All Posts By

ARCOS Inc.

To Manage Growth and Restore Power Faster, Texas Coop will Turn to ARCOS

By Press Releases | No Comments

Columbus, Ohio – November 5, 2019 – ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, will implement its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite this winter to automate Bastrop, Texas-based Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s after-hours crew call outs. According to Bluebonnet managers, the cooperative’s customer base is growing at a rate of approximately 500 meters per month; six years ago, the utility set about 1,500 meters annually.

“Our western territory touches Austin, so we’re seeing more growth. We believe the ARCOS software will have time-saving advantages for us from the get-go,” says Paul Herzog, operations superintendent for Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.

The ARCOS suite simplifies an electric cooperative’s ability to respond to and restore outages and report on the outcome. ARCOS will replace Bluebonnet’s manual call out process that includes control center operations staff juggling an online calendar system, phone calls and lists to find available workers to respond to after-hours outages. With Bluebonnet’s existing manual system, finding, assembling and dispatching a crew after business hours with the right skill set to repair a broken pole or transformer can take up to an hour.

“During our daily shifts, we rely on a radio system to dispatch crews. But after normal business hours, ARCOS will be our system of record for automatically calling out and scheduling approximately 150 journeymen, substation technicians and helpers,” notes Herzog. “In the future, we’re planning to call out contractors with ARCOS.”

As Bluebonnet’s level of operations goes from normal to storm planning and, ultimately, major events, the cooperative will use the ARCOS system to check lineworkers’ availability and call them. According to Herzog, with ARCOS in place, control center operators can launch a callout from a keyboard or mobile device and then return to analyzing messages and details about an outage to help prepare crews for what they can expect on site.

About Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is one of the largest electric cooperatives in Texas and has been serving its members since 1939. Bluebonnet serves more than 102,000 meters, and owns and maintains 11,750 miles of power lines, located across more than 3,800 square miles within 14 Central Texas counties. Bluebonnet’s service area stretches from Travis County to Washington County, and from Milam County to Gonzales County. For more information about Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, go to bluebonnet.coop and follow the co-op on Facebook and Twitter.

The ARCOS Sunday Read: The Domino Effect of Inefficient Airline Shift Management

By Blog | No Comments

Airline ground crew scheduling is an expensive problem. Inevitable delays cause canceled flights, missed connections and has a vast and long-reaching ripple effect across all operations. If one open shift is left unattended, it can create a cascade of cost and waste which reduces industry profit, reliability and customer service. Crew costs are only second to fuel charges so it’s in a carrier’s best interest to efficiently use all and any resources possible to resolve shift management disruptions. But how?

Traditionally, two models have been used, short-range and long-range planning. Short-range planning has always been applied to make ground crew assignments when under the gun of restrictive time restraints. It’s the last-minute changes that happen when someone falls ill, has a commitment they must attend to, or a family emergency occurs. Long-range planning has tried to manage schedules months in advance but has fallen flat thanks to inclement weather and too many last-minute requests for swaps, PTO or absences thanks to aforementioned short-range shift issues. The problem with both is they have been handled manually or inefficiently at great cost to airlines.

ARCOS RosterApps handles both models with ease while improving efficiency by automating the process of shift trades, swaps, bids and PTO requests with employee self-service functionality. That means a drastic drop in delays, a cut in cancellations, and a rise in customer satisfaction scores. Carrier profit is also increased as crews are completely manned in a fraction of the time it took to do things the old way. Phone call after phone call, bulletin boards, and paper spreadsheets are eliminated so airlines can be at their optimal shift management performance and in the skies faster. The benefits are many as our new white paper and Piedmont Airlines case study point out.  

Learn more and schedule a demo. If an airline wants KPI’s to rise and put an end to shift management worries, ARCOS RosterApps is the answer.

The Sunday Read: Uncomplicating Compliance by Polishing Transparency

By Blog | No Comments

Across the nation, scrutiny has never been higher for Oil and Gas operators. Staying in compliance with regulations is critical, but sometimes unexpected events occur that can affect operations and become costly lessons in regulatory management.  

In Colorado, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division has issued fines to Oil and Gas companies for preventable offenses such as – 

  • Emissions
  • Failure to fix a leak within 5 days
  • Failure to monitor and perform repairs
  • Faulty Recordkeeping
  • Violations in Reporting

– and the prices are high. The fine for failing to fix a leak costs up to $15,000 a day while reporting errors have seen fines skyrocket from $29,000 to $76,000. In Colorado alone, 2018 fines totaled $5.2 million and are estimated to surpass that mark for 2019.

What if the Oil and Gas industry had plans in place that could instantly issue repair crews, dispatch correct monitoring, maintain a historical record and keep reporting on track?

Compliance Made Easy

Automating shift management and improving reporting processes is a solution that’s worked well for the utility industry. Most utilities face the same regulatory issues Oil and Gas companies do and employ software like the ARCOS platform to keep in compliance.

ARCOS can call out additional staff during unplanned emergencies, organize and dispatch crews and keep a historical record of everything that happened. Reporting that used to take days can be done quickly and correctly without errors or guesswork.

Oil and Gas operators can also think ahead and put maintenance teams and routines in place. It’s a proactive stance that allows organizations to know who needs to be where and when – and after the work is completed, have easily accessible documentation that fulfills all regulations and required procedures. 

Improved Reporting to Reduce Fines

By implementing an automated resource management system and an indisputable digital record, Critical Infrastructure industries can end violations, reporting infractions and fines. It takes a change in the way Oil and Gas companies have always done business, but it’s a transformation that reaps many rewards including saving money, time and keeping violations at bay. Find out more! Contact us and let ARCOS show you solutions that work hand in hand with regulators’ checklists and help keep you in compliance. 

The High Community Cost of Cutting Power

By Blog | No Comments

With winds gusting up to 88 mph, Thursday’s ‘Bomb Cyclone’ left approximately 462,000 households without power in Northeast. Yes, that’s a lot of households, but the economic costs to local communities is extreme. The Bomb Cyclone is estimated to have an economic cost of approximately $720M per day.

As dry, strong winds picked up and blew across Northern California, PG&E decided to take their largest preventative measure against wildfires ever – they cut power to nearly 800,000 residences and businesses. A good number of California’s population was affected – with large parts of Santa Rosa, Petaluma and other major cities north of San Francisco darkened.

The community cost of the shut-off is estimated to be as high as $2.5 billion. Doing the math, that translates to over $1,560 per customer meter per day – multiply that by the 800,000 meters impacted, and that’s a staggering $1.2 billion dollars PER DAY. 

What became immediately clear to us was the staggering community cost of the shutdown and bomb cyclone – which can translate to all outages regardless if you’re in California, the Northeast or anywhere. The community cost of not being able to conduct normal business – whether that’s someone working from home, or a restaurant, or a large manufacturer – is far greater than the inconvenience. 

The faster utilities can restore service, the quicker they can alleviate the rising cost to the community. That’s where ARCOS comes in. 

When ARCOS is deployed for resource management, the time it takes to restore power is shortened which reduces the costly toll an outage can cause to a community. From calling up an ICS structure, to using Callout to man crews, to managing crews and getting them on a scene, ARCOS’ full situational awareness can efficiently manage an event for faster restoration and in turn, a community can find its way back to normalcy without incurring any more expense from their own pockets. 

We know more wildfires are coming. 30% of the pine trees in Northern California are dead because of a bark beetle infestation. That’s a lot of fuel to burn. We know more weather events are coming too. By responding and restoring services just 1 day sooner, proactive utilities like PG&E and others can help reduce the community cost of outages. ARCOS is proud to provide the solutions that can help electric, gas and water utilities restore service faster and reduce the impact on local economies. 

How Automated Scheduling Can Reinforce Airline Productivity

By News Articles | No Comments

Ground Support Worldwide magazine has published an article in its October edition describing Piedmont Airlines’s use of ARCOS RosterApps.

From the article:  “[Piedmont’s] planning and support group now uses ARCOS RosterApps regularly to analyze, for instance, a current bid for a station by looking at coverage hours and comparing future flight schedules and plane requirements by overlaying the two and seeing the variance. If they note a variance, they can alert operations and suggest a new bid. This would shift coverage, so the station avoids being understaffed.”

Read more here.

A Brief Look at Rosters and Rostering

By Blog | No Comments

All utilities use rosters – and they come in many types for different reasons. One of the most important is for the exchange of crew information during a storm or emergency

The main divergent in rosters is formatting, and the device of record used. Some utilities use the common roster, a roster that was developed to standardize the process. Others use a roster of their own design that was created over time. Contractors developed rosters that were focused on their business practices and fast payment. And while some utilities digitize and streamline their roster efficiency with ARCOS, others still rely on whiteboards, spreadsheets and paper. 

When considering a roster for the exchange of personnel information, comparing the variances between roster systems is a valuable exercise and can help evaluate how mutual assistance will be rolled out in any type of situation a utility can encounter.

History of the Common Roster

The escalation of weather-related emergency response situations like Hurricane Katrina placed utilities in a state of confusion. Although rosters had been in use by utilities and contract companies for years, each had their own roster template which made launching mutual aid complicated and restricted communication between organizations. This made full situational awareness almost impossible to achieve. ARCOS automation aided response time but the efficient filling and dispatch of restoration crews started to become a logistical nightmare. Utilities knew they needed a rostering change to ensure the safety of their lineman and contractors and increase the exchange of information so restoration times could be reduced.

In 2015, the Southeast Electric Exchange formed a subcommittee to address the problem. Representatives from over 10 individual utilities were put to the task of defining a common roster that all member utilities could adopt. The common roster had to be simple and in a standardized format that could cover the SEE’s required mutual assistance resource information data.  

The process was to be intuitive-

  •       IOUs and contractors fill out the information in the standard template and send it along to other IOUs when mutual assist is required.
  •       Each IOU would create and maintain a translation program to reassemble resource information into their format.
  •       Resource information would then be automatically loaded into the IOU’s particular system.

The SEE subcommittee’s initiative was successful and they were able to socialize the common format with other RMAGs and secure acceptance among member utilities. While common rosters are proving to be a good alternative to the way things have always been done, they aren’t the whole answer.

Internal Rostering

While the common roster has its place, many utilities use their own homemade internal rosters. What has been tried, tested and deemed true is something they just don’t want to get away from – and who can blame them when a Hurricane like Florence slammed into the east coast? What works, works. However in this kind of system; integration of rosters from one individual organization into another can still be a problem, especially when the mutual assistance call goes out to a neighboring utility or contractor group who has their own way of doing things. If each partner is using a completely different roster system – common, homegrown or something else, restoration efforts can suffer. Mix in a reliance on spreadsheets, whiteboards and paper and a utility can only operate so far without starting to make mistakes, duplicating efforts, or losing vital situational information. 

When you are in the pressure of a restoration, you have to be nimble enough to adapt and adopt to the real-world scenario of accepting a non-standard roster to get crews out.    

So, which Roster is Best?

If you are an innovative utility, the choosing of a roster type is not an easy one to make. Staying flexible is key. Keeping what you have is a great option but when the template of a common roster that can be easily translated and transferred to anyone in your restoration or daily operation group is used, it can be a tough thing to argue against.

ARCOS says, “why waste time arguing”?

Our solutions work with any format of roster and we can even mix the two discussed above. ARCOS Resource Assist can bridge the gap between utilities and contractors so you can have instant clarity on which resources are available. It also delivers seamless integration with the ARCOS platform so every aspect of your responses can be managed in the same way effectively reducing the amount of manual work and data re-entry experienced in your current processes. Utilities can cut response time, speed up restoration and increase efficiency when requesting outside resources.

Find out more and request a demo or learn more about our latest innovations here.

The Sunday Read – Hiring, Retention and the Question of Long-Term Employment

By Blog | No Comments

It’s happening – an ever-shallow pool of employee prospects is shrinking even more. And what’s the butter on top of the bread is that long-time employees are being offered recruiting incentives to leave their current jobs to work elsewhere. It’s leaving HR scratching their heads wondering what to do.

The Business Collective gives a few tips on how to curb employee turnover like recognizing employee contributions, but is that enough? Should retention bonus that are normally offered to executives, managers and key staff be offered to all (Forbes has a few ideas on how to do it right)? You can give out more PTO time, but who will be working when the other workers are out? There’s already a lack of qualified skilled help.

Some would argue it really begins during the hiring process. It’s about finding the right people that fit the company culture and have the desire and drive to invest in the long term of both themselves and the organization. Studies have pointed out that on average, it costs 6 to 9 months of the salary of the job in question to replace the exiting employee. If the right people are in the right jobs, companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in re-training costs, lost productivity, the loss of in-house knowledge and the rebuilding of customer relationships.

Shift management can also hold a key. What if an employee could self-manage their shifts from a mobile device or a manager had a full work calendar visible at a click and could make requests for PTO or shift swaps happen instantaneously? If an employee feels empowered, they are more likely to stay. ARCOS solutions provide just that.

The bottom line is your organization must do something and something quickly. The employee of tomorrow won’t be around if you don’t have them or keep them today. Finding a way to invest in the worker and have them invest in your company is the first step toward a long history of employment, and never having to worry about retention or hiring ever again. 

With Help from Utility Customers, ARCOS Innovates Resource Planning, Sharing

By Press Releases | No Comments

Columbus, Ohio – October 8, 2019 – In the fourth quarter of 2019, ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, will unveil new resource planning and sharing capabilities with the launch of Resource Planner™, Event Awareness™ and Resource Assist Lite™, a free version of ARCOS’s leading contractor management solution Resource Assist™. Resource Assist Lite will be an easy-to-use, web-based tool available to ARCOS utility customers and participating contractors to help the utility industry respond, repair and restore service faster during mutual assistance and other major events, such as hurricanes and wildfires. Available as a SaaS solution, these capabilities build on the ARCOS Resource Assist platform, which launched in 2018 for contractor management. The new capabilities expand a utility’s ability to plan for and focus on damage assessment, repair, restoration and the safety of all crews by minimizing the manual planning, entry and tracking of emergency resources.

When utilities prepare for events like hurricanes, the planning process includes identifying where managers can obtain resources (e.g., crews). Utility managers and contractors work closely by phone to refine the number and type of crews available and the distance over which crews will travel. Information on available crews, equipment and material comes to requesting utilities in many formats (e.g., spreadsheets, phone calls, emails). Due to the manual nature of managing this information, during major events, managers and staff can spend up to 100 hours to obtain crews, assess skills, enter data, make calls and send emails to vet who and what is truly available and disperse the information in a consistent way.

“Manual processes around resource planning and acquisition are a bottleneck for restoration,” says Bill Brackett, vice president of Product for ARCOS. “With our new Resource Planner solution, we’ll enable utilities to better model crews and logistical needs; we’ll also give utilities and contractors a streamlined way to account for and exchange equipment, material and crew rosters including non-employee resources, such as contract line crews. With our ‘Event Awareness’ capabilities, utilities can roll up and catalog the planning and resource management activity that occurs during an event, start to finish.”

“The complex process of getting the right mix of resources for quickly and safely restoring power is far-reaching,” adds Bruce Duff, chief executive officer of ARCOS. “For example, our data shows a utility with one million customer outages can require, on average, 3,200 resources. From what we’ve seen, companies can burn up to seven or eight person days managing and documenting resources by hand. With guidance from our customers, we continue to add capabilities to our resource planning tools to eliminate bottlenecks.”

With Resource Assist Lite, ARCOS offers utility customers and any participating contractor a way to easily upload and share crews, equipment and more, so they can plan for and secure the right number of FTEs for restoration. Utility customers using the ARCOS Crew Manager® software will also see rosters flow from the portal without retyping data. The portal supports
utility mutual assistance and complements the resource planning work of Regional Mutual Assistance Groups.

“The soon-to-launch capabilities, along with Resource Assist Lite, will help the industry overcome a long-standing challenge,” Duff says. “A lot of our success comes from partnering with customers and other utility professionals who voluntarily give us time and advice to help their peers. Providing these new resource planning and sharing capabilities is one way we can pay it forward.”