Utility companies should use mobile applications to enhance productivity for workers. Prior to B2E mobile apps, information was often missing, inaccurate or wrongly correlated over the phone, leaving workers frustrated and unable to efficiently complete jobs. By giving field workers mobile apps that specifically address their needs, they can easily access site information and have the tools they need to fix issues out in the field.
For the typical electricity company, two-thirds of total employees are field based. This makes the extension of critical business applications to these remote users a key opportunity for productivity improvement and cost reduction. Mobile technologies integrated with back-end systems, such as outage management and work management systems, support the display of maps in the field and help coordinate crew activities, enabling field personnel to view, update and complete work orders.
In the case of outage management, an integrated solution could offer field crews the same map view as a dispatcher, establishing real-time, bidirectional communication between the field and the back office. Field crews can update job information, change job and crew status, create new outages on the network, perform tracing, use GPS navigation with automatic vehicle location (AVL) and more. Changes made in the field are instantly visible to the dispatcher.
By integrating functions such as these, and extending information and capabilities to the field, forward thinking electric utilities can improve operations, from outage to asset management. Here are a few possibilities.
Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the region. During the hurricane season, the islands may experience many outages due to high winds, heavy rain and landslides. Dispatchers and field crews often deal with trouble calls, such as outages caused by fallen trees or downed power lines.
In order to deal with these demands, and improve outage management across your service territory, a configurable, Outage Management System may be the perfect solution. The outage management system may feature a simple, intuitive user interface with a geographic information system (GIS)-based interactive map, providing effective dispatching, monitoring and operations.
With integrated mobile technologies, field crews can see exactly what the dispatchers in the office see. In an instant, they can know where an outage is, what may have caused the outage and who can fix it. They can even know the location of the nearest technician based on a map view of the electrical and street networks. Using an Outage Management System can result in faster response and power restoration times, more streamlined operations and more satisfied customers.
Similar benefits can be achieved when mobile capabilities are combined with asset management. Many utilities struggle with the management of their assets’ location, condition and status. These assets, which include distribution poles and transformers along major roadways and small streets, must be tracked, monitored and maintained.
One common challenge for utilities is overseeing the poles and their attachments and so it is necessary to update your inventory of assets, their conditions and map their locations. A project can be initiated to conduct field inspections of your assets to validate a geographic information system (GIS) to the field and update this GIS with work orders, matching it to your backlog.
Field crews can be equipped with mobile apps that enable them to inspect the condition of assets, capture redlines, conduct any necessary repairs, document the work needed and update a work order. This data can be fed directly to home office, eliminating paper reports and double entry of inspection information. This process can help identify and store information on asset conditions and reconcile data on thousands of poles and transformers. Field crews can also use their phone’s camera to capture photos or videos to complement the inspection data, which is a useful feature for audits of utility attachments.
An added benefit of these types of solutions is a reduction in paper waste. Utility company environmental programs mainly focus on power generation, transmission and delivery. However, companies can also benefit the environment by adjusting internal procedures, such as the way they manage work orders.
With a high volume of customers, it’s necessary to have a solution that would increase productivity and eliminate the excessive amounts of paper used each day. “Going green” can include the creation and use of an application that would allow all service tickets to be received, handled and closed electronically.
Building on top of this customisable network management system, is the possibility of including an interactive map and web service interface that can receive, process and save service tickets for dispatch to field workers in real time. Dispatchers can receive all service tickets and sort them based on the geographic location or the addresses of service areas, and then dispatch those tickets to the locators in the field. Locators receive and organize service tickets, locate sites, go out into the field and complete the work.
Using apps to go green can greatly improve productivity, streamline workflow, improve service times and reduce costs for paper and ink.
Success in the field is directly related to the quality of service your company can deliver. Integrated mobile and back-office systems create more and better opportunities to successfully manage outages and assets. By deploying integrated systems and extending those systems onto the latest devices, from rugged laptops to smartphone and tablets, utilities will continue to improve their ability to meet customer demands and keep the lights on.