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ARCOS Inc.

Improving the Customer Experience through Data Collection and Increased Efficiency

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We know how your utility customer and members think. These days, we’re ready to binge the latest Netflix original while ordering food straight to our front door – all without ever leaving the couch. In a virtual world where we want things instantly (and to stay up to date through social media), customers expect the same service from their utility provider as their favorite takeout place down the street. 

Monitoring and compiling analytics and data is an important step the power industry has taken to enhance the customer experience. From keeping track of customer service hold times to social media engagement, transactional systems are defining consumer pain points, utility public perception, and improving overall customer interactivity and satisfaction. 

For example, one technological innovation providing detailed information is smart meters. Xcel Energy is rolling out the tech over the next five years in its eight-state service area. The censors give improved efficiency while allowing dynamic customer pricing that can lower billsDuring peak and non-peak times, energy can be allotted to areas that need less or more power, meaning that distribution is controlled in a more effective and cost-saving wayThe meters also give customers a better understanding and transparent view of how much electric and gas they may be using.   

But why should the data stop with customer interpersonal analytics? 

The cutting-edge tech is available now to review workforce, resource and organizational data from your own utility. Solutions exist that can manage crews from inception and follow them all the way from assigned worksites, jobs and inventory/equipment requests, to completed work ticketsConvoys can be split into smaller working crews and be tracked based on resource and attribute data. When extra help is needed, utility services providers and contractors can be speedily requested. To increase planning capabilities, stick counts can be created and resources can be organized and allocated by type and locationAnd each of these management possibilities provide more data points and reporting that can be used to continue to broaden the steps taken to improve consumer interaction, understanding, confidence and awareness.  

Working on managing data from the inside out can help your customers know that you care and are doing the best to keep the lights on and the power running. They desire a feeling of security knowing that when something does go wrong, restoration times will be short thanks to the tools power companies have in their arsenal.  Solutions like the ARCOS Resource Management Platform can ease consumer anxiety with the added efficiency they provide, while helping raise customer satisfaction scores.  

How is your organization leveraging the data from all aspects of your business to improve your customer experience, like boosting CAIDI and SAIDI in the time of Covid-19? Let ARCOS help 

 

Using the Benefits of 5G and Technology to Better Workforce Management

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As we move quickly through 2021, many things are changing. Warmer weather is finally making an appearance, COVID-19 vaccinations are continuing to roll-out, and your organization probably has a few new major projects underway. All in all, the future is looking bright.

One change that is rapidly becoming a new normal is the introduction of 5G. Most people have heard of it, although many do not realize how large an undertaking 5G really is for telecommunications companies. It may just seem like devices are getting faster, but behind the scenes is a strong workforce that is working hard to make our lives easier.

While front line workers are out in the field installing new hardware to cell towers and upgrading and replacing existing lines and towers, engineers are also upgrading and tweaking the existing software to maximize the speed and reliability of 5G for everyday use. While this is exciting for most, whenever a new project (especially one of this size) is undertaken, it is not a matter of if problems will arise, rather it is when they will arrive.

Having the ability to speed up and automate daily priorities like filling absences, assigning work, and obtaining job status can really impact your day before you even start thinking about the other “big stuff”. But being ready for both planned and unplanned work is of the utmost importance, and one of the best ways to be prepared is to have already have a system in place for filling shifts and finding the right, available people.

So, what does 5G mean for your organization? Whether your crews are out installing and preparing for 5G, or a home office is helping to manage your workforce, you can expect faster communication, better quality of service, higher internet speeds, and longer reach. Sounds great, right? However, what is the point of having such a robust network if its potential is not fully realized? With 5G comes a whole new world of technology at your fingertips, but if you are using those fingertips to manually manage your workforce, some would consider it a waste. That is where ARCOS can help.

Making sure your telecommunications company has the right workers in the right place, at the right time, is the key to doing more with less. With these new 5G advancements, the ARCOS platform can help you gain efficiency and leave the whiteboard and dial phone where they belong: in the past. Industry leaders in critical infrastructure all over North America are using ARCOS to prepare for any situation with a quicker response time, advanced tracking, crew management and reporting (while also saving money). All your hard work on installing 5G can also benefit your own team and mobile workforce’s communication. Allow ARCOS and the power of the 5G you are creating to work together and build a faster, smarter, and more efficient work environment for all.

Great River Energy picks ARCOS automated callout for control center staff

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – March 23, 2021 – This summer, ARCOS® LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, will roll out its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite for Minn.-based cooperative Great River Energy, a provider of wholesale electricity to 28 member-owned cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin, so the co-op can automatically identify available employees after business hours and direct them to restoration work.

“For years, Great River Energy has made manual calls for communications between our control center and field crews,” said Mark Peterson, system operations manager for Great River Energy. “Automating callouts will save time for our control center staff, so they can focus on their core responsibility, operations.”

With Great River Energy’s manual, after-hours callout process, control center operators search (one call at a time) for available employees. Once they reach a worker, they describe the problem and dispatch them. Staff manually input worker status through established work rules tied to seniority, hours worked, scheduled time off and proximity to a job site. A recent winter storm sped up the decision by Great River Energy to take the chore of manual callouts off the operators, so they could automatically launch calls with ARCOS and focus, instead, on front-end analysis linked to restoring substations, identifying transmission infrastructure damage, or starting peaking generation.

“Our operators have tools to pinpoint issues and analyze conditions, but it takes concentration and dedicated time to make the most of these tools,” added Peterson. “Every minute spent on a manual callout is a distraction that reduces situational awareness in the control center.”

Approximately 200 Great River Energy employees will be listed in the ARCOS System including control center workers who log in to launch and analyze callouts. According to Great River Energy, managers will measure the success of automated callout in two ways: First, the number of people reached through the system (versus a manual process) and the success rate for each call; second, how much time automation shaves off the callout process per event.

ARCOS Receives Strategic Growth Investment from Vista Equity Partners

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Utility and critical infrastructure resource-management leader will accelerate hiring, drive innovation in core products and expand suite of offerings

COLUMBUS, Ohio March 17, 2021 – ARCOS® LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to receive a majority investment from Vista Equity Partners, a leading global investment firm focused on market-leading enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses. ARCOS and Vista will partner to accelerate investment in hiring, continue driving innovation in its core products and expand its suite of offerings – solving the toughest resource management challenges for utilities and other critical infrastructure industries.

Since 2005, ARCOS’ technology has helped hundreds of the largest electric and gas utilities and airlines manage their crews and resources, especially in unplanned scenarios where resources are needed on short notice. ARCOS helps these organizations identify which crews and resources are available, reduce the time needed to assemble crews and perform callouts, and confront a host of other resource-management challenges such as overseeing contractors and managing service disruption incidents.

“For essential workers in industries like utilities and critical infrastructure, the ability to assess resources and respond quickly can make the difference between success and failure,” said Bruce Duff, CEO of ARCOS. “With Vista’s partnership, we will continue to bring our best-in-breed technology solutions to these industries, as well as explore new areas for product expansion and help our clients continue to modernize practices and processes, so they can respond and restore services quickly. We are thrilled to have Vista’s backing as we chart our next chapter.”

“The partnership between ARCOS and the utility industry has been one of collaboration that has provided us with solutions to effectively respond to, restore and report both planned and unplanned events that occur every day of the week,” said John Tyler Anthony, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Pepco Holdings. “We look forward to continuing to work with ARCOS as they begin their new partnership with Vista Equity Partners, and we appreciate their continued focus to expand their products and ensure comprehensive resource management capabilities for us and other critical infrastructure industries. Providing safe, reliable and affordable service is the industry’s primary mission and having technology providers like ARCOS is critical to our collective success.”

“Bruce and his team have built an indispensable business by helping their customers be nimbler and more responsive in managing their resources,” said Patrick Severson, senior managing director in Vista’s Foundation Fund. “ARCOS’ customers are providing power, water, gas and other essential services to people across North America, and these customers rely on ARCOS to keep those services online. The ARCOS team is extremely driven by this mission, and we are excited to help them have an even greater impact by investing in their people, products and customers.”

ARCOS and Vista Equity Partners expect the transaction to close in the second quarter of 2021. The investment by Vista follows The Riverside Company’s investment in ARCOS in 2013. William Blair & Company and Lightning Partners served as the financial advisor to ARCOS and The Riverside Company, and Harris Williams & Co. served as the exclusive financial advisor to Vista Equity Partners. ARCOS management will remain meaningful shareholders of the company along with Vista Equity Partners.

About ARCOS LLC

ARCOS is a leader in delivering SaaS solutions for managing resources, ensuring accurate, compliant shift scheduling and automatically planning for all types of events. The ARCOS solution reports on the up-to-the-minute location and status of equipment and crews via mobile technology for utilities and other critical infrastructure like airlines, manufacturers and industrial facilities. The ARCOS resource management platform helps organizations save time and money, while improving customer satisfaction and the efficiency, safety and accuracy of operations. Learn about ARCOS resource management software at https://www.arcos-inc.com. Follow ARCOS on LinkedIn, @ARCOS LLC, and Twitter, @ARCOS

About Vista Equity Partners

Vista is a leading global investment firm with more than $73 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2020. The firm exclusively invests in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled organizations across private equity, permanent capital, credit, and public equity strategies, bringing an approach that prioritizes creating enduring market value for the benefit of its global ecosystem of investors, companies, customers and employees. Vista’s investments are anchored by a sizable long-term capital base, experience in structuring technology-oriented transactions and proven, flexible management techniques that drive sustainable growth. Vista believes the transformative power of technology is the key to an even better future – a healthier planet, a smarter economy, a diverse and inclusive community and a broader path to prosperity. Further information is available at vistaequitypartners.com. Follow Vista on LinkedIn, @Vista Equity Partners, and Twitter, @Vista_Equity.

Media Contacts:

ARCOS
Bill Perry
bperry@arcos-inc.com
614-975-7538

Vista Equity Partners
Dafna Tapiero
vista@laurelstrategies.com
202-776-7776

Why Never-Ending Emergencies are Driving a Need for Incident Management

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The surprises never end. The unexpected has become the expected, like Texas having a winter weather emergency. What else will come our way? In short, it’s impossible to know. Although we can’t predict what tomorrow will bring, being prepared can ensure that you are ready for anything. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” It’s why Incident Management has suddenly appeared as a priority on many operation’s radars. The race is on to magically create something to conquer sudden turmoil fast, but that’s not the way to produce a successful implementation or adoption by workplace peers and management teams.   

The fact is, emergency response management isn’t simply a thing that is quickly conjured into existence. It takes the right team, tools, and leadership to work in these uncertain times. It also takes time to put strategies in place when time isn’t a luxury you possess. Also, when an emergency blitzes in and decimates day-to-day plans, there is no “one-size-fits-all” response because no two scenarios are ever the same. Adaptability and scalability solutions are key for a rewarding situational incident management endgame.   

So, the big question is, how does this all come together? The essential need for a speedy response has shown that manual processes will not cut it. Reliable automation is necessary for aiding a fast turnaround during any event. Workforce and emergency management have both evolved past whiteboards, sticky notes, and manual phone calls that cause confusion, mistakes, and are demonstratable time-wasters. The future is here, and with it comes advanced ways to make sure you can respond as quickly as possible. Automating your systems can not only optimize your workforce but will also allow for uncompromised emergency management and record response times.    

Software companies like ARCOS have helped hundreds of businesses and thousands of individuals by automating processes and speeding up response and restoration intervals in any situation. Solutions like ARCOS CalloutCrew Manager, and Mobile Workbench terminate manual callouts during emergencies and daily operations, all while being able to track and manage crews remotely, even from your mobile device.  

In this chaos we live in, it is important to be able to safely communicate and manage the work environment while social distancing too. There is no better way than using proven technology to get the job done for you. Start by evening adaptability and the ability to scale crews or Incident Command Systems up or down to meet a current crisis’s requirements with solutions like ARCOS Incident ManagerARCOS has also helped companies bolster COVID-19 response. 

While emergencies will never end, you can put a stop to scrambling, worry, and inefficiency. High tech solutions are available right now to allow organizations to perform one clickable action and solve any incident management issue that the universe can throw at them.   

Workforce Management during Vaccination Rollout – 3 Tips on Keeping Employees Healthy 

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COVID-19 vaccinations are rolling out, and while this is excellent news, it still does not eliminate the question of how utilities are keeping workforces healthy and safe from potential infections. Being a pro-active industry, process and procedure as viewed through the looking glass of employee health has been honed and honed again to make sure power companies are managing their coronavirus response right. And while utilities are ecstatic to see the distribution of the vaccines, they are still cautious when it comes to dealing with this deadly virus.    

During the beginning of the pandemic, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) estimated that as many as 40% of an electric companies’ staff could become sick, quarantined, or forced to take PTO to care for ill family members. It was an alarming statistic and one of the few early warning signs that spurred the industry into action. Many ideas that were tossed about on how to keep crews healthy while maintaining high service levels have worked well, but some were quickly discarded or over-hauled after causing slowdowns or problems in reporting. After a year of trial and error, these three tips have risen to the top for utilities across the globe. 

1. Be Open to Hybrid Operating Models 

Utility employees are everywhere – out in the community, inspecting infrastructure, visiting customer’s homes, grouped in the same teams, working in call centers, and managing from centralized commands. Initially, that model remained intact, but it became clear that it was not feasible for the new reality COVID-19 created. What if one crew member tested positive? Quarantining the rest of the crew would not allow the completion of incoming jobs. What if an infection happened in the call center or centralized command? The call center would be down, or the operations team wiped out for at least two weeks. 

Many utilities are allowing customer call representatives to work from home. Even operation managers are now working remotely using specialized solutions from companies like ARCOS. And pods have been created for work crews. Instead of building crews out of first responders, teams made up of pre-determined units are assigned work orders. This eliminates the worry of mixing team members and exposing a larger group to a possible positive coronavirus test.  

Being open to hybrid operating models is an essential part of keeping employees healthy.  

2. Find New Ways to Distribute Work 

The morning shuffle used to require an “all-hands-on-deck” check-in meeting. Not any longer. Most utilities are choosing to make these informative gatherings a remote affair. The technology exists to turn in-person meetings that assign work and sort out resource challenges into a virtual engagement.  

Automation can not only assign crews, but work tickets and teams can accept jobs on their mobile devices in the field. This ends the risk of anyone accidentally infecting another due to being required to be in the same place simultaneously. Theoretically, organizations with voluntary permission from employees could check off if a crew member has been given the vaccine and make it part of their skillset, producing a safer environment for all and granting a manager the ability to put together inoculated work teams.  

Technology can help distribute work and foster a healthier workplace. 

3. Keep Communicating and Constantly Review Policies 

Utilities have always taken a “safety-first” approach to their culture and operations. Now, “healthy-first” is being added. It is more than taking temperatures and recording them in a database. Leaders are consulting with everyone in their organizations, top to bottom, to identify where processes may be failing or need strengthening to ensure requirements such as keeping a six-foot distance between employees can stay implemented. They also share the information and policies that are working with other utilities in the industry.  

Complete weekly and monthly walk-throughs of every policy and procedure are being performed, pinpointing improvements in previous working methods focused on maintaining employees health. Safety Management Systems and Incident Command Structures are being reviewed, revised, and instituted, as necessary. COVID-19 has compelled the industry to leave no stone unturned so crews can always remain safe, healthy, and strong.  

Everyone from the chain of command to the field operative must continuously be vocal and in an open conversation to keep organizations healthy.  

Vaccines are a fantastic leap forward and a welcome sign that maybe, just maybe, the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is getting brighter and a tad bit closer. Let us hope so and continue to share what is working to keep workforce management on track.  

SMECO digitizes planning, tracking crew moves with ARCOS Crew Manager

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – February 22, 2021 – ARCOS® LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, has implemented ARCOS Crew Manager® at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), so utility managers can not only see where, what and how long the co-op’s 40 service and construction crews are working but also create a digital snapshot of which crews and equipment are available minutes, hours or even weeks ahead.

“Crew Manager is an evolution from the ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite we installed in 2006,” said Ronnie Wise, Distribution Operations manager for SMECO. “ARCOS callouts use algorithms to call crews in the order our business processes dictate; with ARCOS, we’ve assembled 14-person crews in 24 minutes. Before that we made callouts by hand, one call at a time – it could take an hour to build a crew.”

During normal business hours, SMECO’s distribution system operators (DSOs) use Crew Manager alongside the work and outage management system to keep tabs on crews’ field work and customer appointments. Crew foremen, which SMECO calls operations supervisors, begin their shift and enter the status of crew members into Crew Manager. The software then tracks and computes hours worked, breaks and availability – on a dashboard for the DSOs.

To manage resources for a forecasted storm, SMECO’s managers access a visual display of the status, skill sets and location of crews and equipment in Crew Manager via color-coded icons. Managers drag and drop icons across the utility’s territory to create different restoration scenarios. If a scenario shows a gap because, say, a crew will have worked too many hours or there aren’t enough resources to cover a set of circuits, SMECO can reorder its plans in Crew Manager and quickly see an alternative or know precisely how many contractors to call on.

SMECO has also relied on Crew Manager during the COVID-19 pandemic to split its crews into blue and gold teams to better manage, or mitigate, a potential outbreak. The system allows DSOs to quickly see if a field assignment might cause crews from different teams to inadvertently converge at a work site, which helps to prevent crossover.

DSOs also rely on the crew management software to set up attributes, or badges, for resources. For instance, next to a truck’s serial number in Crew Manager, a DSO can link a color-coded badge reading “digger-derrick” or “single-bucket truck.” Before Crew Manager, SMECO relied on an ever-evolving number scheme to track truck types and other equipment.

Wise added, “Cooperatives that don’t have these systems will ask, ‘Why do I need to buy a software system to make calls and track crews when I have dispatchers?’

“We gave our DSOs these tools, so they can put more time into researching what crews need, or formulating a game plan for restoration,” said Wise. “In the midst of chaos, it’s made life less chaotic.”