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Going Mobile

Wireless systems are improving front-line processes.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2008

have no other job,” Hurley says. “Each essentially owns a circuit and is responsible for monitoring all the assets that are part of it.”

Replacing hard-copy maps and inspection forms significantly has reduced the time needed to conduct an assessment and input the results. Since a circuit can be comprised of as many as 1,000 poles, filling out a hard copy form for each one and then returning to the office to input the information is too time-consuming.

“This improves productivity and also impacts us from a regulatory standpoint. The new system puts an automatic time-stamp on the form, so we can more accurately report when the asset was last inspected and what we found,” he says.

Coordinators also photograph each asset—from the actual pole to all the components attached to it. If an asset requires maintenance or replacement, the utility can pull the photo from the database first to examine its condition and location.

“If the pole is located in the middle of a field that’s covered with a foot of snow, we know enough to send a climbing crew, rather than bucket truck. That saves time and maximizes our field services effort,” he says.

The system, he adds, may soon be expanded to support monthly substation patrols, collect storm damage information to determine the root cause of equipment failures and deliver equipment alerts from the corporate design standards group to CRCs, on-line.

“It’s pretty simple,” Hurley concludes. “Outages can be avoided if damaged equipment is identified and corrected before a fault occurs. That results in better reliability metrics and greater customer satisfaction.”

Idaho Power

In August, Idaho Power will kick-off a new wireless, mobile-workforce management program that uses CGI Group Inc. software to automate its field representative scheduling, assigning, dispatching, and monitoring. The system will interoperate with Idaho Power’s Oracle-supplied customer information system (CIS) and outage management system (OMS), and MapFrame’s electronic mapping software.

The program, says project manager John Goicoechea, will streamline and improve customer service operations, from the initial call-center response, to scheduling field representative visits and filing field reports at the conclusion of each job.

When a customer contacts the call center, the operator will be able to check the availability of field services in that area and schedule the day for the visit. Once the order is entered into the CIS system, the CGI software examines the type of work to be done, the skills needed to do it, and the customer’s location and then matches the best qualified technician to the job.

Further, it assembles each technician’s service calls in the most cost-efficient order. Technicians simply will log in each morning and the day’s schedule already will be in place. If necessary, the technician can click on the MapFrame software to examine the day’s route in advance.

“The system will take travel time into consideration when it puts the route together. It can determine how many miles the representative must travel to each job, how much time it will take to get there, the wrench time on the site, and then the travel time to