Hail Mary by Basin Electric Procurement team results in millions in lost runtime savings

Basin Electric Contract Administrator Eric Bender, Senior Purchasing Agent Adele Leingang, and Manager of Purchasing Chris Kurle.

It’s amazing how a piece of equipment the size of a sheet of paper can put a complete halt to production in a facility that spans over 600 acres.

In mid-March, the urea plant at Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant experienced an outage that halted urea production. While the timing for such an outage is never ideal, the fact that spring planting season is right around the corner made a bad situation even worse.

The outage was traced to the failure of two variable frequency drive (VFD) cards, which turn on and off very quickly to change the speed of the motor. That speed change is necessary to control the output of the fan in the urea granulator.

Enter the Basin Electric Procurement team. Senior Purchasing Agent Adele Leingang contacted Border States Electric, the vendor for the parts, and learned that neither the manufacturer nor any of its suppliers had them in inventory. Despite the urgent nature of the request, the manufacturer has not accepted rush orders since the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a result, Leingang was told the cards couldn’t be shipped until Apr. 25 and Jun. 2. That meant urea could not be produced for over two months, because it needs both cards to operate.

Knowing the immense financial impact this would have on Basin Electric and its members, Leingang knew she couldn’t accept this as a final answer. Border States Electric is one of Basin Electric’s “alliance partners,” meaning it makes the cooperative a priority and helps us out in critical situations, so Leingang contacted the company again and they were able to convince the manufacturer to put a rush on the one order, which meant they would ship out two weeks earlier than previously promised. While that did help, it still meant that urea could not be produced for a month and a half since the other set of cards would not be available for several weeks.

Leingang began contacting vendors, suppliers, and even non-traditional sources such as Amazon, Ebay, and all the contacts she had for refurbished parts with no luck. In the meantime, Lynell Renner, a procurement coordinator onsite at Dakota Gas worked with her contacts to send the old cards to a facility in Texas to be reconditioned, hopefully sooner than the new ones were set to arrive.  

Procurement Coordinator Lynell Renner

Leingang again contacted Border States Electric and in a “Hail Mary” move, they contacted a contractor who had recently finished a project that used VFD cards and he happened to have the one that was going to take the longest to receive. After eight days of correspondence and Border States Electric working directly with the factory, Dakota Gas received one card on Mar. 28 and the second, which was originally set to ship in June, was received on Apr. 3.

The old cards were also reconditioned and flown back to Dakota Gas by the cooperative's airplane and will serve as spares in the event they are needed.

In addition to Leingang and Renner, Basin Electric Contract Administrator Eric Bender worked hard on delivery logistics which was not a simple task – the dates and modes of transportation had to be changed multiple times for both the new and reconditioned parts.

Daniel Gallagher, Basin Electric director of commodity sales and trading, estimates that through its efforts, the Procurement team saved the cooperative millions of dollars by starting fertilizer production more quickly than the next best alternative. 

“Finding a needle in a stack of needles is an art earned through experience,” says Basin Electric Vice President of Procurement Jon Klein. “Adele is one of the best purchasing agents in the cooperative and thanks to her persistence and utilization of industry contacts, she avoided a lot of lost revenue for our members finding that one (or, in this case, two sets) specific needle. Congratulations to Adele on the win, but I’m sure she will just say it’s all part of her job and move on to the next purchase.”

That is just what she said. “When something like this comes up, the other daily tasks don’t just go away. We all just step in for each other when it happens. We all work very well together and I’m thankful to work with such great people,” Leingang says.

Basin Electric Manager of Purchasing Chris Kurle says, “I am so proud to work with a dedicated team of professionals like this purchasing team. They go above and beyond every day to ensure the needs of the plants are being met and provide support to each other in order to get the job done.”

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