Automatically Gaining Situational Awareness

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Jim Nowak's picture
Senior Director of Operational Services ARCOS LLC

James D. Nowak, Senior Director of Operational Services, joined ARCOS in July 2014 after retiring from AEP after 37 years of service. As Senior Director of Operational Services, Nowak assists...

  • Member since 2018
  • 6 items added with 15,572 views
  • Oct 30, 2019

Since the founding of ARCOS® in 1993, its Callout Suite has been built by its customers for its customers. ARCOS has carried that tradition forward by listening to customers while on-site, at conferences, trade shows and during industry meetings. The feedback means ARCOS can continually enhance its solutions to mirror customers’ needs.

To do this, ARCOS works to understand its customers’ processes. What better way to do that then benchmarking the industry to see trends now and in the years ahead? In the 1970s and 1980s, only a handful of utilities had a fully functional OMS and GIS. Today only a handful lack these technologies. Utilities have added smart meters, GPS/AVL, hand held devices (e.g., inspection, damage assessment, work packets, etc.), distribution automation (i.e., smart grid), real-time updating, drones, and more. Along with these technologies, ARCOS has learned through its benchmarking sessions that utilities also want:

  • systems that integrate and share data to reduce duplicating processes,
  • single dashboard providing situational awareness, and
  • to tap artificial intelligence (AI) to cut manual steps from processes for tracking employees, damage and equipment.

ARCOS looks at any manual process as a loop with potentially several open sections. These openings, or process gaps, represent times when everything slows down and becomes very manual; in fact, when people encounter these open loops, they often grind to a halt waiting for data or direction from managers. Resource management technology can close these loops.

Here’s how:  Improving the processes underpinning blue- and dark-sky operations, boosts customer satisfaction, reliability indices, and a return on investment. When utilities automate the way they respond to, restore and report on daily and storm work, managers can:

  • assemble and dispatch crews in minutes, not hours;
  • brief crews at the start of the day efficiently; and
  • assign the right skill sets to tackle specific tasks in the field and allocate the correct materials and vehicles for the job.

These efficiencies derived from automation mean an operations center can pinpoint crews in real time, and field crews can communicate the status of jobs to align work and resources. Using crew callout, dispatch, and operations data, utility managers can track and report on how line workers manage time and work. ARCOS tools are one way to capture the data to provide a utility with visibility into variables like crew skill sets, resource and materials allocation, crew size, vehicles, on-site arrival and departure times, work packets, routes to job sites, and time to completion.

Gaining situational awareness

To achieve that visibility, or situational awareness, a utility has to know the location of dispatched employees, not just the assigned crews, but also non-traditional employees (e.g., damage assessors) and external resources such as mutual-aid crews. For example, as a field supervisor, you might track a damage assessor, who is typically an engineer but could be a retired line mechanic. You may be tracking a contract company coming in. Knowing where these different individuals and crews are in real time allows for accurately assessing a situation no matter how large. Automatically tracking crews, provides real-time damage assessment back to the office so incident managers can prepare workloads and assignments with everyone aligned.

The ARCOS resource management platform allows customers greater visibility into operations. And managers can use ARCOS to automate previously manual, or open-loop, processes to provide safer, more reliable and cost-efficient utility services.

Jim Nowak's picture
Thank Jim for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 30, 2019

To achieve that visibility, or situational awareness, a utility has to know the location of dispatched employees, not just the assigned crews, but also non-traditional employees (e.g., damage assessors) and external resources such as mutual-aid crews.

What an important point, especially if those non-assigned crews are a bit unexpected because of changing circumstances! How long of lead time is needed for such solutions to deal with, for example, mutual-aid crews? 

Jim Nowak's picture
Jim Nowak on Nov 5, 2019

Good question and one that doesn’t have a standard answer. There are solutions in the market that can adjust real-time while others require phone calls or emails. The real-time updates occur when the resources, no matter the type (traditional or non-traditional) are being tracked via GPS systems that provide driving directions as well as ETA. In these systems as soon as the crew is provided the new destination the systems are updated and the Requesting Company can see their location, suggested path and ETA. For other systems, even if vehicles are equipped with GPS if there is no functionality for the crews to enter destination, hours driven per day and no sharing of location the only method would be via phone calls, emails or some other type of communication. Over the years I would say that this proves can take anywhere from 1 hour up to several hours depending on the Responding Companies internal process and office support back home.
I hope this answers your questions.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 5, 2019

Very helpful, thanks for the thorough response, Jim!

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