flexible platform.
My enthusiasm surrounding Spot is directly linked to its ability to engage the workforce and inspire innovative thought. Each interaction within the plant yields new ideas, building a foundation for broader applications. As an organization, increasing our staff's understanding of Spot's capabilities is crucial for fostering the discovery of new use cases, solidifying the robot's intrinsic value as a versatile asset.
Partnering with Boston Dynamics
At Ontario Power Generation (OPG), our focus as part of the Innovation team, or as we like to call it, the X-Lab, is to review and integrate cutting-edge technologies for practical applications within our operations. For approximately 15 years, we have specialized in turning novel tech concepts into workplace solutions, enhancing safety and efficiency.
Spot Deployment: Spot, the robot developed by Boston Dynamics, was tested for its suitability in our operations. Its implementation has proven advantageous, especially in tasks that involve radiation or conventional risks.
- Spot reduces radiation exposure to our workers.
- Enables remote operation, mitigating risks to human operators.
One particular breakthrough was with a problematic circuit breaker that posed an electrical hazard. Conventionally, addressing this issue would involve a human-operated shutdown, leading to extensive outages and delays. Here's how Spot transformed our approach:
- Initial Practice: Utilizing a replica breaker at the Darlington Learning Center, our team refined the breaker tripping and ratcheting techniques.
- Technical Collaboration: Boston Dynamics provided specialized support for perfecting the ratchet motion, expediting the rotation process.
- In-field Execution: Armed with practice and confidence, we successfully deployed Spot for the actual task.
The exciting part was Boston Dynamics' utilization of our operational feedback to simulate and enhance automation capabilities for such tasks:
- Automation Enhancement: Our collaboration inspired Boston Dynamics to test automated solutions, increasing both skill level and task efficiency while minimizing manual operator training.
The upgrade from manual handling to full autonomy was significant:
- Original Method: Two-person job involving tactical manipulation and hazardous proximity.
- New Approach: Spot autonomously executes tripping, tool placement, and racking operations without human exposure to risks.
Spot's introduction is not just about singular tasks. It signifies the advancement of our workplace culture towards embracing innovative methods:
- Inspiring Innovation: Spot's presence in our facilities triggers curiosity, dialogue, and an influx of new ideas amongst the staff.
- Educational Value: By educating our team on Spot's capabilities, we broaden the scope for identifying additional applications, which is where we find immense value.
Spot has proven to be more than a tool; it's a versatile platform offering flexibility to adapt and meet various operational challenges, encapsulating our commitment to operating with ingenuity and safety.
Advancements in Operational Automation and Productivity
Over the past year, advancements have accelerated the transformation of a once rudimentary request into a robust, deployment-ready automation solution. As Michael Delisi, an innovative team member at Ontario Power Generation (OPG), I’ve dedicated 15 years to integrating cutting-edge technologies into practical applications that benefit OPG.
Key to our operational improvements is the physical separation between humans and hazardous tasks, enhancing safety significantly. Our focus has involved the implementation of robotics—specifically, an advanced robot named Spot.
Spot’s Impact on Safety and Operations
Radiological and Conventional Risk Reduction:
- Remote tool deployment has led to a marked decrease in radiation exposure for workers, ensuring their health and safety are not compromised.
Critical Mission Accomplishment:
- Spot has efficiently undertaken missions within hazardous environments, presenting a substantial decrease in conventional worker risks.
Case Study: Circuit Breaker Maintenance
A specific application for Spot was in the handling of a circuit breaker with an electrical protection issue. The associated risks were too severe for personnel, and the alternative, causing a broader system outage, would have led to months-long delays. Here’s how we approached the situation:
- We executed detailed training at the Darlington Learning Center's breaker lab, improving our handling of Spot for precision tasks such as engaging breaker controls and ratcheting mechanisms.
- We obtained specialized motion support from Boston Dynamics, which significantly expedited the tool rotation process.
Field Execution Confidence:
- Our thorough lab preparations allowed us to deploy Spot confidently in the field, eliminating the need for hazardous manual intervention.
Technological Simplification and Training
Streamlining Operational Procedures:
- Prior manual methods have been replaced with a more efficient, robot-led process that autonomously trips breakers, places tools, and executes the tool's rack-out.
Reducing Operational Complexity:
- The simplified procedures facilitate a clearer understanding among operations staff and eliminate the necessity for close human proximity during hazardous tasks.
Educational Expansion and Spot’s Flexibility
- The presence of Spot in our plants has sparked enthusiasm and innovative ideas among personnel, reinforcing OPG's commitment to inventive solutions.
Foundation for Future Applications:
- By familiarizing more staff with the robot’s capabilities, we aim to encourage the discovery of new use cases, driving internal growth and knowledge expansion.
Spot's versatility stands as a testament to its value, not only for specific tasks such as breaker maintenance but as a flexible platform fostering innovation within our operations. The commitment to educating and empowering our workforce with this technology underscores our strategy to embrace future challenges with adaptable, autonomous solutions.
Enhancing Tool Deployment Efficiency
Over the past year, we have witnessed the transformation of initial requests into robust, production-grade instruments ready for deployment. As a member of Ontario Power Generation with a focus on the Innovation or X-Lab team for a significant stretch of 15 years, my aim is to serve as a technological integrator. We assess emerging technologies and pinpoint their potential applications within our operations at OPG to boost efficiency and safety. One such technology is Spot, a robot that allows us to perform tasks while keeping our personnel out of harm's way.
By utilizing Spot, we have managed to reduce the exposure to radiation and other risks for our workers. The technology has proven especially valuable in handling missions that otherwise pose conventional risks. For instance, when dealing with a faulty circuit breaker that presented significant hazards for human intervention, Spot enabled us to eliminate the need for a larger system outage which would have been both time-consuming and risky.
- Remote Tool Deployment: Spot's introduction allowed us to remotely deploy tools for more detailed assessments.
- Safety Enhancements: The reduction in radiation dosages and conventional risks due to human-robot task separation.
During a specific challenge with an electrical protection issue, Spot's capabilities were harnessed to remove a circuit breaker efficiently. Traditionally, such a task would require a human operator to approach it manually, entailing significant risk and necessitating a full protective suit. However, by practicing movements in the Darlington Learning Center and collaborating with Boston Dynamics, we successfully automated these tasks:
- Tripping the Breaker: Spot achieved this with a custom arm movement.
- Ratcheting Motion: A special function allowed Spot to use a socket to complete the ratcheting effectively.
This culminated in a streamlined approach, transforming Spot from a manually guided robot into one capable of independent operation, making the deployment more straightforward and reducing operational complexity. The robot could execute the entire racking out process autonomously, representing a significant leap in operational simplicity and distancing staff from potential dangers.
Spot not only automates tasks but also fuels innovation and excitement among our team. Its presence prompts conversations and sparks new ideas for integrating different technologies into our workflows.
- Process Simplications: Automated processes remove the need for close human interaction with hazardous tasks.
- Inspiring Innovation: Spot encourages a forward-thinking culture and the pursuit of innovative applications for emerging technologies.
Most impressively, Spot’s adaptability sets the stage for broader applications beyond the initial use case. As we expose more team members to Spot's capabilities, we empower them to identify novel applications that enhance our operational efficiency. This strategic push for understanding and utilizing technology is at the core of Spot's value—it's not just about performing tasks; it's about fostering a knowledgeable workforce that's equipped to innovate and improve across all facets of our operation.
Workplace Transformation with Robotic Automation
During my fifteen-year tenure at Ontario Power Generation, primarily within the team that assesses emerging technologies, we have harnessed robotics to significantly enhance safety measures. Particularly, the introduction of advanced robots has been instrumental in minimizing human exposure to hazardous environments.
- Safety Enhancement: By deploying robots, we effectively minimize radiation exposure and conventional risks to our workforce.
- Case Study - Circuit Breaker Task: A high-risk situation requiring circuit breaker disconnection was resolved by leveraging robot capabilities, avoiding extended downtime and potential human harm.
- Robots practiced in a controlled environment to ensure precise task execution.
- Collaborative efforts with robotics experts led to specialized automated functions.
- Deployment time for complex tasks is now greatly reduced.
- Simplification of procedures has improved understanding among operational staff.
- The robotic arm is now capable of independently positioning tools and completing racking processes, which previously required manual handling with protective gear.
- This streamlined approach allows for the procedure to be more easily explained and executed, with reduced need for human proximity to dangers.
- The robot’s presence has sparked excitement and creative thinking among plant staff regarding potential new applications.
- Our focus extends beyond singular tasks to empowering personnel to uncover additional robot use cases.
Growth and Flexibility:
- By familiarizing more employees with the robot, we are setting the groundwork for broader applications and fostering a culture of continuous innovation.
- The value of the robotic platform lies in its adaptability and the consequent organizational growth.
Educational Worth and Adaptability of OPG's Robotic Solution
With a track record spanning 15 years at Ontario Power Generation (OPG), I've played a crucial role in the Innovation or xLab team, focusing on technology integration. Our mission is to scout and introduce cutting-edge technologies that can address specific challenges within OPG's operations. A key objective is enhancing safety by minimizing human exposure to hazardous environments, and our tests with the Spot robot have proven its potential in this aspect.
Spot showcased its value immediately as a remote assessment tool, contributing significantly to reducing radiation exposure—vital in our sector often referred to as radiation protection. It also addresses conventional occupational risks, permitting robotic intervention where previously humans were exposed to danger.
An instance of Spot's application was during a precarious situation with a circuit breaker, which presented an electrical protection issue. The risks involved in manual intervention were high, necessitating an extended system outage with potential months-long delays. Nevertheless, leveraging Spot's capabilities, we managed to devise a safe process through rigorous practice in our Darlington Learning Center breaker lab. We honed skills in both manual tripping of breakers and the meticulous ratcheting operation—a technique perfected with Boston Dynamics' direct support on the robot's arm functionality.
This hands-on experience laid the groundwork for Spot's deployment in the field. Transitioning from manually coordinated tasks to a more streamlined approach was remarkable. Initial procedures involved a careful manipulation of Spot's arm and the subsequent involvement of a personnel in protective gear. In contrast, the refined process allows Spot to autonomously trip breakers, place tools, and execute the racking-out sequence.
This evolutionary leap in Spot's operational fluency simplifies explanations to operational staff and eliminates the need for human proximity to potential hazards during tool deployment. The emphasis on practicality for field executions cannot be overstated—it represents a significant advancement in both safety and efficiency.
Key Enhancements Enabled by Spot:
- Remote operation to reduce human exposure to dangerous environments.
- Reduced radiation and occupational risks through robotic performance.
- Enhanced precision and efficiency in technical tasks such as breaker racking.
My enthusiasm for Spot lies in its ability to inspire innovation and excitement among plant personnel. Merely walking Spot through the facility sparks conversations and new ideas, symbolizing a commitment to progressive strategies at OPG. Our strategy revolves around creating foundational blocks for wider applications, educating our employees on Spot's capabilities, and encouraging them to discover new applications.
Spot's true value is represented by its versatility and utility as a platform. It's not just the act of racking out a breaker but about empowering our workforce to envision further innovative use cases, fostering continual growth and expanding the utility of robotics within our operations.
Outcomes of Cutting-Edge Tech in Electrical Tasks
Ontario Power Generation has been my workplace for over a decade, and during this time, I've primarily engaged with the X-Lab team. We dedicate ourselves to reviewing emerging, cutting-edge technology and determining its practical applications within our operations. Our primary objective is to enhance safety by distancing our workforce from hazardous tasks—technologies like Spot, the robot, embody this mission.
Spot demonstrated an immediate impact. It offered a way to attain additional information remotely and reduced radiation exposure for our workers. There have been scenarios, such as electrical failures, where human intervention posed too great a risk. With Spot, we circumvented these dangers, avoiding extended outages that would have delayed operations for months.
Our groundbreaking work with Spot includes a particular case where we faced a circuit breaker issue. It was essential to replace the breaker without putting humans at risk. Through practice at the Darlington Learning Center, we mastered the ratcheting out of the breaker using a socket and also benefited from enhancements provided by Boston Dynamics. The robot's advanced functions expedited the ratcheting process.
The collaboration with Boston Dynamics led to an automated solution, streamlining what was a high-skill task into a more efficient and repeatable process, potentially manageable by someone less experienced in handling Spot. Previously, the operation involved meticulous maneuvering of the arm to trip the breaker and then a worker donning protective gear to place a socket. Now, the entire racking out process is more autonomous and safer.
Spot's capacity to operate independently has revolutionized our approach, simplifying explanations to operation staff and completely removing the need for personnel to be in proximity to hazards during racking out processes. The excitement Spot generates within the plant is palpable, inspiring our colleagues with its demonstration of novel, innovative approaches.
In essence, Spot is a foundation for broader applications. It's crucial for us to educate our employees about its capabilities, inviting them to internalize and identify new use cases. The true value of Spot lies in its flexibility and the room it creates for innovative uses in electrical safety and operations.
It's worth noting the role of technology like CircuitIQ in supporting these endeavors, providing streamlined power mapping, circuit labeling, and as-built electrical plans, which complement the safety and efficiency initiatives that new technologies like Spot bring to the table.