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The ARCOS IdeaBank: Collaborating with our Utility Partners

By Blog

Let’s take a journey back in time, where some may remember seeing walls covered from floor to ceiling in post-it notes at past ARCOS User Conferences. Was it a fancy art project? No, not at all. It was a way for our users to share new ideas and features they would like to see in our solutions or thoughts on current functionality they felt could be enhanced or expanded upon. ARCOS would spend hours cataloging every single notion that was written on those little yellow squares and give them to our team of developers.  

User requests are always taken very seriously by ARCOS. We are one of the only software companies that truly built our resource management platform hand-in-hand with the individuals who were going to use it. The wall was vital to ARCOS’s future innovation and drive to take on the industry’s toughest challenges. Flashforward years later, and just as spreadsheets and paper have been replaced with ARCOS Callout, Crew Manager and Mobile Workbench, the post-it notes are gone and now exchanged with a new mode of direct customer communication – the ARCOS IdeaBank 

What exactly is it?​ The ARCOS IdeaBank is designed to provide customers with an online voice that gives them a seat to help co-design our solutions with the features, UX, and functionality that they need and find beneficial to their real-world and life situations. It provides ARCOS with a single source to gather ideas and feedback, so ideas can be researched and prioritized​ by our product and development teams. You can even vote on the features you would like to see.  

What can you do on the ARCOS IdeaBank?  

  • SUBMIT your product ideas and product feedback​ 
  • VIEW other’s product ideas and feedback​ 
  • VOTE on the product ideas you feel would help you and others most​ 
  • REPLY and RESPOND to anyone’s product ideas or feedback​ 
  • TRACK where product ideas are in the ARCOS Product Enhancement Process 
  • FOLLOW and SHARE posted ideas or feedback​ 
  • SEARCH for posted ideas 
  • RECEIVE notifications when the IdeaBank is updated 

And it’s open 24/7, so whenever an idea may strike, you can access the feedback forum and share what’s on your mind while it’s fresh and crazy enough to be the next big ARCOS solution.  

The ARCOS IdeaBank is live and running now, so check it out by clicking here. And don’t forget to give the ideas already posted a thumbs up or down. Items are prioritized based on the amount of likes and dislikes they have. Join your fellow users and start participating today. We look forward to seeing your thoughts on the ARCOS IdeaBank! 

Damage Assessment: Knowing What You Don’t Know

By Blog

Transformers were blown, poles snapped in two and wires dangled everywhere. The event had raged just as fast and hard as it left and now the time had arrived for restoration and clean-up. But after a grid crippling incident capable of this kind of destruction, where does a utility begin? How can they know what needs to be repaired first and what crews and equipment to send to a ravaged area? How can an operation make the most of emergency management minutes that are quickly wasting away valuable time, labor opportunities, and consumer confidence? 

At the foremost of things to do after an emergency is activating a mobile solution like ARCOS Damage Assessment. ARCOS Damage Assessment transmits fast, accurate damage reports in real-time to OMS and ARCOS dashboards. This allows operators to act quickly to reduce the time it takes to repair any damage done by a storm or cataclysmic event. A guided assessment lets field operatives immediately report any jobs that need to be accomplished, and the materials and possible equipment needed to complete the work. All the data gathered is displayed on a map and layered on a utility’s GIS system. Estimated Time of Restoration (ETR) is made more exact, helping boost customer trust and ultimately, CAIDI and SAIDI scores.  

For municipal and cooperative utilities, ARCOS Mobile Workbench performs damage assessment in a similar fashion but in a more all-encompassing way. Not only can the solution map, define, and distribute equipment and inventory necessary to complete a job, it can create the work ticket and allow dispatchers to find the right crews to fix trouble spots and send them on their way. It gives a utility the ability to manage both people and work in one system. Through an advanced API, ARCOS Mobile Workbench can also be tied into existing systems so all data collected during a particular event can be leveraged by each application.  

What both solutions deliver is full situational awareness. It’s allowing field ops, dispatchers, administrators, and everyone involved in the restoration process a bird’s eye view of what’s really going on, what needs done, who can do it, and where they need to go next. It’s knowing what you don’t know, and that gives a response finesse, agility, and speed.  

Learn more about the ARCOS Resource Management platform and how you can improve damage assessment, emergency, and incident management 

Climate Change and Weird Weather: A Call for Emergency and Incident Management

By Blog

February saw an Arctic outbreak freeze its way across the United States that caused massive energy disruptions in Texas. It was one of the lowest five-day average temperatures experienced by the lone-star state over the past 40 years.   

In March, eleven tornados ripped through Alabama – the largest of which was 1.3 miles wide with winds rotating at 150 miles per hour. The extreme weather was linked to thunderstorms that formed in the Indian Ocean a few days earlier and over 10,000 miles away.  

During June, a wildfire burned down 90% of Lytton, British Columbia. This horrible event was fueled by an extraordinary 121.3-degree heatwave – the highest Canadian national temperature on record.  

And throughout the month of July, Europe experienced catastrophic flooding that caused 228 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage. England, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and Romania were affected. The Belgium Minister of Home Affairs described the weather as “one of the greatest natural disasters our country has ever known.” 

The climate is changing and with it, the weather patterns we’ve come to expect. It’s causing some climate scientists to worry that they may have underestimated how quickly our atmosphere has been altered or maybe misunderstood how warming climates can influence extreme weather events. The only thing certain is that everything is connected and appears to be getting worse. 

The Predictability of Unpredictability  

While weather events must be examined and treated locally, how they form should be considered on a global scale. New predictive atmospheric artificial intelligence and climate models are being put in place to help predict these events faster. It may seem like herding cats, but climatologists do hold solid facts – they know the behavior of the cats, how big they can get, and what feeds them. These data points can inform when a weird weather event is happening or about to happen so regional utilities and authorities can be alerted and ready.  

Once a prediction is issued and in place, it’s up to the local entities to mitigate the risk of the weather watch or warning. ARCOS solutions like Incident Manager can be used to call up Incident Command Structures, or an emergency response team. Since it’s automated, groups can be formed in an instant, just like the storms they are designed to counteract.  

One of the features that emergency operators like best about the solution is its scalability. As an event gains or loses power, Incident Manager can add and subtract to the structure of the event response, even allowing restoration crews to be formed and managed out of ARCOS Crew Manager or Resource Assist. ARCOS also has a solution called Resource Planner that gives users the ability to create stick counts organized by crew type and location. It can give organizations a head start on planning. The unpredictable severity of a weather event can be easily tamed by a resource management software platform like ARCOS, and indispensable leadership, emergency response and restoration can be delivered quickly when it is needed most.  

Find out more about the ARCOS software suite and watch the “Automating the Foundations of Incident Management” video series. In less than five minutes, you can learn how ARCOS tackles the major pillars of emergency management with an organized and predicted response.  

COVID Changes and Staying Up to Date During Variant Times

By Blog

The way we work has changed. Although the pandemic has brought unthinkable work trends and job expectations that at first seemed counterproductive, current research and data is demonstrating the opposite. Technology and innovation are the driving forces in revising when, where and how we perform job duties – and they have an added benefit of increasing output and job satisfaction. Wrench time has improved along with retention, but just like the virus itself, how jobs are performed will continue to evolve as living with a dynamic pandemic has become our new normal.  

Remote work is the biggest change that has swept the working world. For utilities, decisions were made as to who really needed to be in a control room or staging area, and what crew members could work from home. Even daily morning briefings were channeled into virtual meeting spaces since less people on the premises meant less chance of spreading infection. Some crews were allowed to take trucks home, and others found their morning routine starting right from the job site. Working from pods has also allowed operations to keep employees safe.  

But what about productivity and career contentment? According to 10,000 employees surveyed by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago, workers have said they were just as productive working from home as working from the office, while 30% of respondents felt they were even more productive and engaged while working from home. The same survey calculated that commuting time for employees was reduced by 62.4 million hours per day with an aggregate time savings of over 9 billion hours. This is reflected in what some utilities found by allowing team members to begin their day by starting work right from a job site instead of driving to centralized dispatch centers. Crews arrive faster, happier and complete jobs sooner allowing for more tickets to be filled during a workday.  

However, keeping track of where resources are at any given moment can be trying unless an operation has the foresight to have the correct software solutions at their disposal. With more players out in the field or at home, paper is not an option. Innovative utilities in this COVID affected world are using resource management solutions like ARCOS MobileCrew Manager, and Mobile Workbench to keep tabs on it all. With drop and drag features, the ability to rearrange crews on the fly by skillset, pod or rest, the creation of jobs in the field, and wi-fi mobile connectivity to the back office, operations are running more efficiently as the cloud-based apps work the way that today’s work is being completed.  

How has COVID affected your operations? Is it time to upgrade systems to a proven, more effective approach? Contact ARCOS and see how our solutions align with new ways of working.  


Keeping Up with Customer Growth, Contractors, and Increased Load Management

By Blog

Keeping up with customer growth can be an issue for utilities. There’s an influx of people moving into already densely populated areas and causing load strains as requests for power increase. It’s a good problem to have from a revenue perspective but presents its own set of generation and crew availability challenges. A recent example is when freezing temperatures hit Texas at the height of the pandemic. Rolling blackouts became a necessity, and as crews worked in smaller groups dictated by safety protocols, work productivity suffered. It was taking more time than usual to complete restoration jobs. In wake of these issues, the industry has started to embrace new ways of managing resources. 

The Role of Technology
Improving operations and overall efficiency comes down to technology. The goal is to acquire software that will do a job for you quickly. Through automation, generation can be controlled, and crews manned and dispatched by skillset to tickets that can be rapidly closed so they can move on and speedily finish what’s next. It still can be a balancing act but having apps like the ARCOS Resource Management Platform can help an operation focus on meeting the demands that customer growth requires – like building out new lines, expanding facilities, and maintaining the lines and equipment they already have.  

Looking to Utility Service Providers
The amount of growth is also causing an increase in the use of contractors and utility service providers. How utilities are choosing to perform contractor management is an important step in eliminating bottlenecks, roster misunderstandings, and the accurate post reporting of completed work. And as utilities are holding contractors to higher expectations (certain safety ratings, qualifications, productivity margins and whether they have supervision in the field), solutions such as ARCOS Resource Assist and Resource Assist Lite are becoming an industry standard to readily link the right contractors to a utility’s job needs.  

Efficiency through Innovation
Another item that has risen to the top is the innovative ability to look at the efficiency of all utility operations technology available. The solutions that are in the field must speak to each other so trends can be defined, work orders created, and full situational awareness attained. One solution across the whole company is not going to work, but one that ties multiple apps designed for specific tasks or purposes together will. ARCOS Mobile Workbench is a solution that has an API that bridges that gap and can deliver enterprise system data integration.  

Growth is an opportunity – an opportunity for more profit, more investment, more tech, and more benefit to the customer experience. It’s also an opportunity to create a new way of working. Contact ARCOS now and learn how our solutions can help ease the burdens your utility may be facing. 

ARCOS Callout: A Focus On Trending Enhancements

By Blog

To stay at the top of your game, you can’t stop innovating. Although ARCOS was founded in the early 2000’s with our Callout solution, we haven’t stopped improving and increasing the efficiency of our resource management platform’s anchor. However, as our Callout enhancements roll out, some new items may get lost in our users’ daily shuffle. We thought we would take time to focus on nine of Callout’s trending enhancements from over the last two years. Some of you may already be using a few of these upgrades but many may come as a surprise.  

  1. Employee Status Change Report – This enhancement (which some may know as Log Trace) makes it possible to look for changes made to an employee’s record via the Mobile app or SMS communications.​ This can be helpful in researching when/who changed the position or record of an employee on the callout list (including employees in the field), or why an employee did not receive a call they should have. 
  2. Extract Roster Push Files – Your current callout lists can now be accessed via the API for storage off-line outside of ARCOS.​ In the event that ARCOS ever goes down, the Roster Push files ensure lists are available for emergency manual calling. 
  3. Set Landing Page – This enhancement to Account Administrator capabilities will help users work smarter by allowing them to set their beginning landing page to where they spend most of their time. ​Whether it’s field schedules to get an overall view of who is working, Rest Provision, Vacation, or Sick time, users can customize the solution to start ARCOS Callout wherever they like. 
  4. Enhanced Mass Calling Capability – For those businesses using ARCOS Siren mass calling to contact customers, enhanced contact options allow for communications to be released in many different format options. Users can now use phone calls, emails or text messages. 
  5. CTT – CTT logic can aid investigation and help dispute grievances by providing reason as to why a callout appeared to result in employees being called ‘out of order’. It is a solution geared toward resolving grievances. 
  6. Two Factor Authentication Option – With an enhanced focus on the security of PII, along with the increasing need to work smarter not harder, ARCOS has added support for Two-Factor Authentication, or 2FA. This allows employees to have a hand in protecting their information, while freeing administrators from being inundated by password reset requests. It also enforces additional security for logins. 
  7. Shift Assignment by Roster – Administrators can assign the same shift to all roster members. This functionality supports rotating shifts (especially during these pandemic times). It’s an easy way ​to keep crews together, and minimize ‘cross crew contamination,’ by assigning all members of a roster to a specific shift in a simple click.
  8. Enhanced Mobile App Options – With the addition of SMS texting from Callout, crews in the field can receive a call, an email, and a push notification simultaneously – or not. This new Callout attribute lets ARCOS users control how field workers receive callout offers. You have the choice to send only an SMS text or delay a phone call until after an SMS text so an employee does not receive a text and a phone call at the same time. Users now have options, which opens new ways of Callout delivery.
  9. Enhanced Security Edit Options – Taking additional steps to put more control into the field employee’s hands, new security features can be used to allow a field user to make changes to their phone numbers without a supervisor’s help.​ Again, this frees up administrators so they can keep attention on operational tasks.  

 These are just nine of the latest enhancements to ARCOS Callout. Our team of developers and product managers are working on many more and are always open to suggestions. Check out the ARCOS IdeaBank to post your ideas and vote on others suggested by fellow users. To learn more about ARCOS Callout and the whole ARCOS Resource Management Platformcontact us here 

Water Infrastructure Repair & Replacement during Emergent Times

By Blog

Utilities and public works organizations that manage large infrastructure replacement, repair or maintenance jobs are trying to dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to complete their tasks. So much so, that a recent list of priorities created by the American Waste Water Association mentions “the renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure” as the number one priority facing water companies in 2021. This aspect of the business is so important, it outranks finding financing for capital improvements and securing long term water availability. 

Don’t just take our word for it – Cheryl Porter, Chief Operating Officer of the Great Lakes Water Authority, says:  

“The aging infrastructure of Great Lakes Water Authority continues to deteriorate, raising maintenance and repair costs. To build resiliency, we are simultaneously working to meet stringent standards for safe and clean drinking water while investing in the maintenance and renewal of critical infrastructure that is vital to our community.”  

This also raises the challenges of compliance with current and future regulations surrounding the water industry and the costs associated with the task. 

Facing the Challenge

The top recurring challenges reflect the complexity of how water utilities address and pay for the replacement of aging infrastructure. The water community, along with public and private partners, continues to develop and refine innovative solutions, but there is still widespread trouble with handling the process as a whole. These can range anywhere from securing financing for capital projects and improvements, to emergency preparedness and even trying to raise public awareness of the importance of the entire water infrastructure system. This understanding of the importance of clean water is critical in securing the future funding needed to fix these infrastructure problems and to address the myriad of other issues facing the water industry today. 

However, help is coming – the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plan’s early proposals include $56 billion in grants and loans to upgrade and modernize water systems, $45 billion for lead service line replacement and $10 billion for other improvements and upgrades. Congress introduced several bills in early 2021 aimed at increasing federal support for upgrading and maintaining the nation’s water infrastructure. 

With this financing becoming available to the nation’s water and wastewater companies, there are solutions out there that make it easier to inspect, repair and replace the nation’s aging infrastructure systems and recover some of the costs. ARCOS is a proven partner to water companies and can help you mitigate and recover what is spent. Check out how ARCOS can help with storm cost recovery and be a partner in your success. 

Wildfire Contractor and Utility Service Provider Management at a Fraction of $536 Million

By Blog

In April, the State of California passed a bill to spend $536 million on wildfire prevention. The money is earmarked for forest and vegetation management, clearing brush around rural homes, and retrofitting older buildings in high-risk areas with fire-resistant materials. Lawmakers rushed the bill ahead of the normal budget process since reservoir levels are at an all-time low and drought conditions are seeing no end in sight.  

What does Senate Bill 85 mean for California utilities? It means an uptick in the use of contractors and utility service providers, especially vegetation removal teams. To stay ahead of potential danger and property loss, the fuel on the forest floor must be cleared and trees trimmed. There’s no other way to get the job done than rely on outside help. But how do you manage an increasing number of external crews? How did you keep rosters straight between contractor and utility? How do you get crews to the right areas and job sites? And just who documents it all?  

With solutions like ARCOS Resource AssistResource Assist LiteCrew Manager and Mobile Workbench, the daunting task of managing contractor and utility service provider crews becomes a snap. How can each app help?  

  • ARCOS Resource Assist removes the bottleneck of communication between utilities and USPs. It allows USPs to submit rosters quickly in an agreed upon format while providing utilities a pre-approved list of contractors that can be quickly matched to any work ticket and job specifications. Utility Service Providers can sign up here 
  • ARCOS Resource Assist Lite is a free version of Resource Assist. Some functionality is removed, but it’s still a strong application that can connect everyone together so they can speak the same language.  
  • ARCOS Crew Manager can work hand in hand with Resource Assist. It can help quickly identify which crews, vehicles and equipment are available for work and improves the ability to assign, manage, and track these resources. It provides full situational awareness and allows users to know who is available, where they are and how much money is being spent.  
  • ARCOS Mobile Workbench can help send crews where they need to be. It’s a powerful work ticket/order and job management system. It’s designed to get daily jobs done more efficiently by combining the ability to manage both people and work in one system, improving work completion and reducing operations and & maintenance costs.  

And one of the best features of the ARCOS Resource Management Platform is that it keeps a record of everything. Documentation for regulators, FEMA, auditors, or state envoys are easily retrievable from ARCOS’ one source of historical truth.  To find out more, contact ARCOS and better mitigate the 2021 wildfire season.  

ARCOS Mobile: What’s New?

By Blog

Callout is the app that started the Resource Management Platform for ARCOS. Before its existence, it could take operations managers, dispatchers, and supervisors hours, and hundreds of phone calls to put together a crew to respond, restore and report to an electric outage, event, or a daily work challenge. Now, it literally can take seconds.  

As time progressed, so did ARCOS Callout. ARCOS took Callout and made it mobile with ARCOS Mobile. This innovative app release gave users easier access to Callout via a tablet or smartphone. It also empowered crew members by giving them the ability to change their callout availability for after-hours work and visibility of their callout performance and contact information.  

And as we hit the middle point of 2021, enhanced functionality is coming to this time and money saving solution. Get ready for Mobile Callout Create and Mobile Check-In.  

The Future Goes Wherever You Are 

Mobile Callout Create has the same functionality contained in the web version of Callout, adapted to a four-step process that fits a mobile device’s screen. Mobile Callout Create is active for all current mobile customers and only needs to be added to security settings to use. Some callout types and attributes are not yet supported, but those are on track to be added soon.  

Mobile Check-In is currently in development. This feature will add QR based scanning for tracking resources through your organization. It groups all checkpoint activity by Event and is viewable in the web application Checkpoint Dashboard providing timestamped details about the resource, the checkpoint, and the person scanning. All activity is filterable and searchable which provides forensic level visibility into the movement of resources within your organization.  

Other Mobile Check-In features that are being worked on include rule validation (which will display notices in the mobile and web applications and can even be set to allow a successful checkpoint scans with warnings), custom notifications, reusable checkpoint templates for quick instantiation, lists of anticipated resources, and definable subsequent actions that can update application data or statuses.  

How can Mobile Callout Create and Mobile Check-In be used?  

The Use Cases are endless, but here are few ideas of how both new features can be utilized by utilities:  

  • Batch Check-in hundreds of resources into a basecamp in minutes 
  • Gate Security can verify that ARCOS sMART convoys have permission to enter 
  • Dispatchers can be alerted on scan if employee training has expired 
  • Indication in ARCOS Crew Manager when employees arrive on site 
  • One QR code assignment can track access, meals, lodging, status, etc. 
  • Employees can self-scan which allows unmanned checkpoints 
  • Resource flow data can be analyzed to optimize efficiencies 

If you would like to know how ARCOS Mobile, Mobile Callout Create and Mobile Check-In could benefit your specific operation or would like to find out more ideas, contact ARCOS now. We would love to work with you.  

Platform Integration – The Power of the ARCOS API

By Blog

Data. It runs everything. It is often used to determine employee performance, audit business operations, and report on resource utilization during major events via historical metrics.​ In just the ARCOS Resource Management Platform alone, our utility partners can work with real-time data on the go, such as responders being notified by ARCOS Mobile that they have a pending work opportunity, and managers seeing their acceptance immediately right in the app; crew leaders using ARCOS Crew Manager to view and record the status and attributes of their crews;  and the ability to have external resource tracking options based on real-time location data in ARCOS sMART.​ But, how do you tie it all together?  

There is a real critical need for operations to maintain and report on the vast amount of data points coming in, especially during an event. However, for most organizations, data is in a myriad of systems that do not communicate or play well with each other. Not everyone has the full ARCOS suite of solutions. Critical Infrastructure industries need a way to connect legacy, outage, work management and EAMS systems. With ARCOS, platform integration is possible through a powerful API. 

The ARCOS Application Programming Interface, or API, allows third-party programs and data sources to interact directly with the data in ARCOS. ARCOS has made an industry leading bridge that connects your systems together. How does it work? Through three possible methods of integration: 

REST – The first way ARCOS can integrate platforms is through the industry standard Representational State Transfer API, commonly referred to as REST. The core ARCOS Resource Management Platform offering is deeply integrated with REST and offers many exciting opportunities.​ Rest is just like visiting a website. ARCOS is provided with a URL and method that contains all the instructions and data detailing what should occur, and that action is executed in real-time – and rest assured your API and operational data are secure and locked tight.  

SOAP – The second is another industry standard called Simple Object Access Protocol or SOAP. SOAP is primarily used for ARCOS RosterApps but has strong integration capabilities.​ 

SOAP is like sending someone a letter in the mail. The integration will prepare an envelope that explains what methods you want to use to retrieve or input information. Inside the envelope, we’ll place additional instructions and data that needs to be handled during the transaction. ​ 

MULTISPEAK​ – Finally, the most recent technology ARCOS offers is support of the MultiSpeak standard for our Cooperative customers. MultiSpeak essentially allows ARCOS and customer systems to naturally speak the same language. MultiSpeak is an exciting new ARCOS integration on any project our utility partners would like to undertake.​ 

So, what does all this mean? What kind of data are we able to manage via the API? Some of the most common integrations ARCOS has seen and supported are:​ 

  • Sending and receiving Work Order information from ARCOS Crew Manager or Mobile Workbench, such as automatically loading in Work Orders generated from an Outage Management System.​ 
  • Time and Availability data, such as loading accrual data to ARCOS Callout for sorting roster lists.​ 
  • Scheduling data to and from ARCOS, such as keeping a Click, Workbrain, or SAP scheduling system synchronized with the ARCOS schedule.​ 
  • Transferring historical callout data so it can be extracted for reporting and business intelligence analytics.​ 
  • The exciting capability to create and manage callouts from drafting to fulfillment. This means you could have the ARCOS API create, initiate, and track responses to callouts occurring in ARCOS in real time.​ 

ARCOS also supports the integration of people data, such as employee demographics, hierarchical information, and contact device. This allows customers to maintain their staff in ARCOS based on Active Directly, ADP, and other Employee data systems.​ ​The same applies to resources in ARCOS Crew Manager and ARCOS Mobile Workbench. The ARCOS Resource Management Platform API allows the creation and full management of all resource data.​ 

Last but not least, let’s not forget about reporting. The data you can access in the ARCOS Web UI or Mobile Application can be retrieved programmatically though the API, enhancing business intelligence across any enterprise.​ It enables trends to be spotted, service gaps to be identified, and historical records to be fashioned for easy analysis and retrieval. 

If you would like to know more about these products and ARCOS’s exciting platform integration capabilities, contact ARCOS now. We’d love to tell you more.