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ARCOS automates callout for NorthWestern Energy

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — ARCOS® LLC has implemented its automated callout system for NorthWestern Energy, a provider of electricity and gas to 709,000 residential and business customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The utility runs ARCOS around the clock to call out first responders across its electric and gas operations to respond to system and customer needs. NorthWestern Energy also uses the ARCOS solution to determine which additional resources the utility should activate for restoration work.

Until implementing ARCOS, the utility relied on a manual process for calling out resources after hours. NorthWestern says the manual tracking done to tally the percentage of callouts accepted by an employee was prone to errors. The errors made it difficult to determine which employees weren’t accepting a reasonable amount of call outs.

ARCOS now helps with reporting and tracking and provides supervisors with an opportunity to understand who accepts callouts on a regular basis. According to NorthWestern Energy’s managers, the process has truly become the responsibility of the employee, which makes individuals more accountable. NorthWestern Energy’s supervisors also say the ARCOS solution gives workers the flexibility to make themselves available or unavailable for callouts during time periods that align with what’s happening for them professionally or personally. For example, if workers are in training or sick, they can take their name off the callout list. When employees have a commitment outside of work, they can set a callout schedule (covering a period of up to 72 hours) that accommodates time off.

With ARCOS automating callouts, the utility’s after-hours dispatchers in Montana have noticed that the time it takes to reach the utility’s first-responders has gone from several minutes to seconds. Since callouts are no longer handled manually, the dispatchers now have more time for analyzing and responding to situations affecting the system and their customers. With NorthWestern’s workers’ shifts contained in ARCOS, managers can better plan daily shifts, easily report on who is and isn’t working and efficiently respond to interruptions in service.

The ARCOS Sunday Read: The Increase of Solar for a Brighter, Sustainable Future

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The ARCOS Sunday Read thinks about the impact of solar and other renewable energy sources and how committed utilities are in their implementation. Are we focused enough on future sustainability? This story from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies paints a pretty picture. What do you think?



The Sunday Read…could Energy Corridors be the future of America and its borders?

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What if the US-Mexico border became an energy corridor? It’s an exciting glimpse into the future that engineers and scientists are forecasting could make a huge difference in providing energy to the United States. In this provocative article from Renewable Energy World, it doesn’t matter who pays for what, it’s the ideas that need discussed as we look into a tomorrow of sustainability and clean energy. Let us know your thoughts.

ARCOS speaks at the Riverside Company Annual Conference

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Bruce Duff, ceo of ARCOS, spoke today at the Riverside Company annual conference of portfolio companies. Along with Dave Tiley, senior operating partner of the Riverside Company, they shared ARCOS’ journey and how action and urgency have played key roles in our success. The strategic importance of creating and living your corporate mission vision was also highlighted. Solving the toughest challenges for critical infrastructure industries is something ARCOS takes seriously and we are very grateful for our partners who let us help them respond, restore and report to daily planned and unplanned events. Thank you, Riverside, for the recognition and chance to tell our story.

The ARCOS Sunday Read…What are consumers to think?

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The ARCOS Sunday read dares to ponder what consumers think when utilities report losing millions of dollars but still beat Wall Street’s expectations. What can we do in terms of reputation management and justifying higher rates? How do we educate consumers on what daily operating costs truly are and showing that the industry is ultimately keeping rates down and more money in user’s pockets? Food for thought…

Flexibility is the key to making ICS work across utilities

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Every utility, at some point, will have to respond to an urgent incident. Whether a small power outage, a water main break, or a full-on natural disaster, a system needs to be in place to manage workers and supervisors as quickly and accurately as possible.

Many utility companies use a variation of the Incident Command System, or ICS, which was developed in the 1970s to help different departments work together effectively to fight wildfires in California. Since then, the structure has evolved into the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Because utilities often need to coordinate with the federal government in the events of large-scale incidents, it makes sense for companies to adopt a similar command structure. ICS is also extremely flexible and able to be applied in many different scenarios. The core ideas of ICS revolve around melding multiple agencies together quickly by giving them a unified chain of command and common terminology to use. It also significantly cuts down on freelancing and otherwise duplicated labor, saving time and resources down the line.

The flexibility of the ICS system, however, means that few utilities use exactly the same version of the system. Some utilities may have extra or fewer roles within ICS, and roles that have the same title across multiple companies may have varying responsibilities attached to them.

A number of factors can affect these structural and organizational differences. Whether the company is owned by an investor versus a municipality, as that alters whom workers ultimately report to. The type of services provided can also change the ICS framework, as responding to a water main break will require a different structure than a downed power line.

All these variables make creating an ICS system that spans all types of utility companies complicated.  A good example of how to do this is ARCOS’ Incident Command Center. The Incident Command Center system can be tailored to each customer’s needs by altering the organizational structure and the duties within it.

Furthermore, the system is very scalable. For a small incident, multiple roles can be condensed to be done by one employee, allowing other workers to continue routine work while the incident is addressed. These roles can also be broken up to be performed by multiple workers in the event of a major breakdown. This flexibility is key to a successful ICS system, one that saves the most time and overhead while also making sure incidents are addressed quickly and effectively.