Cornerstones of Progress in the UVM Industry

Cornerstones of Progress in the UVM Industry

Training + Development

By Will Porter, CN Utility Consulting

After 15 years in the field, Will Porter entered the consulting side of UVM and began to try to fix some of the problems he’d observed during that first phase of his career in the industry. Below he reflects on the themes of his experience and where the industry is headed.

Over the past seven years at CNUC, I’ve had the opportunity to research and analyze a great number of issues facing the UVM industry, but they all relate to four cornerstones: company and industry culture, technology, data, and adoption. I believe our industry has and will continue to make rapid progress in these areas.

Company and Industry Culture

I brought my perception of company and industry culture from the field into the consulting side of CNUC. Over the past seven years, I’ve come to believe that transforming line clearance starts with reviewing the way we approach our work. Do we believe that what we do is building a better world for the future? If the answer is yes, it gives UVM jobs more meaning in the areas of success and satisfaction. In this post-recession era, statistics indicate that a majority of workers are not engaged or happy with their jobs, so employers must examine the daily experiences of their staff and decide if their culture is what it should be. A change in culture, whether it be for safety or scope of work, is not likely to go in the right direction if we don’t believe in what we do, or we don’t enjoy doing it.


From pulling the throttle of a chainsaw to twisting the hydraulic control of a bucket truck, to feeding 12” diameter wood into a self-feeding chipper, the UVM industry has always been about physical technology. These technologies advanced dramatically from the 1970s to the 1990s. Today, technological change is much more likely to be digitally driven. The digital world is slowly making its way into every aspect of the UVM industry, changing a unique and very physical experience. These changes are no longer just focused on improving the tools to make the job easier and production faster. It is really about changing the culture of what we do. For example, innovations in technology could do more to improve the job ergonomically than any version of the stick-saw will ever be able to.


The job of utility line clearance has been so much about strength and stamina that anyone who has done the work welcomes improvements for a lightened load – for example, technological innovations like those mentioned earlier. On the other hand, the desire to invest in data has been limited by a lack of vision and recognition that what our industry is doing is more far-reaching than protecting the electric infrastructure. Only recently have we begun to realize that pruning trees is not an isolated activity, just like taking out the trash isn’t only just about getting rid of something we don’t want. The work we perform is a benefit on many levels, and it is only through data that we will be able to steer this massive UVM cruiser into the right future.


If the first three cornerstones hold up the “building” of UVM, this is the fun one. Not only do we have to believe in what we are doing, the utility has to believe it, and the utility’s customers have to buy it. Then, the public, media, academia and the rest of the world will recognize what UVM really is, now and in future generations

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