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The latest news on utility resource management

How will you Manage your Resources 10 Years from now?

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I strongly believe no technology will replace the noble profession of being a lineman. To me, technology is here to improve our existing processes, situational awareness and customer satisfaction.

For several years, utilities and contractors have been exploring the use of new technology like drones. For example, utilities have flown drones to inspect transmission lines and shooting video of insulators and cross arms without having to send a worker to climb a tower. But what other technological changes – such as autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI) and robots – could improve utility performance in the years ahead? How will these technologies affect resource management? Will new, high-tech tools improve overall utility performance or just add to the complexity of resource management?

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No Longer Going it Alone: Outage Restoration Requires Relationships

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Utility workers restore power as a team. Getting the job done means sharing and managing information, resources, tools and more. Having a laser-beam focus on power restoration at the risk of putting local officials through an “information outage” might’ve been excusable in year’s past. But in today’s world of self-serve information, people at all levels outside a utility expect to know what’s happening in real time and how they can help.

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Hydro One crews complete restoration in record time for nearly 500,000 customers after significant damage caused by the April storm

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Hydro One employees worked tirelessly to restore power to approximately 500,000 customers affected by the major storm system that began on April 14. The system moved across Ontario from Windsor to the Quebec border and brought rain, ice accumulation of up to 30 mm, snow and significant wind gusts as strong as 100 km/hr in some areas. The efforts of employees from across the company resulted in a new record for Hydro One, restoring power in four days. This surpassed the previous six day restoration effort from the last, large scale March 2016 ice storm that earned Hydro One recognition from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

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Effective use of the Incident Command System is crucial in times of crisis

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When different utility and emergency crews converge to repair damage from severe storms or hurricanes it helps if they speak a common language — even if it is not necessarily plain English:

“The IMT working in the EOC is producing the IAP.”

Ann Steeves, an emergency management consultant, translates for us: “The incident management team working in the emergency operations center is producing the incident action plan for the upcoming operational period.” Read More

Utilities opt to automate crew scheduling, streamline work

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For many utilities, scheduling each day’s construction and restoration work means manually organizing and keeping tabs on ever-changing crew schedules and resources.  Managers meticulously update whiteboards dotted with color-coded magnets representing crews and tracks.  Augmenting the whiteboards are often schedules pulled from a PC-based project management tool and a database management product.  Adding to this challenge is the fact that different departments concentrate on restoring outages, while other groups manage day-to-day construction.

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How to Automate Workforce Scheduling

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If you’re a power plant supervisor, you’ve undoubtedly been forced to find a worker during off-hours on the spur of the moment. New tools are being used today that allow automating the callout process—and workforce schedule.

Last summer City Utilities (CU) of Springfield, Missouri, joined a list of power companies automating workforce scheduling and callout to better forecast crew availability, report on worker status, and respond to emergent work. CU’s four plants (a mix of coal-fired, gas, and combustion turbines) produce nearly 800 MW of power and employ approximately 120 electrical, mechanical, and operations personnel along with managers (Figure 1).

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SUFFOLK COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY AUTOMATES WORKFORCE FOR WATER MAIN BREAKS

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SCWA, which supplies safe, potable drinking water to 1.2 million residents on Long Island, has implemented an automated callout system for its Customer Service personnel as well as Construction Maintenance and Production Control departments that enables the water authority to expeditiously respond to, restore and report on water service interruptions. With a few keystrokes, the system automatically mirrors union agreements dictating the order of callouts and finds and confirms available crews in minutes.

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