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Workforce Management Challenges During Extraordinary (And Ordinary) Times 

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The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t the first extraordinary event to impact jobs or the way work gets done. Think of the 2008 financial crisis or the 2017 hurricane season of Harvey, Irma and Maria. While filling open shifts for many employers has been a daily struggle due to Covid-19, the pandemic is only the latest crisis to expose the flaws in a manual system of maintaining minimum staffing levels and keeping up with workload management via white boards, phone calls and email. 

For most organizations, workload and workforce management is an inefficient, burdensome process that front-line supervisors and mid-level managers often make work at great cost to themselves and the organization’s bottom line. Companies like Piedmont Airlines see automating workload management as the way to reduce service interruptions, slash hours wasted on recordkeeping, redeploy support staff to critical work and keep shift supervisors focused on ensuring efficiency and safety. With automated resource management, an employer can also reconcile shift management with HR, payroll and learning-management system, LMS, software, while digitally and efficiently tracking all facets of shift work from one platform. 

By automating workload management, managers can save time, mitigate risk and reduce operational costs. When a manager or shift supervisor has to spend time on the phone coordinating a shift change or callout, an employer is wasting money. Unplanned absences, especially when a facility is understaffed, force supervisors to scramble to find workers. In a manual process, a supervisor would rifle through a paper list or computer spreadsheet of who’s available with the right skill set and seniority. 

The shift bidding process for most employers begins with emails or phone calls and postings on bulletin boards, followed by more phone calls, texts and emails. When bids go wrong, or managers overlook steps, employees can file grievances. To automate bidding, while mirroring work agreements, managers can use ARCOS’s Resource Management solutions.  

Does this sound familiar to you? ARCOS can help. With platforms like ARCOS, employers can analyze employee schedules at the moment they change and also see potential shortfalls or overages in staffing minutes, days or months in advance. 

This is just scratching the surface of what the ARCOS Resource Management platform can do for you and your bottom line. If you’d like to read more, check out our white paper Fixing Workload Management During Extraordinary Times” for the full story of how we can help you work smarter and not harder. 

The Value of Mobile Workforce Management Software

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Today’s workplaces are no longer confined to four walls, a single station, a truck, one location, or even your desk. With innovative technology and a remote workforce – they’re now everywhere. Our workforces are mobile, fluid, and moving from one place to another (hopefully, both quickly and efficiently).

From those closest to the trouble, like crews performing routine maintenance, and teams handling pop-up emergencies; to dispatchers, schedulers, managers, or operators working from home – each has a limited number of resources available while the calls, tasks, and work tickets keep increasing.

That’s where mobile workforce management software comes in. Mobile workforce management can give operations real-time automated workflows that keep workers safe, productive, and on to the next task, no matter where they are.

What is mobile workforce management?

Mobile workforce management is the set of solutions used to manage teams in the field or outside of an office environment. They are used to schedule, monitor, track, mobilize, equip, and report a mobile teams’ progress as they are assigned work, and complete work orders while giving managing crewmembers the flexibility and ability to work from home, the road, or an emergency shelter.

The are many benefits of to using mobile workforce management software, such as:

  • Increased Productivity – Using a workforce management system, dispatchers, schedulers, and operators can save time while performing or automating tasks. This frees them to work on other high-priority items from any location. Plus, crew work assignments are streamlined by hours and can get teams to the next job site faster.
  • Real-Time, Complete Visibility – Work tickets can be assigned more efficiently when you know where everybody is in real-time. Crews and teams with the correct skillsets can arrive on a scene, finish a job quickly, and get on to the next tasks that need to be tackled. It also gives a transparency of an organization’s day-to-day operations, increasing situational awareness.
  • Decisions based on the Historical Record – Reporting becomes instantaneous, meaning rational, distinct, and informed resource allocation decisions can be made more efficiently, positively impacting operations in a productive, valuable, current, and concise manner. The mobile data from the field is essential in ensuring that decisions are implemented and completed quickly, even in emergencies.
  • An increase in CAIDI/SAIDI and customer satisfaction scores – Delays in restoration or repair can be decreased or eliminated, keeping customers happy with less complaints. Their everyday life is restored with no muss or fuss, and customers will rate operations at an all-time high.

Mobile workforce management provides an agile solution to perplexing resource management questions that have existed since resource management was invented. But what should utilities and companies look for in a mobile workforce management solution?

What makes a mobile workforce management solution a “mobile workforce management solution”?

It’s an important distinction that a “mobile” workforce management solution should actually be mobile. A solution like ARCOS Mobile Workbench is SaaS – Software as a Service – and based in the cloud. It can be delivered on-demand wherever a user may be and on a device of their choice. In real-time, it must reach workers out of the office who are not tied to a desk or may already be in the field.

A mobile workforce solution must also automate scheduling and dispatch employees to new work tickets – and deliver the jobs to the workforce in the field, without any delay.

It should also track crews and teams as they move from task to task, logging start, end, and travel times. If it doesn’t create a reviewable, real-time historical record, it’s not a proper workforce management solution.

Another key feature is the ability to exchange data with existing systems an organization is using. ARCOS Mobile Workbench does just that by extending the life of aging GIS, Outage, EAMS, or other work management systems. Workforce Management Software should augment an organization’s response and not hinder it as a stand-alone solution.

Mobile workforces are already here. Ensure they are equipped with the latest technology that can streamline communication, maximize resource allocation, and allow crews and teams to get to and complete work faster. Read more about ARCOS Mobile Workbench as your workforce management software solution, or, better yet, request a demo to see it in action.

‘Tis the season…for assessing Emergency and Incident Command Software  

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Temperatures are beginning to plummet across the nation, causing us to zip up our coats and grab a warm hat and gloves. There is no doubt about it; the season of ice and snow is here.   

History has shown that the Northeast, Midwest, and even the South have been hit with outages that can last for days – and that doesn’t necessarily come from a blizzard’s blanketing of an area’s landscape. Ice can be an even bigger culprit as it leaves its frozen footprint before melting away into a considerable amount of trouble for a utility and its customers. 

Downed power lines and water main breaks can affect thousands of customers and make a cold and dire situation even more difficult for health compromised consumers. A moment’s lapse in services isn’t an option. And with COVID-19 still hanging around until a vaccine is in place, crew safety and contact tracing are paramount. 

Is your plan to attack winter weather developed? Now’s the time to assess and reassess the measures an organization has in place before the season gets ahead of us – and it all begins with emergency and incident command software. 

The power of an Incident Command System 

Organizing a response before something happens is in everyone’s best interestsHeightened emotions and knee-jerk reactions should not be the forces used for making the decisions during an emergency winter event. ARCOS Incident Manager can help you develop a well-thought-out, agile, and pivoting restoration plan in step with available resources and personnel. 

 Incident Manager allows you to activate your emergency response plan or use FEMA’s Incident Command Structure (ICS). It automates an organization’s emergency hierarchy activation and calls up teams without the delays manual activation can take. There’s no searching for binders or spending hours looking for the right spreadsheet – it’s all done ahead of time and instigated with one click of a mouse. It saves precious time so crews can be sent out immediately to get customers back on-line to life-sustaining services like water, heat, and electricity. 

 ARCOS Incident Manager is one step of an organized and level-headed solution to assist business, operations, and incident response. ARCOS Callout and Crew Manager are an additional constructive tier of incident resource management, allowing crews to be assigned and dispatched at a moment’s notice. Crew Manager can also help keep crews safe through the creation of a pod work structure. This makes COVID-19 contact tracing a reality while never letting a slowdown occur in restoration activity. 

 Unfreezing your Incident Command Software potential 

 Winter weather shouldn’t freeze you or operations in its tracks. Planning and having solutions in place for any turn a storm may take is necessary and beneficial not only for customer restoration times but also for crew safety. Find out more about the whole ARCOS suite and how it’s helped many utilities mitigate the results of whatever Mother Nature has decided to dish out. Warm-up your response and contact us here. 

A Tool to Efficiently Manage Your Team’s Workload 

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At times, it can feel like the work never stops. Incoming emails requesting work are stuffing your inbox, field teams are finding out tasks require even more tasks to be assigned to complete work orders, and an outage just caused your already scheduled day to unravel as you hastily move things around 

 Who exactly is on rest? Who took PTO? No wonder your hair is a mess, and you just took a drink of the four-hour old coffee still on your desk from a previously well-thought-out morning. 

 Seem familiar? We’ve all been there. 

 Workload management can become overwhelming in an instant without the proper tools at one’s disposal. Workforce and workload management software have taken us from the dark ages of whiteboards and spreadsheets to a world made of efficient work and workload distribution, allocation, and full visibility. The right workload management software will balance jobs with crews who have the perfect skillsets for the work, speeds up completion times, keeps teams organized and happy, and gives more hours back to your day. 

Sound too good to be true? 

Intelligent Workload Management 

Workload management’s goal is to boost efficiency in assigning current work while having a clear view and process in place to handle additional work as it arrives. It matches skillsets to tasks, with complete knowledge of who is available to work, when, and the teams closest to the trouble. An intelligent workload management tool like ARCOS Mobile Workbench can do all that thinking for you. It’s even tied together to other legacy systems an organization uses, so it creates one centralized source of truth and place to turn to sort and prioritize work, workloads, and the workforce who will complete the work tickets. 

A workload management tool should also empower employees and managers by providing visibility of resource allocation. ARCOS Mobile Workbench does just that, and since it records every action for reports and planning purposes, you have the peace of mind of total recall. When you can eliminate worry and stress, employees and crew teams become more confident, effective, and ultimately more productive. 

Workload Management is Essential 

Although it’s a fantastic concept, we don’t have 27 hours in a day; however, if you want to gain back some of the 24 you do have, automated workload management software can get you there. It’s almost like buying a watch that runs backward. Well, not exactly, but is an essential step in  

  • Cutting down the time it takes to research and make work and work assignment decisions. 
  • Seeing the whole picture of resources available so you can pivot in an instant. 
  • Sending tasks and tickets based on employee capabilities or capacity, which increases the speed of completion times. 
  • Foreseeing problems through the historical reporting of teams’ repetition, work patterns, and the time it takes to get jobs completed. 

Leveraging a workload management tool builds a critical foundation offering full visibility and advanced resource allocation for any organization. And it’s not too good to be true. It’s here now. If you would like to find out more, contact ARCOS at the linkhere. We would be glad to help you increase efficiency and productivity through effective workforce and workload management. 

Central Georgia EMC trims time off outages with automated callout

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – November 9, 2020 – ARCOS® LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, has implemented its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite for Central Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, so the co-op can automatically contact available workers to restore service in the wake of any sudden event or an incident outside normal business hours.

“We run a very lean organization and had a pop-up storm requiring an all-hands call for help; using ARCOS, more than 80 percent of our workforce responded within two minutes,” said John Harkness, senior vice president of Distribution Services at Jackson, Ga.-based Central Georgia EMC (CGEMC). “With our manual method, that all-hands call would’ve taken up to an hour to complete; ARCOS helped us restore power 30 to 45 minutes sooner, which has a positive impact on CAIDI, SAIDI, customer satisfaction and revenue.”

Before installing the ARCOS SaaS platform, CGEMC – a non-union, 59,000-meter customer-owned electric cooperative serving 14 counties south of Atlanta – relied on its system operators and supervisors to manually call crews to find workers available for restoration work. With ARCOS, CGEMC system operators push a button on their keyboard or mobile device and let the automated callout system organize the calls for help, which has also improved the rate at which workers accept calls.

“Our employees wanted a better way of knowing when they’re needed after hours and where they fall in the callout rotation,” added Harkness. “We wanted a seamless, efficient way to contact employees outside normal working hours, get a response and track the outcome.”

According to Harkness, his line department’s employee performance appraisals, and ultimately salary adjustments, rely partially on how line workers respond to after-hours callouts. Prior to ARCOS, the co-op’s operators and crew leaders documented (often with pen and paper) whom they called, how often and the response. Typically, the process occurred outside the office, at a crew leader’s home by phone requiring the caller to bring documentation into the office and type notes into a database. Documentation errors could undermine employees’ confidence in performance and salary reviews. Since automating callout tracking, Harkness says the errors are gone and employee confidence has improved. Using ARCOS reports, the co-op publishes a weekly scorecard of callout responses on an electronic billboard that employees see by job classification. The co-op resets the scorecard as each performance review period begins.

“Some of our lower performers in years past are now doing far better and pointing to the scoreboard,” remarks Harkness.

Inside the ARCOS software, CGEMC was able to construct a variety of callout types:  on-call; volunteer; assistance-needed; and all-call. The co-op can launch each type in seconds and get a response in minutes.

“Automation gets everyone equally participating in callouts and improves our restoration times, which means happy customers and reductions in CAIDI and SAIDI,” says Harkness.

Harkness also says automating the callout process gave his co-op a way to think about how the non-union, member-owned utility does business. Even before ARCOS, CGEMC discussed speeding up response times and improving the capture of data related to productivity, so the co-op could take the burden off the staff. With a non-union workforce, CGEMC had flexibility in transforming its callout approach. Implementing ARCOS provided CGEMC with the chance to improve processes for its line department and managers.

“We knew we wanted to better distribute work and reward performance, but we couldn’t manage that with a manual system,” recalls Harkness. “Automation, specifically ARCOS, gave us software to track exactly what’s happening and acknowledge and reward employees for their contributions.”


Become a Workforce Management Hero like Joe

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Managers have a tough job.  While dealing with things like adhering to lean budgets, creating and supervising schedules, attempting to boost productivity and making sure work gets completed, no one expects them to be flawless.  However, some solutions can help make their job easier. Let’s talk about “Average Joe”, the schedule manager.

Average Joe spends about 3.14 hours or more per week creating the work schedule.  Not to mention the hours he spends on updating, processing time-off requests, managing overtime work, and filling slots to no-shows or sick workers.  This is where the real time is lost.  Average Joe is shown to lose almost 20% of his time on a week to week basis just to keep shifts filled and minimum staffing levels maintained.  The real tragedy about Average Joe is that with all the time spent on the schedule, he has much less time to manage his other responsibilities.  He knows that scheduling is often overlooked and taken for granted, with little to no recognition unless he messes it up. He knows he could be capitalizing on managing priorities and safety, if he could only stop expending so much time and energy on the weekly schedule.  With this on his mind, he begins to research how he can make scheduling more efficient and realizes that shift management automation is a solution that is used by a multitude of critical infrastructure organizations across the country.

With a workforce management automation solution,  Average Joe has his scheduling responsibilities basically done for him.  It can create a fair and balanced work schedule based on his bargaining agreements, process time off requests, allow workers to bid on open shifts independent of his supervision, and automatically fill last minute open slots with just a couple of clicks – no more countless emails and phone calls.  Now Average Joe isn’t so average anymore.  With all the time he saves he begins to dedicate it to other priorities, and soon enough he’s getting recognized for his efficient operations.

What is true for Average Joe is true for many managers today.  Time is money and losing it on manual shift management is like throwing money out the window.  Using automation to create schedules for your workers, all while allowing them to have autonomy in shift bidding and trading, overtime, and time-off just to name a few, can save you hours of your time weekly.  A robust shift and workforce management solution can turn these precious hours wasted into additional productivity – freeing managers to maximize their efficiency and impact the organization’s bottom line.  With the ARCOS Platform, all these things and much more are possible. Take a page out of Average Joe’s book and do some research and see what ARCOS shift management solutions can do for you and your company.

5 Ways Technology Impacts Change Management & Retention

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These days when it comes to the Critical Infrastructure sectors, the only constant we can rely on is change. Because of this constant evolution and push to do more with less, many companies are starting to feel the pressure that comes about with all this change. Whether it’s the generational expectations in our workforce as Boomers retire, Generation Xer’s aging in the workforce, or the new influx of Millennials and Zoomers, your business needs to be able to effectively communicate and work with all of the groupsEach generation has different motivations and priorities – below are a few ideas on how you can use technology to bridge generational gaps and create trust within your organization for retention. 

  1. Empower your employees with tech – new generations come with new technologies. With the proliferation of the smart phone, your company has new avenues to meet your employees where they are and empower them to better performance. Whether this is tech to get your work orders straight to their mobile device to avoid driving to the service center, or an app that helps them do a shift bid or PTO request right from their phone. You can utilize tech to make your employees lives easier – all while impacting your bottom line. 
  2. Attract New Workers – This point goes hand and hand with strategy number one. When you need to attract an influx of new skilled workers into your critical infrastructure company, put technology in place to attract them. Millennials and their younger counterparts love any new pieces of tech they can get their hands on and master– especially if it means they don’t have to pick up a phone and call someone. Why not give them what they want with an app that would let them trade shifts or accept overtime hours with the click of a button?
  3. Audit your changes – When we talk to critical infrastructure companies, one of the biggest complaints is their challenges with disorganization, disparate systems that don’t share information, and lack of accountability when there is a discrepancy. Don’t want these headaches? Use your data! By utilizing software that will harness the power of automation, you can establish a rich, deep reporting repertoire that will record any and all actions taken, work completed and shifts managed in one place.
  4. Start at the top and involve every layer – As progress transforms your industry, be sure you are communicating with every level of your business to find out just what their needs are. One of the biggest steps you can take as a business toward successful change management is to be selfaware of what your employees need to be successful at ALL levels of business, from your C suite on down.
  5. Build Partnerships – The fact of the matter is that change comes quickly and never stops, and we must be prepared for that. Reaching out as a company to see what resources and tools are out there should be paramount. You can’t know what tech there is to give your workers if you’re not looking. 

That’s where ARCOS can come in. We have over 25 years’ experience helping companies in the critical infrastructure sectors keep up with today’s fast paced world of technology to retain and attract your workforce – and we can help you with this whirlwind of change. Today we challenge you to work smarter and not harder 

Reduce Time Tracking Errors and Reporting Woes

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When it comes to the things that motivate your employees, the payroll portion tends to be the most sensitive. When there are manual errors in time tracking, timesheets and even historical reporting – that means there could be errors in your employee paychecks. If you have a unionized business, this can cost you thousands in grievances while human resources has to dig through historical timesheets, often manually researching each grievanceIf you’re using manual paper timesheets, excel spreadsheet, or some other antiquated manual system is the norm for your operation, it may be time to take a deeper look at your reporting and how you can work more efficiently. 

Automation is out there, and it’s been proven to have a positive impact on your critical infrastructure peers. Realtime data allows for full visibility of all of your companies’ assets from vehicles to equipment, personnel to tools. 

By utilizing this near instantaneous sharing of information and automation of manual processesyou can:  

  • Ensure business rules, union contracts, and company policies are followed without error in a consistent and fair approach  
  • Cut administration costs and enable employee self-service; greatly improve employee morale, which can reduce turnover 
  • Dramatically reduce errors in payroll associated with overtime and shift swapping 
  • Free up managers and supervisors so they can focus on leading their employees, not handling administrative tasks 
  • Helps create a better relationship between company and union, as there are accurate reports always 
  • Reduce dead-time for the employees that are driving to meet a crew at a workplace and waiting for other workers or equipment to arrive 

And once you have all the real-time and historical data – you can make more informed information about your staffing and shift management. This will allow you to make informed decisions about where your staff needs to be and when, how many need to be there to finish the work that is assigned, and how to save money in other aspects of the business. By having historical reporting, you also have all employee interactions with the system recorded, which can help in a situation where a timecard is being questioned in an “our word against yours” situation with a vendor, auditor, or employee. 

The bottom line here is that there is progress to be made and ways for your operations to run more smoothly and more efficiently. Partners like ARCOS, who have over 25 years of experience in the critical infrastructure space can help you realize your dreams of more efficient operations. With the ARCOS platform, all that was mentioned above will be like second nature and your shift management woes will be a thing of the past.  

For 11th time, ARCOS makes list of Central Ohio’s 50 fastest-growing companies

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – October 20, 2020 – ARCOS LLC has again earned a place on the Columbus Business First Fast 50 – the annual list of the 50 fastest-growing emerging companies in Central Ohio. This year ARCOS ranks #27, a climb from #38 when ARCOS appeared on the list in 2018. ARCOS has made the list 11 times since its first appearance on the list in 2007. Of the nearly 500 companies on the list since it began in 1996, only two – Progressive Medical, Inc. (14 years) and Sequent (12 years) – have appeared more times than ARCOS. The Fast 50 Award recognizes companies for financial growth and performance over the past three years.

“One of our founding principles is:  We take on the toughest challenges for our customers whether they work at a utility company, airline or in another critical infrastructure industry,” said Bruce Duff, chief executive officer of ARCOS LLC. “Our employees’ willingness to work as a team and go to great lengths to help our customers is rewarding personally and professionally, and it’s part of why ARCOS regularly earns a place on the Fast 50 list.”

ARCOS’s early success came from automating a complex, manual process that utility managers relied on for identifying and calling out crews for after-hours emergencies and restoration. ARCOS went on to win business from the largest investor-owned utilities, municipalities and co-operatives; approximately 90 percent of U.S. households are served by utilities that use ARCOS technology. ARCOS next deployed its solutions for crew scheduling and management as well as damage assessment to help gas and water utilities. ARCOS then turned to helping the airline industry save millions of dollars by automating the way managers fill complex schedules (often disrupted by weather) for flight crews and ground crews. ARCOS has recently implemented its workforce management and scheduling solutions for manufacturers and logistics companies.

ARCOS resource management solutions help customers respond to after-hours and major events; restore service by quickly and safely assembling crews; and report the outcome to executives, employees, first responders, regulators, media and the public. The ARCOS® Callout and Scheduling Suite is a SaaS platform for managers to automatically assemble available crews, analyze crew response and report outcomes. The ARCOS Damage Assessment solution helps utilities shorten the process of surveying damage caused by major events like hurricanes from days to hours. ARCOS Resource Assist™ automates the manual process of requesting and managing third-party resources and equipment.