Having supplied the majority of Hong Kong's electricity needs for the last hundred years, CLP Power knows what it takes to succeed.
One of the key ingredients, of course, is the ability to plan ahead and, these days, much of the responsibility for that falls to the company's Power Systems Business Group (PSBG), which also looks after the construction, operation and maintenance of the electricity transmission and distribution network.
Broadly speaking, this involves supplying power to more than two million customers in Kowloon, the New Territories and most of the outlying islands, while also making sure the company will be able to meet future market demand in the most effective way.
"We have to ensure the power supplies necessary for Hong Kong's huge infrastructure and community developments, particularly when the economy is picking up and consumption is likely to increase," says Choi Yiu-hung, project manager (west) of the engineering projects department. "For that, we need high-quality project engineers, which is why we put training at the top of our list of priorities." He notes that this is especially important since it is unrealistic to hire experts from overseas and expect them to know all about Hong Kong's somewhat unique power system.
We need high-quality project engineers, which is why we put training at the top of our list of priorities
The 1,800-strong PSBG team is the largest within CLP and, on a day-to-day basis, looks after the safe and reliable transmission and distribution of electricity from generating facilities at Castle Peak, Black Point and Penny's Bay, as well as from two major power stations across the border.
"We take internal training seriously and invest a lot of time and resources in equipping staff with the skills and knowledge crucial for their jobs," Mr Choi says.
He explains that fresh graduates start off with two years of basic training. They are then assigned to a series of job rotations, allowing them to gain further hands-on experience and get a better understanding of how different business units work together. After that, they will specialise more and receive additional relevant training.
"To promote knowledge sharing and retention, we have also developed a knowledge management system," Mr Choi says. "We constantly update this based on post-project reviews, so that the most recent information and experiences can be shared with other staff. Put together with our various coaching aids, this means CLP has created a splendid platform for learning within the company."
According to Mr Choi, project engineers need to approach their work in three distinct stages — conceptualisation, implementation and post-implementation.
The first requires an understanding of client needs and of any constraints in terms of available resources or general practicality. Once parameters are known, they must then develop the most cost-effective and viable solution, taking into consideration possible risks when putting forward a proposal for review by the project manager.
If the green light is given, things move into the implementation stage. This involves drawing up precise plans and specifications for the procurement of materials and the appointment of service providers. It is also necessary to consider in closer detail areas of possible risk and associated mitigation measures.
"We then consolidate the plans and get the stakeholders' approval before starting the actual project work. The most important thing from this point on is to be able to handle changes and deliver everything according to the agreed specification," Mr Choi adds.
For CLP staff, the post-implementation stage is also very important. It provides a chance to review problems encountered throughout the project process, share experiences and enrich the company's "knowledge library". This information is vital for helping staff to learn from each other and apply new technical and project management know-how.
For any project engineer, it is a major advantage to have a wide network of personal contacts and good communication skills to deal effectively with colleagues, contractors and suppliers, as well as external stakeholders.
"You also need the ability to anticipate possible problems in each project, and to devise and implement workable solutions," Mr Choi says. "Getting things right then depends on teamwork and, with 30 projects currently on the go, that is a quality we value highly."