Business Day Newspaper Report of April 16, 1982

Special Features of the Project
     Business Day report of April 16, 1982       T O P

Special Features of the Project


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  • Kabasalan and Sarangani substations located in the province of Zamboanga are assignments that posed a grave threat to the safety of operating personnel of the National Power Corporation when I was assigned to undertake nation-wide operations in 1981.

  • Three rebel groups, bandits, and the military would pass here at all hours of the day or night.

  • The idea that if these substations were unmanned and operated from elsewhere, unnecessary exposure to the personal danger of our operating personnel would be achieved.

  • I sought volunteers from around the country to come and join in the project.

  • The only prerequisite was for them to be interested in the project.

  • They were not required to know any electronics at all, because we were going to discover everything that was needed to accomplish the required functions.

  • About 30 volunteers came forth. None had training in electronics.


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  • Microprocessors were not commonly available in the local market. Though we heard of them, they seemed to be too sophisticated at that time in 1981.

  • We concentrated our attention on readily available components such as the 741, 555, 566, 7400 series, 2N2222, etc.

  • The concept was finalized for the use of DTMF signals passed through the narrow bandwidth of the audio channel of the "138-KV power line carrier" for sending command signals. DTMF signals are automatically generated at the unmanned remote substation through the breakers' "auxiliary contacts" and other circuits. This is timed to simulate the human finger pressing a DTMF button.


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  • The design and implementation went one small module at a time. Each experiment that was conducted, as part of the developmental process, was part of the whole system. The modules are set aside as soon as the experiments were completed and tested.

  • Motivationally and psychologically, each small module was a building block for a monument to a success story which each member has ascribed his signature as a member of a successful team.

  • Systems commissioning was the most exciting of all. Each function that was performed locally and remotely showed on the mimic boards at each location.

  • After commissioning, the whole system was put on the roof of one of the buildings of the compound, where a simple roof was provided to prevent direct rainfall.

  • Heat from the sun, moisture from early morning condensation, water spray from the rain and wind, and other forms of abuse were consciously provided for the purpose of making sure that the system works "UNMANNED".


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  • Project Duration. It was completed in about 18 months. A similar function procured from Japan, Europe, or the USA would have taken approximately the same time to complete, as it follows all the government regulations regarding public bidding.

  • Project Cost. It was only about 10%, to generate "savings" of 90%.

  • Technology Development and Technological Independence. The volunteer engineers developed the technology to the point that there was complete technological independence from any outside entity. Maintenance was done by the people involved because the project was theirs and all aspects of it were within their competence.

  • Extent of Maintenance. The system was virtually maintenance-free until the capacitors, which were locally purchased, had deteriorated. Such deterioration leads to the change in the operating parameters of the "phase-locked loop" integrated circuits, leading to the inability of one circuit or another to decode DTMF signals.

  • Replacement. The upgrading of the whole 138-kilovolt lines in Mindanao led to the replacement of the system.

Lessons Learned.        

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  • Technology Development and Technological Dependence. An organization whose business and "way of life" is not related to technology, might be wiser to simply procure on a so-called "turn-key" basis. Let the experts handle the technology, while the business concentrates on matters related to their mission and stock-holder aspirations. A technological or engineering organization makes a living on the basis of its ability to manage the technical aspects of its operations properly.

  • Re-inventing the Wheel. Many ask the question - "why re-invent the wheel?" I have no direct response but to say that we adopt the platform that is conducive to the development of skills relevant to the mission of an organization.

  • Motivational Value. The "rate at which learning takes place" (technically, the slope of the curve learning with respect to time) is related to the level of human motivation. I am a firm subscriber to the principle that human motivation is at its peak when the rate of learning is at its highest.