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Top Five Trends in Utility Mobile Workforce Management

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writer and researcher BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is...

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The past year has created great changes in the utility workforce. Now with global economies emerging from the pandemic and the US Government's $2.25 trillion transformational project to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure changes are going to be necessary. From the industry in the last year a few key themes have emerged. Here are my top five:

 

1. Danger Response and Outage Restoration Need Greater Focus

 

The events in Texas in February starkly outlined how poor some of the grid infrastructure is, and shortages of gas, extreme cold and inadequate preparation made the crisis worse. It isn't just Texas – California had a record-breaking fire season in 2021, with 31 lives lost and this destroyed many power lines as well as buildings and other infrastructure.

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There is little question that in many countries, outages are becoming more common and more prolonged due to the interaction of more frequent and intense storms, aging grid infrastructure, climate change and workforce issues. Following the Texas disaster utilities made improvements and senior personnel resigned but companies also recognize that their outage management systems are under pressure. Upgrading these systems with modern scheduling and mobility systems, preferably as part of an integrated Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) is a necessity for utilities seeking to improve their reliability metrics and customer satisfaction targets.

 

2. Utilities Should Be More Proactive

 

By applying modern analytic methods – which may include increasing use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning - utilities can perform a proactive repair on an identified item of equipment, rather than waiting for it to fail or having a rigid schedule of maintenance.

In order to reduce O & M costs utilities want to leverage every possible opportunity to be less reactive. So this is a direction of travel for companies.

 

3. Bigger Clouds on the Horizon

 

Some utilities moving to cloud-based systems believe they gain ability to better support the deployment of “complex distributed systems,” such as smart meters, DER and solar panels. Others focus on the more general ability of cloud-based solutions to deliver IT savings, scalability, flexibility and a more flexible, less premises-based workforce.

 

4. Innovations in Power Delivery

 

Renewables, energy storage, and bi-directional EVs interacting with the grid are going to be making significant changes in the way the grid operates. Solar, wind and battery storage are smarter systems that can involve more demanding work than other grid assets. As a result, utility workers need additional training and expertise to work on these assets.

 

5. Digital Utility Workers Prove their Worth in a Crisis

 

One of the few benefits of the pandemic is that it has proved that workers can be far more flexible than was otherwise thought. Though this was rather ad-hoc, now management can look at the situation and determine which innovations are of benefit and should be kept and where former conventional methods should be retained. The result will be a holistic mobile workforce strategy for the future.

Utility mobile workforce management has not generally been a fast-changing environment, but COVID-19 reshaped the industry: home and mobile working, teleconferencing, and smart systems, and this is intersecting with technological advances (mobility, geospatial, cloud) to accelerate utility pursuit of digital innovation and transformation. For an industry that performs mission-critical work that impacts the entire country every day, that’s an important development.

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