Yang Chen, Sub­way Tech­ni­cian

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Qian Chui­jun, pol­ished by Mark Zuiderveld, pho­tos by Li Xiaoyin

Yang Chen, a tal­ented sub­way power sup­ply tech­ni­cian, has a knack for solv­ing prob­lems in Bei­jing's sub­way, ad­mit­ting that a “trans­fer to the au­to­ma­tion squad feels like a fish set free in wa­ter.”

For each de­vice, there are ten sets of fixed val­ues, which can be switched af­ter be­ing con­fig­ured. Each fixed value is fur­ther di­vided into sub-val­ues to be re­alised by the pro­tec­tion de­vice, in­clud­ing those for in­put and out­put...” Yang pointed at the data dis­played on the LCD screen of re­lay pro­tec­tion de­vice for the ana­log sub­sta­tion and ex­plained their sig­nif­i­cance to the green hands around him, as he stood on a lad­der in the stu­dio named af­ter him.

Yang Chen is the deputy man­ager of the Over­haul Project Depart­ment, Bei­jing Sub­way Power Sup­ply Branch. Ha­bit­u­ally earnest and ret­i­cent, thirsty for knowledge, he is prone to speak­ing about sub­way ren­o­va­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion. In April 2007, he was ap­pointed leader of the au­to­ma­tion squad at only 25. His squad was awarded the ti­tle of Out­stand­ing Squad in Eco­nomic and Tech­no­log­i­cal In­no­va­tion by Bei­jing Mass Tran­sit Rail­way Op­er­a­tion Cor­po­ra­tion Lim­ited in 2007 and “Bei­jing Youth Civ­i­liza­tion Unit” in 2009.

Yang Chen him­self has con­stantly im­proved his ex­per­tise and re­peat­edly made re­mark­able achieve­ments in work by stick­ing to in­no­va­tion. He has been awarded hon­ours and awards, in­clud­ing Young Tech­ni­cal Ex­pert of Bei­jing, Pace­set­ter of Eco­nomic and Tech­no­log­i­cal In­no­va­tion in Bei­jing, Out­stand­ing CPC Mem­ber, and Star of Power Sup­ply. In re­cent years, when the Power Sup­ply Branch un­der­went project-based depart­ment re­form, Yang Chen shoul­dered the task of up­grad­ing the power sup­ply. For six years, he led his in­no­va­tion stu­dio in con­tin­ued ex­plo­ration into up­grade projects and en­cour­aged tech­no­log­i­cal re­search and de­vel­op­ment, of­fer­ing tech­ni­cal sup­port for safer and reli­able power sup­ply.

A Tech­ni­cal Star

The Over­haul Project Depart­ment of Bei­jing Sub­way Power Sup­ply Branch is trusted with power sup­ply fa­cil­ity engi­neer­ing and ren­o­va­tion, over­haul, up­grade and emer­gency re­pairs. “Each of the tasks is a hard nut to crack,” says Yang Chen. Elec­tric­ity is an in­evitable part of his work, whether in up­grad­ing 10 kilo­volts and 750 volts of main equipment or trans­for­ma­tion of smaller aux­il­iary equipment. Since the life of power lines ranges from 5 to 20 years, his depart­ment is re­quired to re­build them af­ter re­view­ing their life cy­cles. Now, trans­for­ma­tion projects un­der­taken by Yang Chen and his team ex­ceed a dozen each year.

The Over­haul Project Depart­ment is a key part of the Power Sup­ply Branch. It pools the com­pany's power elite, of which Yang Chen stands out. How­ever, be­fore he en­tered the sub­way's tech­ni­cal school, he had lit­tle to no un­der­stand­ing of the sub­way's elec­tri­cal net­work.

In the en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion for se­nior high schools, he failed by three points. As luck would have it, he be­came a student at the Bei­jing Metro School. Yang Chen said that back then the sub­way was noth­ing more than a means of trans­port for him. Af­ter two years in school, he took a lik­ing to re­lay pro­tec­tion. His rea­sons were sim­ple. He had con­sid­ered him­self a tech­ni­cal en­thu­si­ast and would choose noth­ing but work with the high­est tech­ni­cal con­tent. Power sup­ply equipment can be cat­e­gorised as pri­mary and sec­ondary. The for­mer is com­prised of switches, ca­bles and trans­form­ers for power sup­ply, while the lat­ter can be de­fined as so­phis­ti­cated de­vices for con­trol­ling and pro­tect­ing the for­mer. The lat­ter is more tech­nol­ogy-in­ten­sive, deemed by Yang Chen as more re­flec­tive of tech­ni­cal ad­vances. Among sec­ondary power equipment, re­lay pro­tec­tion is most rep­re­sen­ta­tive, used to con­trol and pro­tect switches in pri­mary equipment and to achieve au­to­mated changes in the switch sta­tus.

In his third year at school, Yang Chen was sent to a sub­way sta­tion for an in­tern­ship. As he had learnt line draw­ings in ad­vance, he had no dif­fi­culty in “ef­fec­tively ap­ply­ing” class­room learn­ing to prac­ti­cal op­er­a­tions. How­ever, the elec­tric ca­ble map he learnt in the class­room was just a pro­to­type, and in prac­tice is dif­fer­ent for each sta­tion. So he com­pared the two and pestered his squad leader when­ever he found an in­con­sis­tency. “Back then, my note­book was cov­ered with draw­ings. In elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, you must be ready to ask ques­tions, be­cause the text­books are out of date.”

Af­ter one year of in­tern­ship, Yang Chen be­came pro­fi­cient with the ca­ble map. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween him and Hong the then squad leader of Wukesong Sta­tion was turned to two-way in­ter­ac­tion. Many dis­cov­er­ies made by Yang Chen also broad­ened Hong's vi­sion and think­ing.

In Septem­ber 2000, Yang Chen was as­signed to the up­per floor of Fux­ing­men Sta­tion on Sub­way Line 2 as an at­ten­dant, re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing sub­sta­tion equipment. Re­port­ing prob­lems, switch op­er­a­tions, pa­trolling and clean­ing be­came his daily rou­tine. For­tu­nately, for the post on duty, he wit­nessed thor­ough clean­ing of the 750volt de­vice twice, and the ex­pe­ri­ence be­came a great learn­ing op­por­tu­nity.

“I be­came so ec­static be­cause even­tu­ally I man­aged to op­er­ate those de­vices. In the evening of thor­ough clean­ing, I fin­ished my daily rou­tine and promptly be­gan study­ing the elec­tric map against the ac­tual equipment. The two-di­men­sional sym­bols on the map made bet­ter sense and be­came en­trenched in my mind. That was a qual­i­ta­tive leap.” Yang Chen re­called.

Keep­ing Pace with the Times

Yang Chen is among the first of the “Post-1980s” gen­er­a­tion to be ex­posed to com­put­ers and net­works. He be­came spell­bound by com­put­ers when he first laid eyes on them. His mother was very sup­port­ive and bought him a Dos-based com­puter. What now seems to be a prim­i­tive com­puter ac­quainted Yang Chen with pro­gram­ming and in­tro­duced him to au­to­ma­tion.

Yang Chen ex­plains that the prin­ci­ple of re­lay pro­tec­tion and that of au­to­ma­tion are of the same strain. Re­lay pro­tec­tion is aimed at

“In­no­va­tion should not be at­trib­uted to me alone but to my team. It is a great hon­our to have the in­no­va­tion stu­dio named af­ter me, but I am also keen of re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

con­trol­ling main equipment, while au­to­ma­tion is aimed at re­mote in­te­grated con­trol com­bined with com­puter tech­nol­ogy. He even ad­mit­ted that “trans­fer to the au­to­ma­tion squad feels like a fish set free in wa­ter.”

Be­fore 2001, the sub­way's au­to­ma­tion in­volved only power sup­ply for re­mote con­trol of the 750V and 10kv equipment for straight line sub­ways, as well as real-time volt­age and ob­served cur­rent data. Soon af­ter his trans­fer to the au­to­ma­tion squad, Sub­way Line 13 and the Metro Ba­tong Line were suc­ces­sively com­mis­sioned, ush­er­ing in a stage of marked de­vel­op­ment for the sub­way's au­to­ma­tion. Mean­while, Yang Chen ush­ered in a crit­i­cal pe­riod of his learn­ing ca­reer.

At that time, au­to­ma­tion equipment for power mon­i­tor­ing in­tro­duced by Bei­jing Sub­way was op­er­ated via a com­puter net­work. Yang Chen was in­ter­ested in the new equipment, and had a the­o­ret­i­cal foun­da­tion, so an easy start came to him nat­u­rally. How­ever, the equipment man­u­fac­turer kept core tech­nolo­gies con­fi­den­tial, mak­ing it the only party ca­pa­ble of so­lu­tions in case of a malfunction. This re­sulted in a waste of sub­way op­er­at­ing time and costs.

Fail­ure rate of new equipment in the first five years was very low. In 2007, soon af­ter five years of sta­ble op­er­a­tion, var­i­ous fail­ures emerged. That year hap­pened to be the year Yang Chen was to be ap­pointed leader of the au­to­ma­tion squad, and the task of seek­ing so­lu­tions fell to him. Re­call­ing that pe­riod, he said, “Faced with this grim re­al­ity, we had no way out, ex­cept for in­no­va­tive trans­for­ma­tion!”

Back then, the IO sys­tem for com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­trol fre­quently broke down, ob­struct­ing real-time data feed­back. The sub­way be­came a “blind man cross­ing the river.” Yang Chen drew on his prow­ess in com­puter tech­nol­ogy, changed the me­dia for IO pro­gram copy­ing from floppy disk to CD-ROM, and de­signed the pro­gram for the au­to­matic op­er­a­tion and in­stal­la­tion of the pro­gram. This way, he man­aged to shorten the sys­tem re­cov­ery time from two hours to a lit­tle more than ten min­utes. His team did not stop at that. Based on suc­ces­sive ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, they up­graded the CD-ROM to a hard disk, in which the pro­gramme was pre-in­stalled. Af­ter that, it be­came pos­si­ble to in­stall the pro­gram and restore equipment op­er­a­tion within five min­utes af­ter reach­ing the fault site. That was later her­alded by Bei­jing's sub­way staff as a “time trans­fer method.” It con­sti­tuted not only in­no­va­tion in stor­age me­dia, but also a great new leap in pro­gram­ming.

In or­der to shorten time for trou­bleshoot­ing, Yang Chen di­vided the au­to­ma­tion squad into sev­eral groups. The “tech­nol­ogy gu­rus” were as­signed to one group and those good at com­mu­ni­cat­ing with an­other. Thus, al­lo­ca­tion of hu­man re­sources was op­ti­mised and ef­fi­ciency in re­pairs were height­ened. In 2009, Yang Chen's team of 20-odd mem­bers wit­nessed its peak in trou­bleshoot­ing. Specif­i­cally, they had to han­dle 1,400 fail­ures for four sub­way lines in Bei­jing each year, an av­er­age of four each day.

Yang Chen con­tin­ued ex­pand­ing the depth and breadth of his knowledge dur­ing his work. He even made a point of teach­ing him­self how to use com­puter net­work ap­pli­ca­tions and PLC (pro­gram­mable logic con­troller) tech­nol­ogy. His ef­forts have cul­mi­nated in his pro­mo­tion to se­nior worker and tech­ni­cian, mak­ing him the youngest worker-turned tech­ni­cian of the Power Sup­ply Branch. Mean­while, he was ap­pointed in­struc­tor, to help his fel­low work­ers en­hance their busi­ness com­pe­tence. He made prom­i­nent con­tri­bu­tions to the com­pany in tal­ent cul­ti­va­tion. Over the years, most of the mem­bers of the au­to­ma­tion squad un­der his lead­er­ship have be­come the main­stay for op­er­a­tion and in­te­grat­ing main­te­nance for new sub­way lines.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity of Re­form

In 2011, a large-scale net­work-based pat­tern grad­u­ally formed in the Bei­jing Sub­way. In this con­text, the Bei­jing Sub­way Power Sup­ply Branch launched com­pre­hen­sive re­form for the depart­ment sys­tem. The orig­i­nally sep­a­rated op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance in power sup­ply man­age­ment gave way to in­te­grated op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance, and equipment tech­nol­ogy ush­ered in an era of full au­to­ma­tion. The au­to­ma­tion squad was dis­missed and each sub­way line set up its own main­te­nance depart­ment. The orig­i­nal Main­te­nance Team was con­verted into the cur­rent Over­haul Project Depart­ment. Yang Chen stayed and be­came re­spon­si­ble for safety op­er­a­tion, core to the sub­way's mis­sion.

In re­cent years, Bei­jing's Sub­way has launched projects of re­con­struc­tion. In 2012, Yang Chen was hired to man­age a large re­con­struc­tion project for the first time. “It was the 10kv re­con­struc­tion project for Fuba Line. Re­con­struc­tion must

be con­ducted with­out in­ter­fer­ing with its nor­mal op­er­a­tion. There­fore, dis­man­tling, re­assem­bly, de­bug­ging and com­mis­sion­ing had to be fin­ished at night-time when hours of op­er­a­tion ended. It was lit­er­ally a race against time.” Yang Chen said that the ex­ter­nal wiring for the re­lay pro­tec­tion de­vice was com­plex with no mis­takes al­lowed. His team re­hearsed in ad­vance, in which it broke the op­er­a­tion into sec­onds and for­mu­lated 11 plans for each sta­tion. “We couldn't af­ford any re­work or er­ror, so as to meet the sched­ule. We chal­lenged our­selves and cracked the hard nut. The 16 mem­bers of the team learnt the op­er­a­tion by heart. Their co­op­er­a­tion turned the site con­struc­tion into an as­sem­bly line.”

This year, Yang Chen's team is in charge of the trans­for­ma­tion for the 750V equipment of “Fuba Line,” a direct power source for the lo­co­mo­tive and its fail­ure which di­rectly af­fect the lo­co­mo­tive. Dif­fi­culty in engi­neer­ing in­creased. How­ever, since its com­mence­ment last year, the large-scale re­con­struc­tion project has never been af­fected by any is­sues. Yang Chen con­cluded that its smooth progress is partly at­trib­uted to the suc­cess­fully for­mu­lated and im­ple­mented plan based on ex­pe­ri­ences in 2012. It is also at­trib­ut­able to the ana­log sub­sta­tion built with ob­so­lete drilling de­vices. Prom­i­nent ef­fects of the ana­log sub­sta­tion have en­cour­aged all the project de­part­ments to build ana­log sub­sta­tions of their own.

“Spe­cial­i­sa­tion will be the path for our fu­ture de­vel­op­ment. The past six years hap­pened to be an im­por­tant pe­riod for busi­ness ex­pan­sion of the Bei­jing Sub­way Power Sup­ply Branch. From 2011 when I started man­ag­ing ren­o­va­tion projects, my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties have fun­da­men­tally changed. In re­con­struc­tion projects, there is no prece­dent to draw on. All that we learn from the books must be tested with prac­tice,” Yang Chen said. “No mat­ter how our busi­ness changes, our re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing a safe and reli­able un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply will be con­stant. Safe op­er­a­tion and trans­for­ma­tion projects are now con­tra­dic­tory and mu­tu­ally re­stric­tive. We have to con­duct trans­for­ma­tion while en­sur­ing safety in op­er­a­tions to en­sure suc­cess in both.

A Hero with Mod­esty

Yang Chen stressed that in­no­va­tion should not be at­trib­uted to him alone but to his team. He said that it was a great hon­our to have the in­no­va­tion stu­dio named af­ter him, but he was also keen of re­spon­si­bil­ity and pres­sure. He con­sid­ered him­self just an or­di­nary worker like the 16 mem­bers of his team. Each and ev­ery tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion and in­ven­tion ben­e­fit­ting safe pro­duc­tion sprung from worker's con­tri­bu­tions bent on solv­ing prob­lems in power sup­ply of the sub­way.

“The In­no­va­tion stu­dio called for in­ven­tions from the whole com­pany with pos­i­tive feed­back.” Yang Chen re­marked earnestly, “Usu­ally front-line work­ers have a lot of good ideas, but no chan­nels for ap­pli­ca­tion. We now pro­vide the chan­nel. Hu­mane and fi­nan­cial sup­port are granted to good pro­pos­als.”

Yang Chen kept a low pro­file and as­sumed an earnest at­ti­tude to­ward work, con­sis­tent with his pro­fes­sion. Power sup­ply pro­fes­sion­als are ex­perts be­hind the scenes. They are in­vis­i­ble to the peo­ple, but the re­sults of their work are en­joyed. Power sup­ply means a high­risk ca­reer, which en­tails that pro­fes­sion­als be sta­ble, rig­or­ous and prag­matic. This is con­sis­tent with Bei­jing Sub­way's ser­vice. Yang Chen said that their in­vis­i­bil­ity meant nor­mal op­er­a­tion of the sub­way and their ap­pear­ance of­ten in­di­cated prob­lems.

Thanks to the ef­forts of those he­roes be­hind the scene, the in­no­va­tive ini­tia­tives of Bei­jing Sub­way Power Sup­ply Branch have achieved good re­sults. Each project depart­ment has be­gun to es­tab­lish its own in­no­va­tive work­sta­tion. The sub­way net­work con­tin­ued to ex­pand. Mean­while, re­gional res­cue mis­sions have achieved out­stand­ing ad­van­tages, en­sur­ing safety op­er­a­tions of sub­way lines.

Yang Chen re­called one glo­ri­ous mo­ment. “I am proud for be­ing a staff mem­ber of Bei­jing Sub­way. I shoul­der the glo­ri­ous mis­sion of the sub­way and in­vest my en­thu­si­asm in con­struct­ing a ‘safe, hu­manori­ented, ef­fi­cient, eco­nom­i­cal, con­ve­nient and in­no­va­tion-driven sub­way.' I con­trib­ute all my strength to the goal of build­ing an out­stand­ing provider of main­te­nance ser­vices for sub­way power sup­ply.”

Yang Chen ad­just­ing a de­vice ac­cord­ing to the draw­ing

Yang Chen (mid­dle) il­lus­trates op­er­at­ing prin­ci­ples to col­leagues.

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