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Going Mobile

Wireless systems are improving front-line processes.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2008

the next job,” Goicoechea explains. “Under our old system, we would just hand the hard copy orders off to the service people. You never really knew how many would get done that day.”

The field representatives electronically file completed work orders before moving on to the next job. Once the order is sent, representatives select a status button on the laptop, which tells the home office they are en-route to the next job. Once they arrive, they hit the status button again, and begin that job. As a result, the utility always knows exactly where its field service representatives are at any given time.

The utility hopes that will provide other benefits. For example, order changes or new jobs might be forwarded immediately to a representative in the field. If there’s a sudden storm outage, customer calls are used to map out the approximate location and scope of the problem. Dispatch operators now can combine the new system with the MapFrame system to locate the nearest qualified technicians and re-route them to the outage area to make repairs.

Wireless Matrix is providing the cellular and satellite data communications devices that allow each service vehicle to stay in contact with its service representatives. “We have a lot of valleys and canyons in our service territory, so we wanted the satellite capabilities to ensure connectivity,” Goicoechea says.

The new system is expected to reduce significantly customer-service costs, because the utility will be able to schedule and complete more service calls in less time and with fewer technicians.

“We expect to save through reduced resources and better service. We think we’ll win twofold,” Goicoechea says. “We spend so much time getting everyone organized in the morning, with each technician looking at maps to decide which call to do first. Now, the schedule will be set in advance. The routing will be in place, so our people will drive fewer miles. And the orders will be completed and filed from the field. There are a lot of efficiencies that will translate into savings.”