Improving the grids of America One Utility at a Time

Improving the grids of America One Utility at a Time

For most technology companies, the US market is akin to the Holy Grail – it is lucrative but challenging to get to. Safegrid has long realized that entering the US market takes good planning, strong execution, and even a bit of luck. However, entering the US was deemed a crucial part of Safegrid’s strategy and growth plan.

We started the effort in 2022 and can now proudly announce that we have the first customers and partners in place.

We sat down with Lantz Critel, the President and Owner of our inaugural US representative Jake Rudisill Associates, and Senior Project Engineer Jacob Barlow of Randolph EMC, our US launch customer, to hear how they found Safegrid and what their experience has been like.

Safegrid: Jacob and Lantz, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you first tell a little bit about yourself and your companies?

Jacob Barlow: After serving in the US Navy as an officer for about ten years, I’ve worked for various utilities. I joined Randolph EMC in 2018 as a Senior Project Engineer. I’ve designed and executed the first self-healing schemes at Randolph EMC, and I have taken an active role in data analytics and supported Operations and Engineering in various capacities. Randolph EMC was founded in 1938 to bring electricity to the North Carolina countryside. We’ve grown to more than 32,000 members spread out over more than 4,100 miles of line in areas of Randolph, Moore, Montgomery, Chatham, and Alamance counties. 

Lantz Critel: I am an electrical engineer by profession and worked for a few larger corporations before joining Jake Rudisill Associates almost 11 years ago. I actually purchased the company early this year, so now I am the president and owner. JRA is a manufacturers’ representative agency providing the very best in sales engineering to our valued clients. We represent quality manufacturers who provide unique solutions for the electric utility, commercial/industrial, OEM, and consulting engineering markets. We support the Southeastern United States markets.

Safegrid: Thanks. Can you guys tell us how you found out about Safegrid and decided to give them a go?

Jacob Barlow: To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of them before the T&D World Conference last October. Lantz came us at the show and told us we needed to see this company from Finland that had something he’d never seen before. Having worked with Lantz before, I knew there must be something to it, and we went to the Safegrid booth to find out more.

Lantz Critel: Sorta the same thing Jacob mentioned. Safegrid was one of the first companies I noticed at the Expo, and I thought this would be something incredible if their product did what they promised. I knew Randolph EMC was looking for a fault-locating solution, and I decided they needed to see Safegrid’s tech.

Safegrid: That’s pretty cool. So what happened?

Jacob Barlow: The Safegrid solution was pretty much what we were looking for and was unique in the marketplace as far as we could tell. We were a bit skeptical initially, of course, as Safegrid was a foreign company and did not have much experience in the US. But the Safegrid guys seemed serious about what they were doing, and they promised to take care of us. We pretty much decided then and there that we’d test the system as it was exactly what we needed.

 Safegrid: So, Lantz, had you signed a contract with Safegrid at that time?

Lantz Critel: Actually, we hadn’t. But when I saw how excited Jacob and Randolph EMC were, I decided to introduce Safegrid to some other customers as well. Everybody was impressed with the Intelligent Grid System, so I did a bit of due diligence and pretty soon proceeded to become their rep here in the US.

Safegrid: So, Jacob, did it make a difference that JRA decided to represent Safegrid?

Jacob Barlow: Of course. While we were impressed with the Safegrid solution and the guys, they were pretty unknown to us. Having a trusted partner like JRA have a business relationship with Safegrid gave us the comfort we needed to proceed with these guys.

Safegrid: Makes sense. So how did you proceed?

Jacob Barlow: We installed the system first on our transmission grid in late 2022 and then expanded it to our distribution network in early 2023.

Safegrid: Lantz, did you guys perform the installation?

Lantz Critel: No, we don’t actually do installation work. We were there to see how things went, and so were the Safegrid guys, but it was Randolph EMC personnel who installed the system. And that went well, as the system is easy to install, and the documentation is good.

Safegrid: Cool. So, Jacob, how have your experiences been?

Jacob Barlow: Really, really good. The installation went smoothly, the system works as advertised, and we now have a much better handle on where line faults occur and can fix them faster than before. The system required a bit of fine-tuning as the US networks operate somewhat differently than European systems. Still, the Safegrid guys were on top of the situation and gave us outstanding and fast service. Jussi, Klaus, and Tapio were really responsive, and now Safegrid even has US personnel here to take care of us.

Safegrid: Is there anything that stands out in your mind or left you impressed?

Jacob Barlow:  Yeah, there was this one incident where we had a fault somewhere along an 11-mile span of a transmission line. Our previous system might have detected the fault, but we’d only have known it was somewhere along that span. Safegrid’s solution actually located the fault within 200 or 300 feet. That is pretty impressive, considering the length of the span!

Safegrid: How about you, Lantz? Is there anything that has left you impressed?

Lantz Critel: Customers are very interested in the system. We’ve had customers walk away from the very first meeting saying, “Wow, this is amazing what you’re doing.” I had one customer say that this was the silver bullet. The feedback has been unusually strong and positive for this market.

Safegrid: So what could Safegrid do better?

 Jacob Barlow:  It’s a great product; I’m thrilled with it. We’ve had some minor tweak requests, but Safegrid has handled them well, and they’ve been very responsive to our needs.

Lantz Critel: One of the things we have dealt with a little bit is that when we tried to set up meetings, finding times that overlap with the Finnish working hours could sometimes be a bit tough. But they’ve now solved that issue by hiring US personnel who work in US time and are close to the customers to support them.

Safegrid: Thanks, guys. One final question: would you be willing to recommend Safegrid to other utility companies or reps?

 Jacob Barlow:  Definitely. The system works great, and we are getting good value from our investment.

Lantz Critel: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve talked to a few of my colleagues that I meet at conferences or that I share other product lines with, and I’ve told them that this is a unique solution and I highly recommend it.  And so, yeah, I would absolutely recommend working with Safegrid to others.

Safegrid: Thank you so much for your time!

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