Caruna prepares for storms and snow-burdened trees by participating in several drills a year

Imagine if electricity, the Internet and mobile phones stopped working, sewers became blocked, radiators stopped heating and no fuel was available at petrol stations. This is a possibility if a storm causes trees to fall onto power lines, or snow-laden branches dip down onto the overhead lines, preventing the distribution of electricity for an extended time.

Caruna is preparing itself for situations like this by compiling preparedness plans and engaging in regular drills. In 2016, Caruna rehearsed their preparedness for disturbances through various cooperation and emergency drills a total of six times. The purpose of these drills is to refine the cooperation between Caruna, the rescue services, teleoperators, contractors, Fingrid and other local electricity network companies, as well as municipalities and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

“Caruna plays a significant role in our society as a large distributor of electricity and therefore it is important that its emergency response processes are in place and that they have been rehearsed in case of a crisis. Caruna is well-organised and proactive in this area and its level of preparedness is excellent. Many small companies may have just one person in charge of all their emergency preparations,” says secretary of the Alvar Commission of Western Finland from the National Emergency Supply Agency, Petri Jokilahti, who coordinated the Länsi-Myteri drill.

Organised in May, the Länsi-Myteri drill was a typical cooperation exercise. It involved simulating the destruction caused by a storm, such as outages caused by trees that have fallen on electricity cables due to heavy snow burdens and winds of more than 20 metres per second. Jokilahti points out that climate change is causing increasing numbers of heavy low-pressure storms, which is why more storm preparation drills have been organised in the last few years than before.

The main target of the drills is to improve cooperation between the different participants and to boost the recognition of critical actions. In a fierce storm, there must be close cooperation to pinpoint the disturbance quickly, because the standby batteries of base stations only provide electricity for a few hours.

Updates of the situation will be communicated, for example, via the nationwide Krivat system which operates outside the public Internet and mobile telephone network on a fixed broadband platform maintained by the State Security Networks Group. If needed in a crisis, a contact person from the Länsi-Uusimaa Rescue Department can be invited to the Caruna offices to pass on information about the situation to other rescue departments within Caruna’s area.

“During the Länsi-Myteri drill, we discovered that having up-to-date contact information is crucial in disturbances that require a rapid response. Changes in the operating environment and technology emphasise the importance of up-to-date action plans and continuous training,” concludes Jari Ahlstedt, Operation Manager at Caruna and one of the drill planners and coordinators.

The COP network creates a comfortable atmosphere outside working hours

Caruna’s recreational employee network COP proves that people at Caruna are an open and outgoing bunch.

What if you could hang out with your workmates outside of work too? Established a year ago, the Caruna Organized Professionals, i.e. COP, offers an opportunity to get to know other people from Caruna at after-work events, spend time together at sauna evenings or go and see a colleague’s musical together. COP also opens a door to networking events where you can meet employees from other companies.

“The best thing about the COP network is that you get to know your workmates through leisure activities. It’s a pleasure to realise how much professional skills and competence we have at Caruna. The network is a great way to build community spirit and everybody is welcome to join. These days, when I bump into people in a corridor or lift, it’s always someone I know,” Petri Lagerqvist, one of the founders of COP, smiles.

COP is part of the nationwide Finland Young Professionals network. Despite its umbrella organisation’s name, COP activities at Caruna are intended for everyone regardless of age, and today some 50 Caruna employees take part in them. The core team currently consists of 5–6 members, and people from all walks of life at Caruna are welcome to join and chip in with new ideas. You can decide yourself how active you want to be, but be prepared for COP to become an important part of your life.

“At our first meeting a year ago, we got to know each other using the speed-dating concept. You discover completely new aspects of your colleagues when you have a chance to talk about more than just work. Then if you come across a problem, you know exactly who to turn to and it’s easy to ask someone you already know for help,” Online Services Manager Lagerqvist sums up.

The cabling of a low-voltage network calls for a glimpse into a crystal ball

Before starting to lay electric cables underground, it is important to consider and try to predict the needs of the network 40 years from now. We know, for example, that the low-voltage network of the future will be affected by the increasing popularity of electric cars and solar panels.

Caruna has already laid about 40% of its electricity network underground and in 2018 it will start cabling the low-voltage network that reaches all the way to customers’ homes and workplaces.

To ensure smart solutions, other future needs of the electrical network are also being piloted. A think tank resulted in a so called link cabinet that was first tested in 2015. The cabinet will be placed at the edge of the customer’s plot, and the idea behind it is to combine the customer’s meter reading centre and Caruna’s electricity supply in such a way that the cabinet will facilitate electricity distribution for as many different needs as possible. When building new constructions, the cabinet will also ensure an immediate electricity supply, whereas with the old operations model it takes about two weeks.

“In the future, customers may have their own renewable sources of energy, such as solar panels or even a small wind power station. The link cabinet would act as a connection point between the customer’s internal network and Caruna’s network, and consequently it would allow the use of alternative energy sources for other things too, besides the customer’s own immediate needs,” says Sebastian Ahlnäs, who is leading the project.

This new cabinet could also be used as a charging point for an electric car and in future it may even supply an optical fibre connection, allowing the customer to get their electricity and internet connection from the same source. The solution is currently being developed in collaboration with Aalto University.

“Aalto University stepped in when we wanted to make the cabinet look as pleasing as possible. After all, it will be installed in a visible place on the perimeter of the customer’s plot and it must blend in with the streetscape,” Ahlnäs explains.

Built in an area of 35 detached houses in Hyvinkää, the first pilot was a great success and led to further piloting in 2016 in two new areas, Mustio and Aura. The functionality of a total of 60 link cabinets as part of the underground electricity network are being tested in the pilot areas to find out how best to build a low-voltage network in 2018 and what structure it should have.

Caruna is listening to their customers more attentively than ever

Caruna is active in developing its customer service, and the company was awarded by the CXPA Finland survey for improving its management of the customer experience.

In the spring of 2016, when Caruna’s customer Tuija Rantala found her light bulbs blowing one after the other, she began to suspect that there was something wrong with the electricity supply. This was the beginning of a months-long investigation into the matter together with Caruna. As a result, Rantala’s friends came up with the tag “it’s working like Caruna”.

Cases like Rantala’s are taken very seriously at Caruna. At the end of 2015, Caruna launched a new customer strategy project that included extensive customer surveys. For this purpose, Rantala also was invited to Caruna’s kick-off day in the autumn to share her experiences.

“I want to thank Caruna for being willing to improve things and for not being indifferent to my problems,” Rantala says and adds that she was surprised to receive the invitation.

The target of Caruna’s development work on customer experiences is to improve and speed up customer service so that each customer is connected to the right person to help them as quickly as possible. Rantala says she queued for up to five minutes at the switchboard. Some months later she received confirmation that the metering work had been done and there should be no more problems with the supply. The fault had been fixed as if by magic.

“What our customers primarily expect from us is reliability of supply, fair prices, ease of use and, above all, professional help delivered quickly. We receive feedback on the length of our delivery times and the accessibility of customer service, and this year we have discovered that even two minutes is too long to wait,” says Head of Customer Relations Katriina Kalavainen.

In November 2016, the Caruna website launched a chat channel. According to Kalavainen, the company has received a lot of positive feedback about it, because customers get answers to their questions quickly and in many situations it has replaced email.

“In future, we aim to guide our customers straight to an expert on the issue at hand. For example, if a municipality contacts us about the building of traffic lights, the customer will have clear guidelines on who to call. We will cooperate internally throughout Caruna to complete this work,” Kalavainen explains.

The CPXA Finland survey was answered by a total of 88 professionals from the field of customer experience management from 74 companies. The survey was completed for the fourth time this year in Finland. The prize for the best customer experience management went to TeliaSonera, the second prize to SOK and Caruna shared the third prize with HUS Medical Imaging and Elisa.

Up to 30,000 bees buzzing around Caruna

Caruna’s bee experiment in the summer of 2016 produced 99 kilograms of honey. More important than the honey harvest, however, is the significance of the bees to the world.

Without bees, there would be few plants and consequently little food for us. The various species of bees have been estimated to pollinate 75–85% of the plant species in the world and without them many plants would not be able to reproduce. Urbanisation and pesticides, for example, have reduced the number of these pollinators, which is already hindering food production in places.

This gave one Caruna employee the idea that Caruna could introduce its own beehives. This would even out Caruna’s carbon footprint and give it a chance to do its bit to sustain our ecosystem.

The buzzing occupants on the roof of Caruna’s office produced almost a hundred kilograms of honey. The harvest was only half of what was expected, but even so it provided plenty of sweetness for the needs of the staff canteen and as presents for the staff. There were two reasons for the poor yield: the rainy summer and the growing season starting two weeks ahead of time, which was evident in honey harvests all over the country.

No bee stings were suffered during harvesting. Although the staff dared not make the acquaintance of the bees buzzing on the roof, the bee experiment received only positive feedback, says Property Manager Antero Lehtonen. The greatest reason for this was the skilful beekeeper Jas Stanislav, who is a board member of the Finnish Beekeepers’ Association and takes care of 40 hives every summer at four bee farms in Espoo and the surrounding area. It is critical to tend to bees regularly to prevent them from forming into swarms and seeking a new place for a hive.

“The bee-keeper changed the honeycombs and fed the bees once a week with a special solution. During the summer, we had three different-tasting and different types of honey harvests, and we sent samples of each to Belgium to be studied in order to find out what plant species they contain,” Lehtonen explains.

Caruna brings its partners together to improve operations

Procurements and their quality play a crucial role for a company like Caruna which invests hundreds of millions of euros every year in developing its electricity network. This underground network must function for at least 40 years, in any weather, in our northern climate, to provide Finns with electricity, no matter the circumstances.

“Our starting point is to acquire, cost-effectively, network components that are as high in quality as possible and to build our network using skilful professionals,” says Procurement Manager Mervi Haukilahti.

In 2016, Caruna focused specifically on making its contractors’ production processes more efficient. The network is built in association with many different players who would not necessarily engage in such close collaboration without Caruna: contractors, material suppliers, project managers, Caruna’s recycling partner and a huge group of Caruna employees.

“We are developing the best possible collaboration model for this to make our orchestra of many parties play as efficiently as possible,” Haukilahti explains.

More than 600 development ideas were collected through a workshop and an electronic survey directed at contractors, material suppliers and service providers.

These included some great ideas, for example, on recycling. In 2016, Caruna adopted the eService tool which allows contractors to order recycling containers to the worksite. The tool also provides Caruna with up-to-date information on what materials are being recycled and how much.

There were also many development ideas concerning safety issues. In future, the planning of health and safety issues, employee orientation and the use of protective equipment will be monitored more systematically. In addition, data security was a key theme in 2016 in new contracts relating to data communications, and Caruna performed four data security audits on its ICT suppliers.

Caruna ranks among the top in the world in occupational safety

For the second year in a row, Caruna has achieved the best rating in the occupational safety classification granted by the Zero Accident forum of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. A total of 67 companies achieved the Zero Accident category and 29 made it to the top of the world category.

The Zero Accident forum grants annually classifications to workplaces that have invested in the continuous improvement of safety at work. In considering the classification, the forum looks at the level of safety at the workplace through, for example, its accident frequency and management practices. The notification and investigation procedures for occupational accidents and dangerous situations must be in order both for the company’s own staff and contractors.

In 2016, Caruna’s safety management system was certified according to the international standard, OHSAS 18001:2007.

“Safety is a key part of all our operations and we commit to it fully, from top management down,” says Piia Häkkinen, Head of Health, Safety and Environmental Issues.

Caruna’s current development priority is the improvement of contractor safety.

“At worksites, safety is even more important than for us office workers. This year we have invested particularly in training the whole procurement chain, supervision at worksites, boosting contractors’ self-monitoring processes and making the reporting and processing of pro-active indicators, such as near misses and safety observations, more efficient. Also, supplier auditing is a central part of our safety management system. These audits ensure that our contractors have the basics under control,” Häkkinen says.

According to Häkkinen, common safety practices must be put into practice and the whole subcontracting chain must be trained on them. Every worksite has its own safety plan that is based on the recognition of risk factors and on risk assessment. Everyone working on the worksite, regardless of who their employer is, must be familiarised with the safety plan. Separate, written plans are required for jobs that present a special danger, such as demolition or explosion work.

“One of our contractors is implementing a good practice on securing the safety of the subcontracting chain. They have divided their own subcontractors by risk category and plan safety measures carefully according to them,” Häkkinen explains.

Caruna’s contractors and subcontractors are required to take an online course on safety and the environment. The course deals with the basics of safety. After completion, the course qualification is valid for three years, and more than 1,500 people have now completed the course, which was updated in 2015.

An internal auditor speeds development ideas up

Often the best way to develop operations is to take a look inwards. At Caruna, internal audits are a key tool for development. They are performed especially in sectors with significant or ambiguous requirements, risks or opportunities, or when the aim is to challenge established routines or ensure the completion of a change.

Caruna has about 20 internal auditors. They perform some 15 audits per year, which involve assessing the company’s operational processes by acquainting themselves with the requirements and documentation relating to them and by interviewing the persons involved and observing their activities. This auditing is independent and is based on proof: the activities are always compared to some criteria, such as legislation or other external requirements, or instructions, plans and targets.

Jaana Varis has been an internal auditor for a year and feels that she can have an influence on the development of the whole company’s operations.

“It’s interesting to have the opportunity to see the company’s operations with fresh eyes. This is a way to make the person in charge of the object of the audit aware of the development ideas, although an auditor can’t decide what to do about them. In the best case scenario, you will see what actions are put into place,” says Varis, Head of Customer Compensation Services.

Over the past year, Varis had audited, for example, contractor safety in network deactivation. One development idea suggested for this was to make a consistent template for the safety plan, including the best aspects of all the models used by the different contractors.

“The most surprising thing is how many development ideas people have given. It’s great that we have a channel like this,” Varis comments.

Auditing has given her too new instruments and assessment tools for her own job of processing complaints.

“For example, in an outage the customer would not only be told the reason for the interruption, but we could ask what we can do to help them cope with the situation,” Varis explains.

Piia Häkkinen, who is in charge of the internal auditing procedure and the operation of the auditor network, explains that Caruna employees have been interested in the audits and participate in them actively.

“The greatest benefit from this is that we now have this internal auditor network running and are learning to give and receive constructive feedback,” says Häkkinen, who herself has also been the object of an audit.

Caruna supports volunteers’ team spirit as a sponsor of the IIHF World Junior Championship

The IIHF World Junior Championships held in Helsinki at the beginning of 2016 made history by breaking the European attendance record. A total of 215,225 ice hockey fans came together at the Helsinki Ice Hall and Hartwall Arena. Caruna had the honour of being the tournament’s main cooperation partner and the patron of the volunteers.

“We wanted to participate in the tournament in order to direct our sponsoring on the young and on voluntary work. The volunteers do amazing, valuable work and that is definitely worth acknowledgment,” says Caruna’s Head of Communications, Henna Tuominen.

A voluntary team of more than 400 people worked hard behind the scenes of the tournament. Their tasks included, for example, transporting the referees from their hotel to the event, assisting the live score service and acting as first aid and medical personnel. These hardworking volunteers didn’t even mind the fact that the tournament took place in the Christmas season.

“Last year I participated in the Under 18s World Championships in Lappeenranta and liked the work and the atmosphere so much that I wanted to help this year too. It’s a great opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and it offers a new perspective on the sport,” says volunteer Eveliina Montonen, a member of the medical team.

The IIHF World Junior Championships marked the beginning of three-year cooperation with Caruna and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association. As their main partner in 2016–2019, Caruna will support especially the activities of children and young people in clubs all over Finland and highlight the valuable work done by volunteers in such clubs.

Studies show that children and young people benefit from participating in many different sports and that organisations offering hobbies should aim to provide diverse activities.

“We want to encourage children and young people to enjoy exercise. Easy Hockey is aimed at 10–17-year-olds and offers young people the chance to have fun playing once a week. This leaves time for other hobbies too. The threshold for participating is low, because players only need ice skates, a hockey stick, a neck guard and a helmet with a facemask,” Tuominen says.