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Why Callout Customers Should Use Crew Manager

By Blog

Lineman guides crane into position to pick up transformers.ARCOS’s Callout is the gold standard for field crew callout and is used by nearly all of the nation’s largest utilities. This automated callout system helps you build rosters and initiate automatic callouts. It is configurable to the highly specific and complex utility industry variables, including union rules, business procedures, and other work criteria. It meticulously tracks every part of the callout, including response rate. It offers a range of useful pre-built reports. Companies rely on our software to streamline their business and make that one aspect much more efficient.

But Callout isn’t the only tool in ARCOS’s arsenal. If you’re only using Callout, you ought to check out Crew Manager, a workload management tool.

Manage All Your Resources in a Single System

The name tells you that this solution manages your workforce. You can build crews, assign them, and track them as they go about their operations. But it’s actually much more than that.

Crew Manager manages all your resources. This includes vehicles and equipment, as well as personnel and associated expenses. It gives leadership real-time visibility into not just who’s working, but also who is available. It’s a comprehensive dashboard so that you always know where all your resources are and how much money is being spent.

For thirty party contractor or mutual aid crews, there is even lodging functionality in Crew Manager. You can preload hotel rooms you use and assign occupancy. Work with the hotels to get updates from them, as well, so you’ll always know how many rooms you have to work with. You can also track expenses for travel and meals. All in a single solution.

See the Present, Prepare for the Future

Whiteboards and spreadsheets are static and go out-of-date quickly. Crew Manager is crewing software that gives every employee who needs it a look at what’s going on at that very moment. You can also scroll back into the past to track completed jobs. Or go ahead and assign and plan for future dates and times.

Crew Manager is built for setting up future crew planning. You can try a variety of staffing scenarios to game out the best course of action. But even the best thought-out strategies aren’t foolproof. Conditions on the ground can change without warning. Crew Manager lets you react in the moment. You can modify those pre-prepared assignments as needed.

Cheryl Maletich, Vice President of Distribution System Operations at ComEd said, “When a utility has to pair or build crews, there’s another layer of complexity involved. Being able to simulate different staffing scenarios and react in real-time to complex, changing conditions improves the efficiency of the crew management process by an order of magnitude.”

Ease of Use Saves Money and Time

Crew Manager is intuitive and easy-to-use, with minimal training required. This will save you time and allow you to initiate a quicker response. Which in turn leads to briefer outages and greater customer satisfaction. You’ll see larger profitability because of the resources saved. It allows staff to focus on higher-level functions.

The main Crew Manager dashboard is simple, but has great capacity. You can drag and drop your resources based on their current availability. With a few clicks, you choose what you see and how it’s organized. Work can be assigned both automatically or manually, depending on the needs of the moment. Formula functionality allows you to add in many complex criteria for deeper dives.

Crew Manager lets you build all the views you need for each specific purpose or supervisor. Select from many details to get what you need, and all you need. These views can be saved in folders for easy recall as needed. They can be built by any employee you grant access to, and shared among teams or across departments. Security features let you control all access as specifically as you’d like.

This is readily scalable as any good emergency management software should be. You can add new crews, increase the scope of work, and prepare for bigger jobs. All in the same system you use to manage daily operations. After an emergency, you can also scale down with ease. Those no longer performing tasks drop off for a clean view.

Seamless Integration Puts All Operations in One Place

Crew Manager was specifically designed to integrate with Callout. You can fill shifts with Callout and request personnel right through Crew Manager. You can also take the crews you call out and assign them work orders and resources. Callout paired with Crew Manager helps you see who is available, and then deploy them.

Resource Assist brings contractor resources into the ARCOS platform. It allows third-party vendors to load their own personnel, equipment, and other assets and send them right into your ARCOS platform. Crew Manager is useful to manage those, too. You can drop the contractor crews right in among your regular staff. You can track their progress on the same dashboards you’re already using. Or separate them out if you need to; it’s up to you.

Crew Manager also has a powerful API. It gives you access to data from other work and outage management systems. In this way, you’re only using a single ecosystem for all your management needs. This allows you to keep your processes the same if you prefer, but make use of ARCOS’s crew management software to gain accurate insights and overviews of progress.

Comprehensive Reporting Means Ready Proof of Work

Every utility knows that storm costs can be challenging to recover. Crew Manager makes that process so much easier, by providing ways to get your information submitted faster and more completely, returning a bigger reimbursement. A financial manager at a co-op said, “If we had ARCOS, a good chunk of the data needed for FEMA could’ve been downloaded in seconds… ARCOS would’ve cut our cost recovery process in half.”

Automatic, detailed reporting in Crew Manager, just like in Callout, means you can easily verify work performed. This makes invoice reconciliation a snap. You’ll save time filing for reimbursement when the information needed is right at your fingertips. You’ll save money by spending less time pulling this data together. You’ll also get back a greater portion of what you spend when the proof of labor is easy to pull and show to the proper authorities.

All the metrics you need to evaluate your operations are present. Check metrics on specific personnel, or at the crew or location level. You can use this information to increase productivity. Or adapt your processes based on crew performance and preferences.

We Can Help

It’s important to have an agile, powerful software tool at your disposal. Especially with the ever-increasing pace of technology and communication. What solutions you use make a big difference in the efficiency of your organization. It impacts your bottom line.

ARCOS is prepared to help you through all conditions, blue skies and grey. Our comprehensive crew management solution makes your manual processes quicker and easier. It gives you the tools to look at them in ways you’ve never considered. It helps you identify improvements for your organization. You can achieve real-time situational awareness, eliminate the headaches of crew scheduling and response, and run the reporting you need.

If you’re ready to see how ARCOS can help you, contact us for a demo.

Why Public Works Should Digitize

By Blog

Woman working at a computerWorking in the public sector means you must keep the public’s trust. It’s no wonder, then, that public organizations and municipalities have been slower to adopt new technologies than other sectors. New can be risky, and these organizations are held to account by the people they serve. They understandably want to protect that trust.

But digitization has many benefits that serve both the company and the community. The modern world is racing along, and more and more of our daily activities are online. People expect their utilities and other public services to keep pace. So, it’s necessary to consider digital transformation; what that will look like, and how it will enable more efficient, fast, and reliable delivery of energy, water, and other resources.

Remote Work Attracts and Keeps Talent

Digitizing operations allows workers to operate from wherever they are. Some potential hires face constraints that prevent them from working outside the home. Or they may need more flexible hours. Digitizing gives opportunity to that type of prospective employee, increasing the pool of talent a company can draw from.

This type of work appeals to young people, who are more comfortable with technology. One study found that 75% of millennials prefer to work from home. They appreciate freedom, independence, and employer trust. Companies continue to face the challenge of replacing an aging workforce. It will benefit them to attract younger employees by offering the circumstances they want. Keeping those employees happy will help with retention. That saves money on new hire costs.

Remote work also benefits companies in a variety of circumstances. Work can continue uninterrupted in inclement weather. Employees don’t have to brave the elements and hazardous conditions to get to their job. During emergencies, workers can sign into your system and respond faster. They only have to walk a few feet, rather than drive miles to their workstation.

Visibility in the Field Provides More Efficiency, Quicker Response Times

This savings can apply to field workers, as well. If they are deployed from their homes instead of an office, they can respond much quicker. Time spent getting to the central location is eliminated. Utilities can call out whichever qualified technician is closest to the problem. They can send them the information they need en route on their smartphone or tablet. A mobile work order management system can provide specific instructions and diagrams for the job. It can provide swift, secure methods to get extra parts.

Updates can be sent back to the office the same way. This provides supervisors with real-time visibility into the field. Field crews can send mobile inspection photos and updates. Supervisors can quickly identify when experts or additional skills are needed. They can then deploy more resources. Or, possibly have a specialist walk the on-scene crew through the repair process remotely.

Much of the process of calling out those employees can be automated once your systems are digitized. Work management software can instantly evaluate many employee attributes. This includes location, skills, qualifications, and availability. A lot of time is spent analyzing these criteria manually. Automating frees up supervisors to focus on solving the problem, rather than preparing to respond to it. Digitizing allows you to be more efficient, productive, and agile in restoring services. It eliminates manual errors and miscommunications with automated, instant updates.

One of our customers restored power 30 to 45 minutes sooner once they implemented ARCOS’s workforce management software. More than 80% of their workforce routinely responded in under two minutes to the automated callout system. Another customer reduced its dispatch time by more than 30%. This improved their CAIDI and SAIDI scores, and also increased customer satisfaction and revenue.

Keeping Customers Happy Supports the Bottom Line

Municipalities that have switched to a digital workforce management solution see upticks in customer satisfaction. This makes sense because quicker response means service is interrupted less, and for a briefer time. The automatic visibility into how operations progress empowers companies to see the situation more fully and be more responsive. They can give them more frequent and accurate updates on what to expect through whatever channels they wish to communicate with those customers.

Having records digitized also allows utilities to provide more information to customers. In 2020, 85% of Americans own a smart phone (according to Pew Research), and that number is only continuing to go up. It makes sense to meet the public where they are. Many utilities have created their own apps or started updating their website frequently so customers can login to see a variety of information that affects them. Customers like this transparency. It helps them feel comfortable with what they’re getting.

In a public works company, you may not have as many competitors to deal with as private sector businesses. But keeping your customers happy means they will feel more loyalty to you. When you have requests that go to the public, they’ll be more supportive of helping you obtain additional resources and upgrades. It’s a win-win scenario.

Save Money by Ditching the Office

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, office space is expensive. There’s the rental cost for the space, compounded with utility use, supplies, furniture, and so much more.

With digitization and remote work, companies need less office space. By letting employees work from home, fewer desks and square footage are required in a central location. In some cases, multiple offices may be closed entirely. Allowing the workforce to operate from their individual dwellings saves the company money.

So, while streamlining manual processes, also consider streamlining the physical space, too. It can definitely help your profit margins.

Cybersecurity Threats Are Real, So Pick an Experienced Software Vendor

An examination of the benefits of digitizing public works would not be complete without addressing cybersecurity. One study found 74% of IT security professionals are concerned about such threats and think it likely they’ll have to deal with incidents.

Overall, though, digital efforts are more secure than paper files. Anyone can walk past a desk or open a filing cabinet and look at a document. With modern work management software, leadership can control exactly who accesses what data. This ensures each employee has access to the information they need, and not to what they don’t.

That’s why it’s so important to use software that you can trust. Choose companies that have been around and know what they’re doing, rather than start-ups that have little public sector experience or shaky funding.

In the security category, ARCOS has a distinct advantage. We’ve worked with more than 200 individual companies. Each have their own security policies, so we have insight into what works and what doesn’t. We’re able to comply with varying security protocols and learn from them. That has allowed us to build the most secure network possible to safeguard your data. We have a variety of checks in place to ensure continual uptime and data security.

The benefits of digitization are numerous. Work is done more efficiently. Employees are happier, supervisors have better visibility, and customers are more satisfied. Plus, the efficiencies save money and contribute to the bottom line because your resources are used wisely and many mistakes are eliminated. It can be done safely and securely.

ARCOS has a suite of workforce management solutions that can help you usher in a digital transformation to keep pace with today’s demands. Contact us today to learn more about our software.

How to Combat Your Ground Crew Shortage

By Blog

Airplace refueling on taxiwayWe’re in the middle of a staff shortage. It impacts many industries, but airlines have certainly been among those hit hard. This has led to a myriad of issues. More flights have been cancelled. We’ve seen a 24% uptick in mishandled luggage. Companies face an inability to cover sick call-offs. One airline even had to have their executive staff help unload suitcases from a plane.

All of this has frustrated customers. There’s also been plenty of bad press, even though these problems are rarely the fault of the airline. Flight delays are costing companies tens of billions of dollars per year. That number has been rising.

There is no easy out to the problem, which has many causes, and is expected to last for some time. But there are things that can be done to lessen its impact. ARCOS’s RosterApps stands ready and willing to help mitigate the ground crew staffing challenge. We want to assist you in getting passengers in the air and your bottom line back on track.

Happier Employees, Fewer Delays

Employees are more likely to show up for their shift if they have some ownership in the process. ARCOS’s RosterApps has self-service functionality for shift bidding and trading. It even allows for partial shift split scheduling. In this way, employees can take control of their schedule, and adjust it as needed.

ARCOS is configurable for all your workplace and union agreement rules, as well as applicable laws and seniority. This lets you set up the software to take all necessary criteria into account for shifts and bids. There’s a bigger spotlight on labor right now and staff are pushing back on company rules. RosterApps can help you make those adjustments with each new change of policy or circumstance.

RosterApps replaces manual, time-intensive shift scheduling with a quick, accurate automated process. That, in turn, reduces issues and grievances. Employees are only able to bid for the shifts they are actually eligible for. It also tracks work time to make sure they aren’t assigned too many consecutive hours or days. These rules apply to shift trades and coverage, too, so you don’t have to worry about someone trading into a shift they aren’t qualified for.

Employees love being able to manage their work schedules themselves. They won’t have to wait in line or fill out paper requests. They can access RosterApps right from their smartphones. Approvals and change notifications can be sent by automatic text and emails.

Employee satisfaction with the system leads to greater retention and fewer grievances. In this environment, that means fewer shifts missed and flights cancelled. Which contributes to greater customer satisfaction and more profit for the airline.

Full, Controlled Visibility

Supervisors can use RosterApps to set bids, approve trades, and track employee actions. The menus and screens are intuitive and user-friendly. RosterApps eliminates paper, spreadsheets, and fax machines. That makes for a more efficient and resource-friendly operation. It also frees up time spent on those cumbersome tasks. This allows you to focus on larger strategy initiatives and customer satisfaction.

It also provides a consistent process. We know many airlines operate multiple locations with separate scheduling processes. By centralizing your ground crew shift scheduling and bringing everyone on the same page, you gain consistency and efficiency across the board. It’s easier for areas to cover for others, and cross training is standardized.

Every action taken in the system is automatically logged. This applies to supervisors as well as employees. That makes for comprehensive reporting. Whether you have a question about a specific employee or paycheck, or want to analyze workforce trends, you can make use of the dozens of built-in reports that come standard in RosterApps. ARCOS is also happy to work with you to build custom reports.

RosterApps also has security features that allow you to control exactly who sees what. So managers can be set to only view their own departments, while executives can have visibility into the whole company. This helps leaders make informed business decisions. Your data lives in the cloud, and is accessible from anywhere at all times.

Integration Made Easy

ARCOS’s RosterApps can easily be used as stand-alone scheduling software. However, it also has the capability to integrate into your existing system via API. This maximizes your existing investments, allowing you to not only keep, but extend the value of existing time and attendance software you’ve already invested in. We can take the data from those systems and load them into RosterApps, making it easier to view, manipulate, and update all shift scheduling and timekeeping information. There are different options depending on how much you want to rely on ARCOS versus your other software.

Because RosterApps is not on-premise, it contains web-based security protocols specific to what you need. You won’t have install, update, or maintain any equipment, either; it’s all built into the software, and updated automatically. New updates are rolled out based in feedback from you, with the system constantly improved upon in small ways to avoid disruption of service.

Keep Your Profit

Profits are falling with the current challenges. Crew costs are the second biggest expense on airlines, after fuel. And when the crew isn’t working well and flights are cancelled, those profits shrink.

RosterApps gives your team the oversight to spot problems well before they arise. Ground crews can be rebalanced or reassigned if too many people are scheduled for a certain task, or if an area isn’t being covered. This prevents money loss if those problems are allowed to unfold unchecked.

The benefits of all of the above go right to your ROI. More satisfaction and more shifts filled mean more money for your company. Employee retention means fewer resources spent on training and onboarding. Customer satisfaction results in fewer refunds and more tickets sold.

One airline that adopted RosterApps said, “Since launching ARCOS RosterApps, I’ve never heard someone say it’s too complicated.” High praise for a system that does so much, handling all your ground crew scheduling needs.

ARCOS’s RosterApps is a powerful tool that employees and management love. It empowers everyone to take ownership of their own area, and provides the oversight needed to keep business running smoothly. It saves you money by automating manual processes and helping spot problems before they occur. It’s configurable to your specific needs and legacy software.

Contact us to get a demo of RosterApps to see how it can help your airline with today’s toughest challenges.

Cyber Attacks Are Increasing, ARCOS Has Your Back

By Blog

Abstract cybersecurity graphic54 percent of companies expect a cyber attack on critical infrastructure in the next 12 months, according to a survey of 1,726 utility professionals responsible for cyber security.

As utilities increasingly evolve their business models by connecting IT systems to their operational technology for power generation, transmission, and distribution assets, critical infrastructure in the utility industry is becoming even more vulnerable to cyber attacks. It may have seemed simpler to protect your information when everything was done manually and on paper. But security is now a moving target as technology integrates into operations.

According to the study, most utilities say that cyber threats present a greater risk to their physical energy delivery infrastructure than their IT systems. This poses the serious industry challenge of ensuring the availability and reliability of electricity delivery to customers.

These days, your organization likely works with many third-party software vendors to manage your operations. Like ARCOS.

ARCOS takes cybersecurity very seriously. We have state-of-the-art protocols in place. We protect all your information that exists within our work order management system. Our mobile workforce management software is configurable to adhere to the individual security policies of each company we work with.

Why Not Stick with What’s Worked?

Some companies may seek to hold onto past manual processes because it’s risky and time-consuming to implement new technology. If an implementation fails, you can’t get back the time and resources spent trying to make it work.

But manual processes are cumbersome and inefficient. Employees have to jump through hoops to access the information they need. When communication isn’t free-flowing, steps are skipped or information doesn’t get to who needs it. This means it’s harder to get work done. That affects the bottom line of the company, leading to less profit and more difficulty hitting efficiency goals.

Another concern is that hard copies are vulnerable to damage and destruction. Coffee can be spilled on a report. An intern could shred the wrong document. A copy may be left on a desk and cleared away by cleaning staff. Even with an on-premise computer system, it’s usually connected to the internet. So, it’s still vulnerable to outside attack. If your system isn’t internet connected, a fire could wipe out everything stored on the hard drive that isn’t backed up off site. All these incidents come at huge cost to the company, and some information may not be recoverable if lost.

These methods haven’t always worked in the past and aren’t the best solution for the future. We can do better. ARCOS can help.

How ARCOS Keeps Your Data Secure

ARCOS is cloud-based SaaS, which has many benefits. We continuously upgrade our technology. We are agile as we listen to our customers and act on their feedback. Most important, with cloud-based systems, the information you need is accessible anywhere, anytime. And we encrypt that data so that only those who should see it can see it.

Unlike papers in filing cabinets, with ARCOS, you designate exactly who can access each part of the system. It’s a more precise way to control your data. Most security breaches are due to human error, not a coordinated attack by a malicious force. ARCOS can help reduce these errors.

We work with more than a hundred companies and their company-specific security procedures. This gives us valuable insight into best practices. Our collective experience allows us to recommend security procedures built on that combined knowledge.

ARCOS’s current procedures include running daily scans of our network and all its connections. We have thousands of monitoring points keeping an eye on operations in real-time. We look for openings and vulnerabilities on an ongoing basis. If the system finds something that looks amiss, it locks down until our IT staff can investigate. We also undergo a third-party SOC 2 audit every six months to make sure we’re holding ourselves to high standards. We take the security, availability, and confidentiality of our platform and clients’ data extremely seriously.

Extending Security into the Field

We’ve mentioned that ARCOS allows you to set permissions regarding who can see what information. This extends to ARCOS’s Mobile Workbench and your crews in the field. Because our solutions are cloud-based, the data you load can be accessed anywhere. This makes it very convenient for field crews to access technical specifications, schedules, updates, and other information. They can see it right on their mobile device. Locking down what each user can access when they login ensures they can get everything they need to do their jobs, but not anything else.

The benefits of that are obvious. If a mobile device is stolen or lost, that leaves its data vulnerable. But with ARCOS, your internal ARCOS administrator can shut down that user’s access immediately. And even before access is revoked, only limited data is available.

These guardrails extend to third-party vendors, like contractors. ARCOS’s Resource Assist allows you to seamlessly integrate external crews into your current workflows. But it doesn’t grant them an all-access pass to your systems. You can choose the specifics to share with them regarding your resource request. This reduces your vulnerability and makes the system more secure.

You can also use ARCOS to monitor how well crew members are following your established security procedures. Mobile Workbench allows you to share documents, so you can send instructions directly to the employee to follow. They can communicate back through the Mobile Workbench app what has been done. This allows the back office to check their work and ensure no corners are cut.

We Can Help

ARCOS is serious about cybersecurity. We have a robust, accessible cloud-based system that is protected and precise. You can configure it to give access to data only for those that need it and keep everyone else locked out. We are constantly monitoring our systems and updating them to ensure your solution is working correctly and securely. We extend that functionality into the field.

If you’re ready to learn more about how our solutions can be used to improve your own processes, contact us today.

Mobile Work Order Management Improves Field Safety

By Blog

crew supervisor using ARCOS mobile appUtility field work is hazardous. Power lineman is among the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States. Each year, dozens die, and thousands are injured. Several factors contribute to this result. Sometimes not enough staff deployed on a job. There may be inadequate training and supervision. Crews may fail to follow safety guidelines. And even if the worker is safe, accidents occur. This leads to incident reports, OSHA penalties and fines, and reputation damage. Anything companies can do to protect their workers is important. Especially if those actions reduce the number of fatalities.

Enter mobile work management systems. Utility software, such as ARCOS’s Mobile Workbench, provides a variety of ways to keep field workers safe on the job. It allows increased visibility to ensure the company’s – and OSHA’s – safety procedures are being followed. It provides a handy way to transfer documentation and additional information in real-time. It allows field workers to report in more regularly. It keeps management appraised of how an emergency response is unfolding. It helps the utility’s actions remain fluid and responsive, even during volatile and rapidly changing conditions.

Mobile Workbench is a powerful system and communications tool. It allows you to manage both work orders and people in the same system. It integrates with your legacy processes so everything is working together in a single place.

Field Visibility Lets You Adjust Your Response in Real-Time

In the past, when a field worker was sent out to handle a work order, the back office had little idea what was going on until the employee reported back the results of their manual inspection. The office had to wait for a phone call or a filed report, after the fact. If something happened, supervisors may not know until minutes or even hours later.

With mobile workforce management software, every aspect of the work can be documented in real-time. If something goes wrong or an employee doesn’t report the next step in the process, the office knows almost immediately. Conditions on the ground can change in an instant. Reporting it in the app allows supervisors to adjust activities on the fly. Those changes can be communicated back to the field instantly. This provides the information necessary to deal with the unexpected, including safety hazards.

The smartphone app helps managers assure that all appropriate safety guidelines are being followed in incident management and response. Processes can be monitored at every stage. Guidance can be asked for and given quickly. Sometimes additional issues will be found while completing a ticket, and further action or resources are needed. In these cases, the employee doesn’t have to hunt for paper manuals or stop work due to lack of training. They can get help and new instructions right away.

This is especially important when resources are stretched thin. With an increase in weather events, companies may not be able to send as large a crew as they’d like to. Dealing with widely varying scenarios requires different skill sets. Crews may not know exactly which skills are necessary until they get to the scene. With a mobile app, if the crew on the ground doesn’t know how to handle something, the office can provide an expert to walk them through. Or they can send blueprints or manuals that give much needed information. Having this real-time connection to people, documents, and images is like having an extra teammate on the crew.

Keeping Crews Safe on the Road

Field workers spend much of their time driving so they’re at higher risk for auto accidents. Worse, these crews are often driving into hazardous conditions. This leads to workplace fatalities. Many of these are avoidable.

During an emergency, vehicles may need to be rerouted. That’s easy to do on a mobile app. The office can send field crews an updated route or instructions. They can direct them around hazards. They can send them to assist another crew that needs help. They can adjust quickly when conditions on the ground change due to an escalating emergency.

Mobile apps also let the office monitor the crews as they drive. They can see when the vehicle stops unexpectedly, and for how long. They can make sure their vehicles are taking the prescribed routes. They can monitor speeds and driving habits. This alerts them if retraining is necessary, or if a different driver should be assigned to the crew. It provides another level of oversight for management. They can ensure crews are abiding by safety procedures and, if not, they can take corrective action more quickly.

Saving Money Through Safe Practices

No one wants to think about a field worker not making it home. With the increased oversight and communication a mobile app can provide, employees are more likely to end their shift intact. This is beneficial to themselves, their loved ones, and the utility they work for.

Work order and damage assessment apps like ARCOS’s Mobile Workbench make resource management more efficient. Utilities can ensure procedures are done right and safely the first time. Thus, the expense of sending additional resources out to respond is avoided. Those with specialized skills can guide the crew on the scene instead of traveling themselves. Giving back- office visibility into the field lets them manage all aspects of the operation. They can ensure crews aren’t wasting time and money.

When safety procedures are followed, OSHA fines and insurance payouts for deaths and injuries are reduced. Besides the human loss, it also costs the company a lot of money as they seek to do right by the team member and their family. Not to mention, the utility must send additional crews to deal with the original incident plus the new situation. They also may have to adjust their workforce to replace the crew member.

We Can Help

ARCOS’s Mobile Workbench can help streamline your operations. It can give you the visibility you need for efficient workforce management and to ensure procedures are followed. It is a robust app for mobile devices that provides back-and-forth communication and document transmission, allowing flexibility in your response. It gives instructions on the ground to keep crews safe. It puts everything a field crew member needs in their pocket while also looking out for their safety. These features keep operations running smoothly while protecting employees and the business.

Contact us for a demo of Mobile Workbench to see how you can use it to make your operations more safe and efficient.

Crew and Contractor Management Software Helps Meet Sustainability and Efficiency Goals

By Blog

A key focus in the utility industry today is switching to sustainable practices while staying efficient. Companies have been moving in this direction for years. Efforts are more important than ever as the planet hits record temperatures. The effects of climate change are already being felt. This makes it harder to keep energy flowing as incidents increase in frequency and strength.

But customers expect utilities to continue to provide uninterrupted service. Businesses must find ways to deliver while keeping operations within a budget and planning for the future. They need to enact processes and methods that will continue to drive profit while making their systems less susceptible to these pressures and challenges.

Utilities are already adjusting to this new reality in many ways. They’re replacing fleets of vehicles with ones that use less energy. They’re generating power from renewable sources. They’re building grids that lose less energy during transmission. And they’re switching to crew and work management software like ARCOS to improve operational efficiency, save money, and increase customer satisfaction.

Much of the energy used by utility providers is expended to manage resources. Moving people and equipment to and from where the work needs to be done is a large part of this. ARCOS’s suite of solutions can help you be more efficient in deployment and operations. Efficient assignments mean fewer hours spent in vehicles and less fuel used. Replacing paper with an electronic system saves trees and lessens material waste. Not to mention, more work can be done with fewer people. This consumes less resources for the company.

Manage Internal Crews AND Contractors in One Place

Crew management is an important aspect of operations. The right teams with the right skills need to get to the incident or maintenance spot as quick as possible. ARCOS can help you do exactly that, routing the closest qualified teams to where they’re needed.

That may be easy enough with your own internal crews. But these days, much of the work is done by third-party vendors, so contractors management is vital. ARCOS also has a solution for this: Resource Assist.

Resource Assist is contractor management software. It allows third-party vendors to electronically fill your resource requests. Contractors can pre-build crews and rosters. They send them to you through ARCOS when you need them. This allows you to deploy these additional resources right away, getting the work done faster.

Real-Time Visibility Helps Crews Work Better and Reduces Grievances

Once contractor resources are sent to you via Resource Assist, you’ll be able to manage them right in ARCOS’s Crew Manager. They’re right alongside your own teams. It’s a comprehensive workforce management solution to handle all your needs. It can be used in grey skies or blue.

As Crew Manager users know, you’ll have dashboards you can set up any way you like. This lets you see everyone in the field, what equipment they’re using, and what they’re working on at any given time. The information is accessible in a historical format. You can look back at any point in the past, or see forward based on your already-completed crew planning.

Because you’re managing contractors in ARCOS, all activities are automatically tracked. Reporting is available instantly and in a variety of configurable formats. This ensures you have all the information you need right at your fingertips. It makes reimbursement claims simple. It virtually eliminates grievances and disagreements.

One System Keeps Everyone on the Same Page

ARCOS provides a single source of truth for your operations. The benefits of having all crews, including contractor resources, in the same work order management system are many. It helps keep everyone on the same page. It avoids duplicating work, as well as unnecessary travel time. Teams don’t need to cross train on different crew management systems because everyone is using the same interface. When an employee leaves or transfers, there is less disruption to the staff.

From a sustainability perspective, time and money that was previously spent on those tasks is saved. It leaves room to focus on more complex and higher-level operations. It allows leadership to focus on the big picture. In short, it lets you direct your energies towards the more important parts of your business.

Add to that the sustainability of the work management software itself. ARCOS is constantly updated. This means you won’t have to switch to a newer system in a few years. You’ll already have access to those future features. Staff won’t have to learn all new processes. Instead, you can make slow, gradual enhancements to your existing ones. ARCOS gives you the tools to manage those changes how and when you need them.

We can help

ARCOS has the right workforce and workload management solution for any utility. We can say this because our crewing software is flexible for your needs. It can be configured to work like your existing manual processes, making the transition easy. The benefits begin as soon as you start using it.

Contact us for a demo of Resource Assist and Crew Manager today.

How Co-Ops and Municipalities Are Going Paperless With ARCOS

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supervisor holding hardhat and looking at computer tablet held by man in green vest and red hard hat.The labor market is tight and companies are trying to improve efficiency. Digitization and automation have long been trends to help with that goal. Now, it’s more important than ever to find a work order management system that is right for your business.

Besides the cost and time savings of replacing paper processes with smart software, employees like it better, too. They have better visibility into operations and how their work impacts larger projects. Updates are made in real-time, reducing time spent waiting around for instruction. Activities are automatically tracked, so they don’t have to worry about filling out tedious reports. Dashboards and work orders can be accessed on a mobile device, which can provide a lot more information than a phone call.

Management also benefits. With a crew management system, they can see what’s going on across the company at all times. This allows them to make strategic decisions concerning crew planning. It allows them to be nimble  and adjust strategy. It also provides proof of what has occurred, both with internal resources and third-party partners. This aides with contractors management.

The ARCOS Utility Platform is more than just mobile workforce management software. It is a suite of solutions that can make the transition away from paper easy. Our system is configurable to your existing processes. Our solutions include an automated callout system to comprehensive crew management. We even help you manage incident management and response. We can fold contractors management right into your regular workflow. And we’re applicable to both back office and field operations.

Crew Manager for Daily Operations…

The City of Ocala’s Electric Utility chose ARCOS to improve their response time. The utility found they could call more workers faster with ARCOS. This let them get incident management started sooner. Quick response led to greater satisfaction for their customers and staff. The city also liked having visibility into operations, both in the moment and after the fact. The reporting and automation of callout rules helped them significantly reduce grievances.

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) has long been a user of ARCOS’s Callout. Bill Rees, Manager of System Operations for SVEC, called it “one of the best pieces of software ever brought into the operations center.” So, when they were ready to automate crew management, they looked at ARCOS again.

ARCOS’s Crew Manager will be immediately impactful for daily operations. They are now able to see everyone who is working, where they were working, and what they are working on at a glance.

…And During an Emergency

During a storm, SVEC’s workforce swells a lot larger. Contractor resources are brought in to help handle the workload. Crew Manager can support them in overseeing fluid crew planning and rosters. It can also help them forecast what their response will look like ahead of time. And when an outage occurs, they can pinpoint who is closest and qualified to deploy to handle it.

Outage management was a big selling point for Connexus Energy. So many of the tasks they had to accomplish when responding to an emergency call out could be automated. This allowed them to focus on more complex operations in the field. They loved that field workers could access tickets right on their mobile devices with ARCOS’s damage assessment app. The workers could then send back real-time updates.

There’s a reason so many of these cooperatives and municipalities use ARCOS’s solutions. Our crew management system is flexible for any size operation. It can be used in both blue skies and grey, simultaneously if desired, without having to make big adjustments. It can be easily configured for the specific needs of each company using it.

Schedule a demo for a specific part of our software, or the entire platform. Our Experts will be happy to answer your questions and discuss the benefits of our work order management system with you. Contact us today.

What is Contractors Management

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If you are in the utility industry these days, you are probably familiar with the process of hiring contractors, or working with contracting organizations, to supplement your internal staff. As you know, hiring contractors gives you the ability to ramp resources up and down as needed, granting you agility.

Selecting a good contractor management system (like ARCOS’s Resource Assist) to manage your contractor workforce is as important as finding qualified resources. Integrating contractors into your typical workflow ensures that they do the job the way you want it done. This allows you maintain processes and culture by making outside employees feel like part of the team. Inconsistent performance leads to risk of reputation and income. Contractor management systems help keep control of these factors so work is done efficiently and correctly. It tracks all the workers’ efforts, guaranteeing complete and accurate reporting. It also provides for the welfare of those contractors coming in. It’s a holistic approach to using third-party workers.

Importance of Contactor Management

Outside companies often aren’t familiar with the way you do things. This can expose them to hazards and makes communication difficult. Efficiency and optimization are major concerns. You already take a lot of care to confirm your own employees are aware of cost and waste. Contractors must be held to the same standard. Otherwise, their poor performance can reflect poorly on your organization. This could lead to waste and the loss of consumer confidence, costing you opportunity and money.

With ARCOS’s suite of solutions, you can take the contractors brought in from Resource Assist and load them right in Crew Manager, alongside your internal crews. In this way, you have a single management system. Your operations are cohesive and streamlined. Grievances are virtually eliminated and you no longer have to worry about inaccurate data entries or mismatched fields.

What are the Key Elements of Contract Management

The key elements of managing independent contractors are selection, training, and oversight. The right external workers must be selected. They must be taught the way you’d like things to be done. You need to keep tabs on their efforts with quantitative data to be sure the work is going well. You’ll want to maintain the same performance standards and efficiency benchmarks you hit internally. For the best results, third-party companies should be provided with honest feedback.

The more parties that are added to a situation, the more complex managing workers becomes. You must put in place a clear hierarchy, including safety professionals, to avoid costly mistakes. You’ll need to lay out responsibilities and expectations to ensure your goals are achieved. Occupational safety concerns and regulations must be respected so your standing in the industry is not tarnished. You’ll also want to invest time in getting to know them and what they expect so that they will feel valued. If you make contractors feel their worth, they are more likely to perform as you would like them to, taking greater ownership of the responsibility placed on them.

Effective contractor management systems, like ARCOS, enact complete control without needing to micromanage. This will make your working goals easier to achieve, resulting in higher productivity and profit.

Thousands of contractors are already using Resource Assist. You can connect with these existing users through your Dashboard, establishing resource sharing links with them in just a few clicks. If your go-to companies aren’t already in Resource Assist, they can add themselves in minutes. Then, they can fill your resource requests in seconds. Once in your system, all the tracking and reporting is automatic.

How to Manage Contractors Effectively

Optimize vendor network. It’s important to find the right contracting firms to partner with. Technical capabilities are important, but so are safety records; contractor mistakes reflect poorly on the partner utility. Steps can be taken ahead of time to research which contractors are most likely to be successful for you. Potential partners can fill out a prequalification form. This will help you make informed decisions. Optimize which companies to continue working with based on experience and practical data to streamline your operations.

  • Automate work order dispatching. When calling in contractors, waste is a concern. An automated system (like ARCOS Callout) can be put in place that knows which workers should be called in any given instance. It ensures those called have the correct skills and are closest to the problem.
  • Implement cost controls. Once a contractor crew is sent out, you need to know if they’re using time and resources wisely. You must also be able to measure effectiveness to know how to manage them. ARCOS’s Mobile Workbench goes into the field, providing an easy-to-use application for your crews and total transparency to your office. Reporting data can be used to identify where efficiency is lacking and improvements can be made. ARCOS has built-in, automated reporting.
  • Ensure contractor compliance. Boundaries must be clearly set so contractors know what is expected of them. You won’t want to keep working with contractors who aren’t doing things the way you want them done. Noncompliance with your established safety program leads to unnecessary risks and business rule violations. To get the right outcomes, even a high performing contractor will need feedback periodically.
  • Initiate periodic data-driven performance reviews. At the end of a project, you’ll want to analyze your contractors’ efforts. It’s vital to know how well they performed the work, how closely they followed your guidelines, and how any incidents that arose were handled. This information shapes whether you will continue to work with the company. Make sure to use data to make objective decisions. Do this on an ongoing basis, as performance metrics do not usually remain static. As mentioned, ARCOS has many pre-built reports. You can also work with our team to design your own.

To learn more about ARCOS click here.

Selecting the right system is important. The software you select should provide for all of the above and be easy to use. You’ll want one with strong customer support. You’ll also need buy-in from all the stakeholders. Without solid participation, even the most perfectly implemented solution will not work.

ARCOS’sResource Assist makes it simple to add contractors into your workflow. Callout is designed to quickly call the right workers with the right skills. Crew Manager lets you manage them alongside your full-time staff. Mobile Workbench gives you real-time visibility into the field. All are part of our integrated suite of resource management solutions.

FAQs

  • What are the basic principles of contractor management?
    • Contractor management involves the business of managing independent contractors or third-party workers. As an extension of your company, they should be accountable for the same safety standards and business needs as your traditional employees. Contractor management software such as ARCOS’s Resource Assist provides a framework for communicating with the third-party vendors and their workers. This allows you to make informed decisions and adjust your process as needed.
  • What are the benefits of contractor management?
    • Contractor management is beneficial because by using contractors, you can supplement your internal staff as needed. This means you can keep your payroll flexible, expanding or contracting it as needed. It also means you can seek external skillsets for tasks that aren’t performed routinely. It allows you to be an agile company, leading to greater efficiency and cost control. ARCOS offers a contractor management system integrated with the rest of our suite of solutions.
  • How to become a certified contract manager?
    • There are many different programs which offer contract manager certifications. . Most will require you to, at minimum, complete coursework and pass an exam. Others may require ongoing, continued education to maintain certification. The certification you will want to earn will depend on the type of work you may wish to do. For instance, if you want to work with the federal government, you’ll want to get a FAC-C certification, which has several levels based on experience. We recommend connecting with a local authority for more information and further guidance.
  • What is the purpose of contractor management?
    • The purpose of contractor management is to ensure compliance with your needs and rules. You want to monitor and qualify the external workforce as you do your internal one. It allows you to apply full visibility into their actions in order to mitigate risk. To avoid time consuming oversight, systems like ARCOS automate continuous monitoring and reporting.

The Importance of User Support

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Candid picture of a man with a beard and glasses smiling while on a telephoneHow often have you gotten stuck while using software? You either didn’t know what to do next or weren’t sure if the system you were using had the capability you were looking for. Even experienced users, working with well-designed interfaces, need help now and then. It’s vital that any company you work with provides a strong support team. It is arguably the most important offering a technology company can supply.

Yet so many companies thwart users with complex phone trees and long wait periods. You’re busy and you don’t have time to navigate confusing processes to speak to someone. You shouldn’t have to jump through such hoops.

If you haven’t had the need to reach out to ARCOS yet, you’re missing out on one of the best in the business. Unlike many companies, our team isn’t a hassle to reach.

The ARCOS Support Team

For most ARCOS Resource Management platform users, the first step when seeking support will be to contact your internal team or ARCOS admin. This is your company’s designated support staff. These employees are usually experts or power users and are familiar with your specific configuration. If they can’t solve a user’s problem, they should reach out to ARCOS for additional support via the OSCAR portal, or give us a call.

ARCOS has a support team available for those designated users 24/7/365 (and we’re easy to get ahold of!). No matter the time of day, regardless of your time zone, you’ll get a response within 10 minutes. They will work diligently to get you an answer and resolve the problem. Also, they can educate you on features you may not be familiar with.

The ARCOS Support team is staffed by experts, divided into tiers. The front line can usually find the answer. If not, they will get a more specialized colleague involved to track down a solution. We work together, relying on one another. No matter who you are communicating with, you get the breadth of knowledge from the entire team.

The OSCAR Portal

As mentioned, the easiest way for a company’s admin to communicate with ARCOS Support is through the OSCAR portal. It is an electronic ticketing communication system. Users will not only be able to see their own tickets, but also tickets from others in their organization. This makes it easy to work as a team on your end. It also helps when staff members are absent or otherwise unavailable.

But the OSCAR portal is not only a sophisticated ticketing system. It is also an invaluable reference tool. The ARCOS Support team is currently building a knowledge base. We’re also creating an online, community for our clients. This will allow you to find the answers even faster on your own. You’ll be able to work with users from other companies. Sharing ideas across organizations will improve everyone’s efficiency. You will also be able to learn tips and tricks that may improve your process in ways you had not considered.

Good user support is not just thorough and easy to get a hold of; it is empowering. That is what ARCOS does. In addition to providing a solid support foundation, we enable you to be an expert of your configuration yourself. And we will always respond when you need us.

If your company isn’t using ARCOS yet, talk to us to see how we can help.

Lifecycle Management Best Practices

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Lifecycle diagramIn any company, there are many aspects of the business that undergo a lifecycle. Whether it be a specific resource, process, or set of data, there’s a flow to its usefulness. A lifecycle may unfold naturally, with little oversight into how it progresses. If you’re not paying attention, application of an element can continue past the end of its useful lifecycle. There could be better ways of doing things, but they aren’t even investigated.

That’s why it’s important to have a Lifecycle Management plan. Tracking lifecycles keeps products up-to-date and processes efficient. Then, you’ll know when adjustments should be made, and when a product or process should be updated or retired.

The Steps of Lifecycle Management

  1. Establish goals. All plans should start with identifying what you hope to accomplish. You may not know exactly what goals are realistic with the resources you have, especially if trying to map out a new milestone. But you can make an educated guess based on experience and be ready to adjust it as needed. Either way, you need to set a benchmark.
  2. Determine resources needed. What do you need to achieve your goals? Resources include tools, supplies, and vehicles. They also comprise people hours, employee skillsets, and processes to manage those resources.
  3. Create an action plan. Now that you know what you want to do and what you need to do it, determine how you’re going to do it. Not everything will always run smoothly. Make sure to include backup plans and substitution proposals. You need to be ready to be flexible to complete your goals. It’s a good idea to involve those doing the work at this stage. This will ensure your plan, goals, and resource estimates are realistic. It’s better to know before you actually enact the proposal if it has a good chance of succeeding.
  4. Set up quality assurance. How will you know if the goals are accomplished? How will you test if they were completed to the best of your team’s abilities? You won’t be sure you’ve succeeded unless you’re ready to analyze the results once the job is done.
  5. Enact the plan. Now you’re ready to get to work. Start the process, send out the teams and resources, and track how it progresses. Make adjustments as necessary. You may even have to scrap the whole thing at this stage and go back to step one. That’s OK. It’s all part of Lifecycle Management.
  6. Analyze how it went. This is the time where quality assurance kicks into gear. It may happen simultaneously with the plan being enacted or it may occur after everything is complete. There may be places where too many or too few resources were provided. Tasks may take longer or shorter than you expected. Crews in the field may have suggestions to improve the process. Make sure your response is right-sized. Also confirm as few resources were used as possible without compromising quality.
  7. Update or retire the plan. Even if everything goes well, there’s almost always room for improvement. This is where you make adjustments for the next time. Even if the new approach works well, it’s unwise to take for granted that it always will. So even with established processes, you’ll want to repeat steps six and seven on a regular basis. This will ensure your plans don’t outlive their usefulness.

After the Plan

It would be hard to follow these steps every single day for every task that you do. That’s not the point of the process. Lifecycle Management ensures you’re always tracking costs, expenses, and efficiency. Sticking to a routine cadence of progress reports and evaluation will do that. Use these steps to make an overall strategy. Enact Lifecycle Management on smaller scales periodically and continuously.

As you complete each cycle through the above steps, make sure to discuss what you’ve learned. The lessons can often be applied not only to the task at hand, but other processes, as well. View the business as a whole to make sure budgets and processes are efficient and effective. There may even be the opportunity to combine many processes into a single one.

As important, always celebrate your wins. Your teams work hard, and they deserve to hear about the company’s accomplishments. It increases morale when crew members can see the effect their work is having on the company’s goals. They need to know how they contribute. It also helps with team buy-in on new changes when everyone gets to witness the effects.

ARCOS’ automated tracking and reporting lends itself nicely to Lifecycle Management plans. Contact us today to learn how we can fit into your strategy. We’ll get you started with our Resource Management solutions.

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