Randolph Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) currently serves over 31,000 consumer-members. Their service area covers more than 4,100 miles of lines in Randolph, Moore, Montgomery, Chatham and Alamance counties in North Carolina.
Randolph EMC performs routine inspections and storm assessments of their field assets. These inspections ensure safety and reliability of their network thereby increasing customer satisfaction. Traditionally, these inspections were done using a paper-based system. Randolph’s inspectors reported various issues using paper documents, which were reviewed by supervisors and were given to technicians who were responsible for fixing those issues. Randolph found it difficult to track the status all the work orders that were initiated by the field inspections. They also wanted to reduce the time required to resolve any complaints from customers. So, they decided to seek replacement for the legacy system that depended on paper documents, spreadsheets, emails, telephone and radio calls with a modern solution that uses mobile devices.
Randolph EMC evaluated a few solutions and decided to implement geoOrganizerÔ, a solution developed by
GISbiz (www.gisbiz.com), a software development company in Nashville, TN. This solution is built for Apple iOS devices and leverages ArcGIS® technology from Esri® (www.esri.com). GISbiz has successfully implemented this solution at Randolph EMC.
Dennis Mabe, VP of Engineering & Operations for Randolph EMC, said “Doing our O & M Survey for RUS (Rural Utilities Service) on paper records caused all sorts of issues we wanted to address. The main issue we were experiencing that this app resolved was that things would get called in or written on paper, but wouldn’t get fixed or they would get fixed, but there wasn’t a record of it.”
The implementation consisted of an iOS application that works on iPad/ iPhone natively and a web GIS dashboard application. This solution enables Randolph EMC to keep track of inspection reports being created in the field and also which employee was creating, working on, or completing a field inspection throughout the Randolph EMC asset network. The solution leverages the latest capabilities of Esri’s ArcGIS for Server and their iOS SDK.
The immediate benefit of having a native iOS application like Randolph’s is the ability to work in “disconnected mode”. This means that work orders can be created without an Internet connection and can be synchronized to the database whenever users get Internet connection.
“Having this application also helps us look up legacy information and recreate old problems and the resolution. This is especially handy in training and resolving new problems based off old experiences,” says Dennis Mabe.
This solution facilitates the communication between different groups of personnel involved in utility field operations. Randolph EMC organized their field staff into 3 groups namely Field Inspectors, Supervisors and Technicians. The workflow starts with a Field Inspector who finds an asset that is in need of repair or maintenance. This could be anything from a broken pole to sagging power lines. Then the Inspector can take notes and photos of what they are seeing and assign it a criticality level.
Because this is a native iOS application, all of the documentation can be done with or without Internet connectivity. Once the Inspector is in range of Wi-Fi or data network, he simply hits a button to send the inspection report to the Supervisor. The Supervisor can review the photos and notes and assign a Technician that is in the area to address the problem. Technician gets notified of this assignment in real time. Once the Technician completed the job, the Supervisor gets notified immediately. The Inspector and Supervisor have the option to complete the work orders as well. The application provides turn-by-turn driving directions to any of the inspection report locations that are documented. In addition, a web map dashboard application shows all these work orders on a map with easily identifiable symbols & colors indicating their job types & status.
Dennis Mabe of Randolph EMC said, “With geoOrganizerÔ everyone sees the asset that needs fixed and a line superintendent can notify a nearby crew to fix it. It saves us a lot of time and money that was wasted trying to find things based on pole number and paper records.”
The first screenshot shows Randolph’s asset information and 4 different work orders that have been created. Field Inspections that have not been assigned by the Supervisor are orange. Ones that have been assigned to a Technician are red. Finally, completed field inspections are green. Each different kind of asset served gives each feature a different symbol on the map.
The second screenshot shows the different types of field inspections that are created by Randolph and many other electric utilities. As each asset is selected, the conditions are populated accordingly. If “pole” is selected, the appropriate conditions for a pole are populated, etc.
The third screenshot displays the filter feature available in the mobile application. Users are able to filter through inspections by Asset Type, Status, Priority, District Served or Assigned Technician.
In regards to the implementation of this solution, Dennis said, “Implementation of geoOrganizerÔ was very easy. 70% of my linemen were already taking iPhones / iPads into the field and they could use this app on those devices.”
GISbiz also implemented an Operations Dashboard Web Application (fourth screenshot) for tracking the status of field operations from the office. Randolph utilizes this app to monitor the location and status of work orders, blinks, non-pay accounts and outages across their entire service area.
By using these tools, Randolph EMC was able to streamline their field inspection process, monitor operations effectively and provide value to their consumer-members.