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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

Chuck Eves
Senior Director of Engineering and Strategic Planning, United Illuminating Company

Ron Chebra
Vice President, Grid Modernization, EnerNex

Peter Manos
Utility Industry Analyst & Senior Editor, Transmission & Distribution World

Jim Dempsey
Executive Business Development Manager, Panasonic

“If we can engage customers to be our first line of fault [information], this could help accelerate the restoration process.”

-Ron Chebra

Mobile technologies
are already
improving the
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.

Case Study


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

Severe Weather


System Operations






Suspicious Activity




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.”

-Chuck Eves

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
– Supervisors
– Warehouse/inventory
– Maintenance and meter shop floor
– Engineering
– Design & mapping
– Laboratory
– Research & development
– Sales

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.”

-Peter Manos

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

Direct Measures:

– 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

Indirect Measures:

– 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%

IT Roles

O&M Roles

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Ron Chebra, Enernex vice President of grid Modernization, is a recognized thought leader and industry expert in utility modernization. he has a deep operating knowledge in technology solutions in areas such as Microgrids, Renewable Energy Integration, Smart grid, Distribution Automation (DA), Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and Demand Response. he provides strategic consulting services to leading energy industry suppliers of products and services, in the following areas: microgrids, demand response, IoT and “Behind the Meter” technologies. Ron has over 35 years of experience, including previous positions with Schneider Electric and Dnv gL (KEMA).


Chuck Eves is Senior Director of Engineering and Strategic Planning at United Illuminating, bringing more than 25 years of utility experience in his work, which includes development of emergency response strate-gies utilizing the latest technology to efficiently restore services safely while simultaneously providing custom-ers the information needed to plan their lives during a major storm. Chuck is an active thought leader in our industry, for example through his participation in the Power Apparatus Executive Committee of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies and his participation in other industry conferences.


A seasoned utility product marketing strategist, re-searcher and analyst, Peter Manos brings 31 years of subject matter experience to his work at T&D World. Peter earned a BA degree in philosophy from vassar College, a BSEE degree from nyU (Polytechnic University), and an MBA in marketing and finance from nyU Stern School of Business.


Jim Dempsey is Executive Business Development Manager at Panasonic where he focuses on identify-ing, developing and managing Panasonic’s ISv or application partner ecosystem. Jim’s primary focus in his role is on Panasonic’s Toughpad line of mobility products across verticals in the retail, warehousing, distribution, logistics, manufacturing and public safety sectors where he works closely with Panasonic’s field sales organization to facilitate joint demand generation, sales activities and account management.