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ARCOS Inc.

Outrun the Storm: Speeding up your Resource Acquisition, Planning, and Sharing

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We know utilities face major challenges when it comes to the resource planning and acquisition process during major events. There are often not enough resources to go around, or logistics are managed manually without full visibility. And let’s face it – the extra time and inefficiency that come along with keeping track of your resource planning and logistics in a variety of places (which probably includes spreadsheets and handwritten notes) is just not worth it.

Along with the manual song and dance comes a significant risk of overlooking important details as you ramp-up for your event. Considering that 40% or more of the utility workforce is made up of contractors, we know how difficult it can be to respond to an event with crews. With all of this going on against a ticking clock, establishing one source of truth for your event needs becomes essential.

Take our current situation, for example. We are in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, as storm season builds around us. Your operations may be functioning differently than normal as you work to promote social distancing and manage remote work. As you continue to get used to the “new normal”, an unexpected event may come along and turn your daily work on its head. Unfortunately, natural disasters and other major storms do not care about COVID-19, but we do.

Recently, ARCOS announced a new series of solutions for resource acquisition, planning, and sharing that integrate with the full ARCOS Resource Management platform, free to the utility industry. Now, you can manage resources and logistics surrounding events all in one place, giving visibility to supervisors, leadership, and stakeholders.

Automating your resource planning and acquisition means:

  • Ditching the paper and time-consuming manual processes
  • Giving your team, leadership, and third parties a bird’s eye view with one source of truth
  • The ability to assemble and track crews, see gaps in scheduling, and manage lodging and other logistics all in one place
  • Get a jump-start on planning before crew rosters arrive by utilizing “Stick Count” functionality, allowing users to create crews from Resource Planner into Crew Manager

Creating visibility into a real-time picture of the data saves a utility time and money when determining how many hotel rooms, meals and gallons of fuel are needed, compared to what the utility truly has on hand – ultimately impacting the estimated restoration time. Check out ARCOS Resource Planner to learn more and change how your utility handles resource planning, sharing, and acquisition. 

Going the Distance: How to Maximize ROI with New Technology

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You’ve purchased new technology to become more efficient – now what? Afterall, your journey doesn’t just stop after implementation and launch. So, what exactly has to happen for a successful implementation, and what type of roll-out or user adoption strategies are best for your ROI?

Research has shown that without a well-organized and executed plan, many benefits of new technology (and the reason you hopped onboard in the first place) could fall flat. According to pmig.org:

  • For every $1 billion invested in the United States in 2016, $97 million was wasted due to lacking project performance
  • Only 64% of projects completed over the last 12 months successfully met the original goals and business intent of the project, and 14% were deemed failures
  • 9.9% of every dollar is wasted due to poor project performance. The pace and scope of change underscore the need for excellence in project management

It’s obvious that strong workforce, work order, and project management is a necessity for coordinated, fast, and effective implementation projects. However, the adoption of new technology does demand thorough preparation to ensure a smooth transition with optimal adoption. The faster users adjust to the change, the quicker you can drive ROI and intended outcomes.​

ARCOS knows how essential a high-level rollout plan is – from recruiting and retaining a new generation as a part of your workforce, to bringing leadership and existing employees up to speed and keeping stakeholders in the loop. And we can help. 

The newly launched ARCOS Managed Services can assist critical infrastructure customers with speeding up the deployment and adoption of their ARCOS solution, ultimately spelling a faster ROI and assuring ongoing value for managers and workers.

The ARCOS Managed Services portfolio contains various offerings, like:

  • The option to add a dedicated project manager to help customers simultaneously implement multiple ARCOS products
  • ARCOS Experts who go beyond a traditional rollout by managing and implementing the project to ensure that your organization will see the most benefit
  • Workshops and materials for change management adoption training and communication
  • An assigned customer success manager to review and analyze your progress, and more!

Best practices and education surrounding products are always evolving. There are many big changes that come with adopting new technology, and ARCOS can help make things easier. Check out our latest Managed Services Webinar, on-demand, to learn more.

ARCOS launches Resource Planner to speed up restoration, boost situational awareness

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – June 29, 2020 – ARCOS® LLC has launched ARCOS Resource Planner, so utility managers can have one software platform to quickly plan for and see the resources – organized by type and location – they need to restore service. Using Resource Planner, along with ARCOS’s complementary products Resource Assist and Resource Assist Lite, managers can automatically track resources at the moment they acquire them from other divisions, neighboring utilities and contractors.

In contrast, manually planning for resources (e.g., distribution workers or tree experts) and making phone calls to secure their help often yields a final number of resources arriving at a utility that is higher than requested. Often a request for, say, 800 resources ends up yielding as many as 880. The difference can be attributed to various reasons such as responders sending additional support staff and crews. Among the first priorities utility managers have when running an event is capturing basic numbers, including how many people are on their property and how many they need. Acquiring a true picture of the data saves a utility time and money when calculating how many hotel rooms, meals and gallons of fuel it needs; what a utility truly has on hand also impacts how it calculates an estimated time of restoration.

“The sooner a utility organizes and sees all resources the faster it can restore power,” says Jim Nowak, senior director of Operations, Product and Services at ARCOS. “A utility has to validate the classifications of workers being sent and process the right number of people and titles.”

Once a utility learns of a pending storm or other situation, managers go into Resource Planner and begin capturing the number of resources they need by resource type (e.g., distribution, transmission, damage, tree, etc.). Resource Planner then tallies requests and responses to show executives how the acquisition of resources is progressing. Operations managers can quickly see shortfalls and ask for workers from:  areas of their utility unaffected by the event; neighboring utilities or contractors. With a storm prediction model, the utility supervisor can take what’s been modeled for, say, the number of required distribution workers and plug that into Resource Planner to construct a profile of what’s available at that moment.

Through ARCOS Resource Assist, operations staff from different utilities and contractors can share people and equipment via a common language that draws from the standard resource types in the Edison Electric Institute’s National Response Event RAMP-UP tool.

“Making the naming conventions within Resource Planner, Resource Assist and the ARCOS platform the same as RAMP-UP eliminates confusion and standardizes requests,” adds Jason Singer, director for Resource Management Services for ARCOS. “The values a manager enters into Resource Planner are taken from damage assessment data, historical knowledge or outage prediction modeling.”

For ARCOS customers, there is no separate licensing fee for Resource Planner, and the solution links to ARCOS Resource Assist and ARCOS Crew Manager. Download the Resource Planner Data Sheet and learn more here.

Reduce Operations Costs without Sacrificing Productivity

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Doing more with less – we’ve all heard that old adage is the key to lean operations, but what does it mean? What does doing more with less look like in the real world? For operations, doing more with less means having information at your fingertips that will allow you to make quick, informed decisions about your staffing, output levels, resources, equipment and current priorities. This can range anywhere from payroll and shift coverage information, to manufacturing data or inventory numbers. Having visibility into all parts of your organization is paramount and can be the difference between lean, efficient operations and a complicated, tedious situation.

However, this information and your decisions don’t magically appear in the minds of your supervisors – you need automated systems in place to help you access information instantly and be able to make changes at a moment’s notice. The current pandemic has taught us that we can in fact maintain business continuity with adjusted shifts, remote work and unusual work groups – but it isn’t easy to manage all of the changes, especially if you have manual processes in place. By giving back some autonomy to employees regarding accepting work on new shifts, swapping regular shifts and submitting PTO or time off requests, you can avoid the countless hours of emails and phone calls for your HR groups and managers on duty. By automating shift coverage and management, you can instantly make calls to your entire workforce, in the right order according to your union or business rules, and fill shifts within minutes.This can also help if you need to get creative with your staffing or work groups, as these days many employees are looking for freedom and a semblance of control over their schedules, especially during these particularly trying times when we are reducing the chance of virus transmission

ARCOS can help you have that transparency and also make non-traditional shifts to cover all of your productive hours. With ARCOS, you can reduce some of the unnecessary costs that come with manual administrative work, quickly notify your employees of a company decision, and free up your supervisors to focus on important tasks and not time off requests, shift trades, or sick leave. You’ll have transparency with your employees and can also make non-traditional shifts to cover all of your productive hours, and increase the safety of your employees. Did we mention that it also automatically is compliant with your current business or union rules, eliminating those costly grievances that happen with improper staffing? Handing your schedules correctly alone could save your company tens of thousands of dollars in unneeded grievances, disputes and paperwork.

The reality is the benefits of automation to your bottom line can be significant. From reducing productivity or service disruptions due to inadequate staffing or resources, to keeping managers on task, ARCOS can help you utilize your workforce efficiently and effectively.

How to Better Manage Social Distancing with ARCOS

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Storm season is rolling in, long-term projects are in motion, and your day-to-day work still has little surprises popping up along the way. While you continue to navigate these challenges, the COVID-19 Pandemic does not seem to care, but we do. Within just a few weeks, we saw the world change – and to stay ahead of the ever-evolving situation, utilities and other critical infrastructure industries had no choice but to adapt quickly. Through it all, ARCOS has listened and provided valuable assistance.

Some of our innovative customers, like Grant County Public Utility District, are implementing new pandemic response plans centered around the ARCOS Resource Management platform. There are creative ways to utilize your ARCOS solutions to help encourage social distancing – ultimately limiting exposure and putting your employees’ and customer’s safety first.

For example, a year after implementing ARCOS Callout and Scheduling, El Paso Electric Company was able to make timely changes in handling emergency callouts during the Pandemic. To minimize crew member interaction, many utility companies have switched to “pods.” El Paso used the ARCOS solution to initiate “pod” structures to keep daily crews together, so crew members who hadn’t come into contact with one another wouldn’t be placed together at night. ARCOS software created a system for assigning pre-determined groups to after-hours callouts, instead of building crews composed of first, available responders.

Here are a few simple ways the ARCOS Resource Management Platform can quickly help your organization during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Set up pod structures in Crew Manager. Keeping pods small and protected is a priority. Crew Manager can apply pod grouping rules to crews out in the field, limiting team exposure to other pods while promoting social distancing.
  • Use ARCOS SIREN Messaging.  The ARCOS SIREN mass notification solution can help fill after-hours shifts on the weekends instead of using those who respond first to a callout. By ensuring that those working in a pod will continue to work only with each other, pod members will not come in contact with new crewmates.
  • Keep track of logistics in Crew Manager.  Crew Manager can track logistics like lodging, meals, and amenities by showing you when and where everyone and everything is. Besides supporting traditional hotel-based accommodation, Crew Manager also helps manage alternative hospitality options, like tents and bunk trailers.
  • Reduce cost and liability during disaster management with Incident Manager. While operating differently under the Pandemic, you may have to manage another significant event, such as a storm. Once restoration efforts for the second event are complete, you can close the incident in Incident Manager, and reports can be generated on the restoration while the Pandemic event remains open. This functionality provides a way to seamlessly track what’s happening at the big picture level, all the way down to what crews are working on for multiple events at the same time.

To learn more about how you can adapt your ARCOS solutions to help tackle COVID-19 challenges better, contact us for a conversation or visit our COVID-19 resource page.

5 COVID-19 Best Practices For Your Utility

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Although storm season is upon us, the world has been facing a different type of crisis: The COVID-19 Pandemic. As many businesses shift to a work from home model or temporarily close their doors, utilities and other critical infrastructure companies have continued to work long hours and make sacrifices to keep us safe.

But while functioning under a pandemic, you may find yourself facing a new set of challenges: How do we keep OUR employees safe? By proactively rolling out a COVID-19 Response Plan, Grant County Public Utility quickly changed protocols to better protect their crews and customers.

According to an article published with T&D World, the utility’s response was rapid and extreme:

“In a pandemic, the direct risk isn’t to the infrastructure as it is in a wildfire or natural disaster.  What’s at risk is the availability of the people to get the work done and the ability to keep up under changed processes. Having been hit early with a COVID-19 threat, we’re improvising and learning new protocols, and maybe what we’re learning could help other utilities.”

After recently implementing ARCOS Mobile Workbench, Grant County PUD was able to easily facilitate remote work. With Mobile Workbench, supervisors, customer service, and dispatchers are able to remotely create tickets and distribute them to crews via a mobile device, without ever having to see each other in person. Crews can then update the ticket and mark it complete with the option to add additional notes. This new approach replaced an old fax-based system, and allowed crews in the field and employees at home to communicate within social distancing guidelines.

Besides optimizing new technology, Grant County PUD made other changes to help their operations run smoothly and safely during the pandemic:

  1. Allow non-essential workers to work remotely. Grant County permitted all office personnel to borrow any devices or office equipment that would help them work comfortably from home. They were also able to deliver office chairs, and offer a temporary reimbursement program so employees wouldn’t be burdened with extra costs during the transition.
  2. Bolster your internal communications. It’s important to have a streamlined process for communicating updates with your organization so everyone is in the loop. Consider a weekly email or living document that everyone can bookmark and access with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Socially distance and sanitize. Encourage your workforce to uphold the 6ft+ social distance, or work remotely. Ask that employees wear face-masks, and thoroughly sanitize all work stations and equipment regularly.
  4. Keep safety first. We know that utilities value safety above all. Social distancing, working from home, and proper sanitization are all considered basic safety protocols during this time.
  5. Finally, take a deep breath and be flexible. None of us are able to see what the future holds, or what will even happen a week from now. Be prepared to make changes that are best for your organization, employees, and customers.

To learn more about Grant County Public Utility District’s pandemic best practices, and how they rolled out their plan, check out their article with T&D World

For some quick tips and creative ways to adapt your ARCOS solutions to help you better tackle challenges related to COVID-19 and beyond, visit our COVID-19 resource page.

ARCOS launches Managed Services to help utilities, airlines and other CI firms reach business goals, ROI faster

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – May 11, 2020 – ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, has launched ARCOS Managed Services to help critical infrastructure customers speed up the deployment and adoption of their ARCOS solution, which spells a faster ROI and assures ongoing value for managers and workers.

“If you consider how technology gets implemented, before the system even goes live, a customer has to think through project management, how to roll out the technology, change management, training,” said Ted Schneider, chief technology officer for ARCOS. “Employers don’t always have the talent pool or skilled resources available to make sure they get value from the technology they’ve invested in.” 

Critical infrastructure companies face a variety of pressing challenges to manage union or other skilled workers. ARCOS Managed Services offers CI companies the technical experts and project managers who can successfully plan and launch ARCOS’s solution and stay involved to ensure the solution keeps paying off for users, even as new business challenges arise.

With Managed Services, ARCOS customers get dedicated experts (beyond the implementation team assigned to each ARCOS project) from various disciplines who help customers measure and monitor their investment in ARCOS products.

The ARCOS Managed Services portfolio contains:

  •         ARCOS PM Select, which includes a dedicated project manager to help customers simultaneously implement multiple ARCOS products;
  •         ARCOS PM Plus for customers who can’t spare an employee for project management, but need an on-site or remotely based project manager;
  •         ARCOS ACTivate™ to add ARCOS experts who go beyond a traditional rollout by managing and implementing the project, including developing a rollout schedule to ensure a single business unit or multiple divisions get the most benefit from the platform;
  •         ARCOS Business Ready, which includes workshops for change management, technology adoption and training and communication plans;
  •         ARCOS Premier Training, a tiered offering beyond the standard training program to help customers reinforce instruction or target a specific work group’s need; and
  •         ARCOS Advisory Services that assign a dedicated customer success manager to review and analyze customer progress, including an annual assessment of results and seat for one user on the ARCOS Customer Advisory Board.

“An employer could call its internal IT to analyze and adjust its system, but other business interests, or a crisis, can stretch resources thin,” added Schneider. “Managed Services brings a safety net – a dedicated team who can help at a moment’s notice.” 

COVID’s Impact on Managing Operations: Activate your Workforce Automatically During Emergencies

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The recent pandemic has shown us that organizations have to be ready for anything – natural disasters, pandemics, and even cyber-attacks. When the unexpected happens, your demand for staffing, as well as material resources like equipment can change quickly. During events of this magnitude for this pandemic, the amount of time it takes for your company to adjust your resources can be the deciding factor between managing an emergency event smoothly or taking a large hit to your productivity and bottom line due to inefficiencies caused by manual processes. Whether you’re using the Incident Command System or another emergency response structure, the ability to stand up your teams and fill those important roles in your org chart is critical. Fortunately, there are solutions that allow for a real-time view of all of your resources that are truly available (versus what is on the schedule), so that you can make quick decisions based on the type of event you are experiencing.

One of the most important factors during any emergency event is consistent and clear communication. Many times you need to get an emergency message out to your workforce, whether it’s a quick notification to inform your workers that shifts are changing to lower transmission of a virus, that some departments are working remotely, or you may even need to notify specific groups (such as Maintenance) that a piece of equipment needs to be serviced. With an automated solution, you could even send messages to help support the current social distancing measures we’re experiencing, by letting workers know of a new government order or changing work conditions. By automating some of these tedious tasks, you can remove wasted time from critical operations and allow your managers to focus on productivity and safety. 

During a pandemic like we are facing today, or other unexpected emergencies, real-time information is critical. With full situational awareness into your workforce availability and resources, decision-makers can assess, respond and handle unexpected circumstances quickly. Automation of some of these manual processes and having a single source of truth for all of your resources can help maintain production or service levels when it counts – not to mention prevent loss of revenue due to workforce gaps or equipment issues. 

Are you seeing the theme here? What do companies need to manage their workforce and operations at their maximum potential during emergencies? Information and automation of manual, disparate processes. That’s why the ARCOS platform will also act as a centralized, cloud-based location to scale resources up and down according to your emergency plan and business rules, provide real-time information and communicate instantly when it counts. With ARCOS’ robust API, you can even pull in data from legacy systems such as payroll, human resources, asset management or work management systems in order to ensure you have the full picture of your operations. Once the smoke clears and business as usual resumes, you can do a full historical look back so you’ll be prepared for the next emergency. Whether it’s daily operations or the next unprecedented event, ARCOS will keep you and everyone in your organization on the same page.

After success automating callouts, El Paso Electric tunes ARCOS for pandemic

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – April 29, 2020 – A year ago, ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, launched its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite at El Paso Electric Company, so the Texas utility could turn its manual process for identifying, assembling and dispatching crews for after-hours emergencies into an automated one that dispatchers complete with a few keystrokes. According to Jason Villanueva,  supervisor of Distribution Dispatch at El Paso Electric Company, the benefits to using ARCOS’s SaaS software have been:

  • reducing service-restoration time by tens of thousands of dollars per year;
  • compressing the time to conduct callouts from up to two hours to a few minutes;
  • virtually eliminating grievances related to how workers are called out, and
  • distributing the appropriate type of work to the crews best-suited to tackling a job.

“Before we implemented ARCOS, our dispatcher group hand-keyed data to maintain worker profiles and records,” said Villanueva. “And our supervisors spent too much time determining who was responding to callouts. But now ARCOS tracks every response automatically and regularly emails a report to supervisors, so there’s a single, verifiable record.”

Because El Paso Electric integrated ARCOS with the utility’s financial system, supervisors can also automatically track overtime hours for nearly 200 linemen, apprentices and dutymen. Automation has also saved the utility’s clerks hours of manually tabulating overtime statistics.

Pandemic response

In late March to mitigate the novel coronavirus threat to operations El Paso Electric Company chose to handle emergency callouts by keeping its daily crews together; the switch meant the utility wouldn’t mix crew members who weren’t ordinarily working together. Villanueva tapped the ARCOS software to create a system for assigning pre-set groups to after-hour callouts, instead of building a crew composed of the first, available responders.

“With the new approach, we call out a crew as a pre-determined unit,” adds Villanueva. “It’s a way we’re using technology to respond to customers, while navigating the novel coronavirus.”