Mobile OMS/WMS Close-Up:
Transforming Utility O&M Opex to Operational Excellence
Utilities customers want more reliable service, and more than ever before, expect reliable and detailed responses when outages occur. To meet this demand, leading utility companies are deploying mobile devices to decrease the time to recognize, respond to, and repair outages, while at the same time optimizing customer responsiveness and improving customer satisfaction.
Meet the Experts
“If we can engage customers to be our first line of fault [information], this could help accelerate the restoration process.”
outage information exchange.
Information is central to a utility company’s ability to quickly recognize, respond to, and resolve grid problems, especially in an outage scenario. While the smart grid framework incorporates multiple lines of communication to gather this information from and share this information with participants in the electrical flow—bulk generation, transmission, distribution, and the customer—mobile technologies are adding a new path for information sharing.
Customers have started using their smart phones to take photographs of downed wires, poles, and other safety and outage issues and are sharing them with their utility companies. This is helping the operations team quickly visualize the situation without sending workers out to the site and make initial assessments.
Utility companies are also starting to look at new technologies, such as drones, smart tablets, and augmented reality (AR), that can safely provide field workers with a more in-depth view of the situation.
Examples of new technologies include:
Drones assist with inspections, allowing workers to safely view and assess damage. Using drones can reduce the need for multiple bucket trucks and allow the utility company to gather video feed information for additional analysis that can be used to optimize repairs.
Smart tablets allow on-site repair crews to gather more information during assessment that can speed up repairs. Crews can use tablets to view a digital overlay of the pre-damaged site to see what the actual damage is and what replacement components may be needed. They can query for and request inventory in real time and enhance productivity by ensuring the right employees are onsite with the right tools in hand.
AR will enable repair crews to gather information by looking at the damaged site with a set of AR glasses. AR is still in the experimental stage, but researchers like the Duke Emerging Technology Office foresee AR helping repair crews gather detailed information from feeder maps and substations, sending pictures to the outage management system (OMS), using image recognition to draw in what’s missing due to damage, and requesting missing parts from the nearest warehouse.
United Illuminating is using mobile technologies to satisfy customers.
United Illuminating faced major challenges in 2011 and 2012, with Tropical Storm Irene, a late October snowstorm, and Superstorm Sandy causing outages for a week or more after each storm for many of its Connecticut customers. Since then, the business has leveraged mobile technology not only to improve restoration times, but to connect with and share information with customers.
Outage information can come in from phone calls and also from customer text messages, website reports, and even from the network-integrated electric meters.
United Illuminating uses mobile scheduling and dispatch to determine the work necessary for each outage, the resources needed, and the priority, and then develops a restoration plan that can be pushed out to customers via text message, email, or phone, or can be accessed by the customer if they call, text, or check the website. Updates are also shared with customers if the restoration schedule changes.
Mobile-enabled OMS/WMS predicts and minimizes restoration times.
Utility companies are working diligently to minimize outages and maximize operational and service excellence, but outages are unpredictable and still impact millions of people annually. Mobile-enabled OMS and work management systems (WMS) help predict and minimize restoration times, which can be communi-cated to the customer.
Despite the drive to prevent outages, the unpredictability of severe weather—the top cause of outages—means outages will continue to happen. Utilities can use mobile-enabled OMS/WMS systems to improve customer satisfaction during these challenging times by staying connected with the customer.
Number of Outages by Event Type
Source: Analysis of DOE Annual Summary of Electric Disturbance Events (OE417)
“In 2017, it’s not good enough to restore your customers in a timely manner. They all have cellphones . . . and we can provide [restoration] information to them not just at a global level, but at a granular level.”
Rugged mobile systems improve productivity in critical scenarios.
Utility personnel often work in harsh environments, making them ideal candidates for rugged mobile systems, which are built to meet the harsh environments encountered by the military. As non-field personnel move to mobile notebooks, tablets, and handhelds rather than remaining at a stationary workstation, rugged devices are being used to improve productivity.
Personnel using multiple mobile devices in key utility workflows
– Transmission & distribution operations and maintenance field crews
– Power delivery and production
– Maintenance and meter shop floor
– Design & mapping
– Research & development
Mobile devices are critical to overall productivity, as well as ongoing reliability improvements, better outage responsiveness, and customer satisfaction. Still, device failure is a significant problem for utility companies. A recent IDC survey of 800 decision makers across six industries found that utilities had the highest deployment rate for handhelds and tablets, but also reported the highest failure rate for these devices. The utilities industry was third in notebook usage—after Public Safety and Transit—but just second to Public Safety in notebook failure.
“Customers recognize there are going to be outages, and customer satisfaction is linked to how reliably and predictably power and services are restored.”
Mobile workforce solutions and IT/OT convergence are making employees more efficient.
In addition to looking at these industry-wide changes, utility companies can ask their own questions to measure return on investment (ROI) and benefits of a mobile workforce. Peter Manos shared examples of ROI measurement metrics.
ROI Measurement Metrics for Mobile Workforce
– Average annual overtime for O&M employees
– Average trouble ticket or service order response time
– Disconnects as a percent of (residential, commercial, or industrial) customers
– number of complaints received per 100,000 customers
– Percent of customers with x number of outages per year
– Per customer % of outages restored in less than x hours
– Per customer average service connection cost on time
– New employees time to full productivity
– Employee retention
Subset of Electric Utility Employees in IT or in O&M Roles — IT’s Growth vs. O&M
|Bureau of Labor Statistics Electric Utility Job Categories||2012 to 2013||2013 to 2014||2014 to 2015||2015 to 2016||Average 2-year growth rate|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||10%||7%||7%||6%||8%|
|Computer Occupations, All Other||38%||51%||46%||22%||39%|
|Computer Operators and Network Support Specialists||3%||2%||1%||10%||4%|
|Computer Programmers & Systems Analysts||14%||7%||2%||16%||10%|
|Drafters, Estimators, Engineering Technicians, and Mapping Technicians||-4%||0%||-3%||-7%||-4%|
|Electrical Power-Line, Substation, Powerhouse, & Relay Installers and Repairers and Helpers||-4%||-1%||-1%||-3%||-2%|
|First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers||-6%||-4%||4%||7%||0%|
|Power distributors and dispatchers||-8%||4%||15%||-4%||2%|