Power Plant Maintenance

We introduced design thinking to our client by taking them through a design research sprint. This work has enabled our client to spread design thinking to other business units, which has led to new opportunities for our company.


UX Manager
Lead Design Researcher
Design Researcher


client communications, creation of research methodology, facilitation of research, facilitation of workshops, creation of deliverables, & delivery of final presentation.

At a glance

4 weeks
1 kickoff workshop
8 remote interviews
1 ideation workshop
130 ideas generated
5 opportunity spaces


Let's say you are a service engineer responsible for fixing a broken power plant. As you could imagine, this is a very complicated, technical, time consuming problem-solving process. As an added stress, the power plant is losing thousands of dollars for every minute the plant isn't operating properly. There are many systems to check, many solutions to try, and many dead-ends to reach before finally getting the plant back up and running properly. How might we help service engineers troubleshoot these automation systems more easily & efficiently?
Our client hosted an internal hackathon to answer this important question. The winning hackathon project was a mobile application that service engineers could use to take a photo of the automation controller, which looks similar to a computer modem. Once the photo was taken, the application would use image recognition to interpret the pattern of LED lights on the controller and automatically diagnose the problem based on information from the control system manuals.

Project Goals

- Validate that the winning internal hackathon idea was indeed a valuable addition to the service engineer's toolkit.

- Understand the entire maintenance service to generate ideas that might be even more valuable and feasible.

- Teach our client why design thinking is valuable and how they can start spreading these methods throughout their entire organization


- Qualitative survey sent to research participants prior to interviews in order to inform our research sessions

- Remote interviews while viewing Miro boards illustrating a journey map of troubleshooting a control system

- Remote ideation session using Miro to generate ideas based on our analysis of the interviews

- Survey sent to users in order to prioritize the ideas generated from the workshop based on user value & feasibility


We were able to show our client that the hackathon project was valuable, but also that there were a number of other opportunities that were more valuable and more feasible. The deliverables from this project have been shared throughout our client's organization to spread design thinking to other business units. We have received additional requests for proposals to do similar work for other stakeholders within the organization.


This was my first time leading a project from start to finish, so I grew a lot from this project. Not only did I have to explain to the client what we were planning to do each step of the way, but also explain why we were doing things so that they would understand our process if they were to buy more work from us in the future. We also successfully conducted remote research and a remote ideation session thanks to Miro, an online collaborative canvas. If I were able to redo this project, I would have a much better plan for a remote kickoff meeting. We brought lots of markers and post-it notes to the kickoff meeting only to discover that most of our stakeholders were remote. I would also push harder to get the quantitative service hour data earlier in the project so we could've had more time to analyze it to inform our final business strategy.

"Surround yourself with people who know what you don't know. Become enticed by the unknown." - Linda B. Smith

© 2019 Braden King