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Modern Mobility Delivers Increased Productivity, Worker and Customer Satisfaction

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James Strohecker's picture
Managing Director, Demand Gen Associates

Marketing professional with proven success in energy/renewables, utilities, responder and industrial safety markets. Ability to create, produce and execute innovative marketing and...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Aug 31, 2021

One of the biggest challenges today facing Utilities is how to deliver Modern Mobility and a cross-silo “Single Face of Work” to the last mile that enhances field service, worker productivity and customer satisfaction.

Expectations have increased. People now anticipate an “Uber-like” experience. Thus, if an incident occurs such as an outage, incident or pipe/main break, customers expect an immediate, trackable response. Stakeholders -- especially the increased number of Work From Home (WFH) customers --are connected 24/7, so service must happen 24/7. These customers don’t want to call the field center and wait on HOLD; they want an app that allows them to report the incident, and be notified of the repair status in real-time.

Keeping up with Regulation, Workforce, Customer, Infrastructure Demands

  • The infrastructure is aging. And it’s becoming a greater challenge for Utilities to react.
  • Utilities are faced with a rapidly retiring workforce. Many retiring workers were doing job tasks and field work where they didn’t need directions – some for 30-40 years.
  • The new millennial workforce doesn’t have deep horizontal/vertical infrastructure information. Many new workers don’t want to write on paper. They expect an App to provide everything from driving to layout directions.
  • Utilities are being pushed to Increase efficiency.
  • There’s pressure on business models. Ratepayers want rates to go down. Worker time (and overtime) management and productivity is critical.
  • As Utility operations collect large amounts of customer data, this information must be both utilized for field service operations and protected from cyber-attacks. Hosted and self-built Utility systems are not built for advanced data protection or sharing.
  • Regulatory pressure is constant. From OSHA regulations and training requirements, to expectations for reliable Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) non-energy consumption.
  • These challenges are linked together. But collectively they are solvable with Modern Mobility Digital Transformation.


Digital Transformation and Modern Mobility: What’s Possible

In the past, when there was a leak, outage or incident, a customer made the call, the dispatcher rounded up a crew and the technicians were dispatched to the area to fix the challenge. Sometimes, this took days. Today, with a digitally transformed Utility, the crew that’s closest to the incident or emergency can be dispatched in seconds.

At the same time, the back of the infrastructure is becoming smart. Gone are the old ways of door-to-door meter reading. Now with AMI and AMR meters, Utilities can receive information and data every two minutes. Utilities can view consumption, patterns, and areas that are trending with use or not. Intelligent IoT sensors and assets, storage and other advanced monitors can collect and send info on leaks or issues. Everything is becoming connected. Even the equipment assets are becoming intelligent.

As Utilities collect the data, they can become more aware and predictive in their operations and maintenance. Next generation asset management systems will know what is about to break. For example, a vibration sensor will know when a pump is going to fail. The Predictive Maintenance application (PdM) will automatically create a workorder and dispatch send the closest, available crew with the right training and tools in advance to predictively repair or replace the pump, valves, hydrants, backflow check valves and other infrastructure.

That PdM doesn’t exist in a siloed situation it’s based on combined data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities that are available now in cloud-based applications.


A Workers-First Solution Creates Increased Productivity

The people who produce the field work are technicians and contractors. It’s extremely important to give them the information they need about where they need to be, what they need to do, and status of the service. The same goes for the suppliers and customers.  Mobile digital field applications have to be rugged, simple, effortless to use, and easy to access without training, for worker engagement. 

Modern Mobility allows Utilities to create and deploy one single app on a mobile device that works online and offline. This single app real-time data delivery means that workers don't have to login multiple times, and can stay focused on their jobs.The Mobile application also provide field crews one single view for all types of work that they’re doing. This app can also deliver asset location, repair manuals, appointment updates and restrictions, weather info and travel directions.

The Modern Mobility app also creates efficiency via real-time field service deployment and workorder creation. For example, if a truck is down the street from an incident or outage, that crew can be sent real-time to the emerging, critical situation. As a result, the crews (and Utility) increase both productivity and customer service. 


What’s coming next?

First, Utilities should begin combining all their field- and asset-oriented (short and long cycle) work into a single scheduling and appointment engine. No longer can work be siloed. Evaluate paper-based process and work immediately to eliminate paper and digitize processes to better deploy, track and increase field service.

Second, using Modern Mobility apps, Utilities can focus more on the ratepayer and begin delivering an "Uber-like" level of service -- with real-time updated scheduling, arrival and service tracking information. Plan to implement a modern scheduling and location engine that will provide workers and customers with updated arrival and job status information. Give all stakeholders the information they want -- in real-time, at their fingertips.

Finally, we’re entering an age where data is the next oil. Utilities generate and receive volumes of data. This information on Utility assets, customers, usage, workorder productivity, infrastructure, and predictive maintenance will be valuable in creating new revenue streams, value-based service, and customer satisfaction.

As a result of Digital Transformation, a Utility’s asset and field service work can be combined, and ultimately create operational efficiency. A Modern Mobility cloud-based application will combine data on the crews, customers, partners, contractors, and equipment and combine this info into one application that will scale up-or-down with work. Workloads can be adjusted and assigned automatically, and the system will be flexible and nimble to expand and grow with operational, worker and customer needs. Through this Digital Transformation, the Utility operation of today will modernize to become a Utility of the Future.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 31, 2021

Expectations have increased. People now anticipate an “Uber-like” experience. Thus, if an incident occurs such as an outage, incident or pipe/main break, customers expect an immediate, trackable response. Stakeholders -- especially the increased number of Work From Home (WFH) customers --are connected 24/7, so service must happen 24/7. 

This is true-- the Ubers, Amazons, and Netflix models all give us immediate feedback, if not results, so utilities are now on the hook for that. Luckily, once that is built out utilities can benefit from that in a two-way street: demand-side management opportunities, quickly crowdsourcing equipment issues, etc.!

James Strohecker's picture
Thank James for the Post!
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