New Zealand-based innovator, Groundline Engineering, has successfully delivered an initial remote training programme from across the globe, informing UK distribution network operators of how their innovative seismic timber pole-tester, “THOR” is used safely and efficiently. 


The Thor Hammer project, led by Scottish Power Energy Networks in collaboration with UK Power Networks and Northern Powergrid, is a three-year project. It aims to explore the application and development of Groundline Engineering’s Thor Hammer device which allows overhead line inspectors to quickly and safely test the condition of wooden poles without having to remove them from site.


Groundline Engineering was due to deliver face-to-face training sessions to operational team members from the energy networks back in April. However, Covid-19 changed the company’s plans meaning the team moved quickly to digital learning.


Ian Flatley, General Manager at Groundline Engineering said:


‘It was always envisaged that the trainer would deliver the newly developed training package face-to-face. As there are a number of important body positioning and technique requirements when using THOR, having the trainer in the classroom and on site allows demonstration of correct use and its intricacies by the trainer.


As the situation with Covid-19 worsened, it was clear that we would have to do things differently in the short-term, so we decided to explore ways in which we could deliver the training remotely. We put together a training programme, made up of a presentation and accompanying instructional videos, which was tried and tested by Groundline colleagues in New Zealand. They helped us to develop the training resources and validate the effectiveness of the online and remote training sessions before we began training with the networks.”


Groundline Engineering developed a comprehensive training presentation and an accompanying series of training videos that were shared with the networks, and supported the initial training of operational teams, which spanned across 2 days. 


So far, engineers have been trained from across the three networks, with test data indicating that once a user had completed four or five tests in the field, they were able to successfully replicate and apply the technique shown in the training. Where the trainees were also able to provide live vision of the practical sessions and field testing to the trainer, immediate acknowledgement of correct implementation or discussion on potential changes or issues had a huge impact on correct application for the trainees.


Greg Shirley, Innovation Engineer at Scottish Power Energy Networks, said:


Given the delay to the project already caused by Covid-19, it was excellent that we were able to deliver the training remotely to allow the project to move ahead. 


Thanks to the EIC and Groundline, we have been able to successfully train 10 of our staff over 4 different districts in using the Thor device. This has allowed us to progress with completing trials, facilitating the delivery of this project which has the potential to deliver significant benefits to SP Energy Networks.


Going forward, the Groundline team will stay in contact and provide support to network teams who are, in-turn, training other colleagues from within the networks. Groundline will also continually review the competency of trained individuals using video-conferencing software. 


Thanks to the adaptability of the Groundline team and their network partners, the remote training has successfully enabled the project to proceed without any significant impact on the project timeline. Data collection and analysis is now underway, allowing for further development of Thor Hammer for use on network assets.


Explore our latest opportunities to find out how you could work with our network partners here.

Ready to engage with us?

Achieving net zero targets is one of the biggest challenges facing the energy and utilities industry, but by innovating together we can drive change and deliver a decarbonised future. Our industry partners are always looking for innovative new solutions to the challenges they face, including net zero, which is why we provide a platform where innovators like you can respond to the latest innovation opportunities and challenges, and submit your innovative ideas. Our expert team have an extensive knowledge base, allowing us to consistently help our partners to address challenges, and to support our innovation community. This enables innovators and industry to come together and build a strong innovation culture and streamline innovation processes.