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The Real Eye of the Hurricane Part 2: Reporting for Storm Cost Reimbursement

By Blog

A stack of semi-disorganized papersA huge challenge related to storm recovery is recouping your costs from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and other agencies. In an emergency, your focus is on dealing with the immediate damage. Later you go back and worry about filling out the forms. The reconciliation process usually takes months, or even years, with detailed reporting mandatory in all aspects. As a result, much of the money spent on storm response is never recovered because of inaccurate or inadequate reporting.

ARCOS can help you find everything you need to successfully get reimbursed and speed up the process. Our built-in and custom reports are available in real-time with a variety of ways to organize the data. We provide a single source of truth for all operations, storing everything in one place so you can find what you need with just a few clicks.

Automation Makes Easy

Previously, tracking resources was a difficult and cumbersome process. It was often done on spreadsheets, updated with phone calls, faxes, and scribbled notes in the margins. Or on a whiteboard, which would eventually be erased. Documentation from contractors may not match your own records. And when there was conflicting info, it was hard to know who was right. Notes could be missed, updates not made, and then the reporting becomes incomplete.

With a Resource Management Solution like ARCOS, everything is tracked automatically. Once configured, you don’t have to do anything to enable or maintain tracking. All you have to do is use the software to manage all your resources. This eliminates many of the inconsistencies and, with a trained staff, virtually gets rid of human error.

Flexible and Efficient for Your Needs

ARCOS isn’t just one solution; it’s a suite of solutions that work together.

Crew Manager tracks crews and equipment in the field with very little effort. Resources can be assigned ahead of time or adjusted in the moment, depending on your needs. Hotels and meals can even be assigned and calculated. It’s cloud-based, so you can access it from anywhere. It keeps a running historical record of who was where and what work was accomplished. Combined with Mobile Workbench, field employees have the access they need to keep the back office updated on their activities, tied to GPS coordinates.

Resource Assist enables you to fold contractor crews right into your existing process. Contractors load their resources easily into their own portal. Then, you can bring them over to your Crew Manager with a few clicks. This seamless mixing of internal and external resources makes tracking extremely easy, as there’s only a single place to go to find all the information you need.

Incident Manager contains everything you need to handle emergencies. ARCOS makes it simple to set up a plan structure, ready to ramp up or down as the situation progresses. You can put a leadership framework on place, activate only who you need, and have the whole organizational chart available at a glance. You can set it up ahead of time for a variety of situations. During the event, Incident Manager has the same real-time, comprehensive tracking that exists in the rest of ARCOS.

The result is clear. Spreadsheets, whiteboards, and manual processes can be replaced by one electronic system that tracks everything. You can quickly access this historical documentation to find the data needed for reimbursement. You’ll be able to submit more quickly and often more completely. This gives FEMA and other organizations what they need to get you paid rapidly. Many of our partners report they cut their storm cost recovery time in half with ARCOS. The cost saved on Aspirin is just a bonus.

Read our whitepaper on how we link contractors with utilities. Then contact ARCOS to learn more about increasing your storm recovery efficiency.

Why Your Homegrown Systems Aren’t Working

By Blog

Frustrated businessman with hand on foreheadThere seem to be many benefits to creating homegrown systems for your process needs… at least at first. You control the development and construct it exactly to your specifications. You may save costs up front. Each member of the team can weigh in on what they need and how to do it best, being on-site and involved. Unfortunately, only hindsight is 20/20 and problems tend to build up over time. And, of course, the older the system, the more challenges you’re likely to run into. These trends are seen across the board with almost all homegrown systems. Let’s look at the drawbacks to building your work management solution in-house.

Building the System

It’s easy to identify a process that isn’t working and focus on that as the basis for your development. Then, you identify another process. And another. Homegrown systems tend to be a series of work solutions built independently, rather than a comprehensive solution that interacts and functions as a single source of truth. By creating silos of development initially, it becomes difficult to synthesize data and trends over the various systems. It’s also challenging to make them interact with one another.

Even within a single silo, processes continue to change, mandating further enhancements. Instead of redoing the system from the ground up each time, additional layers of complexity are added to account for new business needs or technological advancements. Eventually, this becomes an exceedingly long script of code, inefficient and unwieldly. New layers may not play well with old ones. Identifying exactly where things are conflicting and how to resolve that conflict is time intensive. Troubleshooting becomes a massive undertaking.

Once built, it’s hard to keep it maintained and updated. A homegrown system will likely lack many features that are standard in most modern software, making them less useful. Your internal developers are focused on other projects, as well, rather than being experts in the specific way you need them to be.

The alternative of just building and forgetting, rather than continuing to develop, is just as bad. Over time, the way the software is used is bound to change. The old system becomes used for a purpose other than what it was built for. It’s not a good fit.

Personnel Turnover

As the homegrown system gets larger and more complex, it’s more important than ever for those building, supporting, and using it to have knowledge of how it works. Unfortunately, people don’t stay in one position forever. They are promoted, retire, or leave for other reasons. New hires are often intimidated by a complex homegrown system which takes a long time to learn. Documentation is rarely complete, necessitating a lot of investigation, trial, and error to fix or improve anything. Legacy and institutional knowledge is lost.

This makes it hard to attract and train new talent. Potential recruits can go elsewhere and use standardized tools that are easy to understand and with outside technical support. They often chose to do so to avoid the frustration of working with an unwieldy internally built system. And as turnover happens multiple times, needed updates and repairs fall further down the priority list and take longer to implement.

Reporting

Another challenge faced with homegrown systems is getting accurate and useful reporting. Often, data must be obtained from an IT department, which has many other tasks on their plate. This frequently leads to long wait times.

Once the data is obtained, it is usually delivered in a raw format or single spreadsheet dump, rather than in an interactive dashboard that you can easily customize. If the information needs to be compared to a whole separate data set, pulled at a different time, it’s not always easily done. This makes finding inefficiencies, as well as completing any outside reporting required by business rules or law, difficult.

ARCOS’ suite of solutions can help you avoid all these issues. It’s built by a team of experts who are constantly updating and streamlining the software. We listen to your needs, and release frequent updates based on customer feedback. At the same time, many aspects of our systems are configurable in a large variety of ways, so you can still get exactly what you want. You can change those criteria as needed.

What’s more, we have a full-time staff of professionals dedicated to helping you make the solutions work for you. If they’re not, we can help you implement the necessary changes to get there. This will not only save you time and internal resources, but also make your operations more efficient.

Find out more by contacting us today.

Resources, Restoration, and Remote Work

By Blog

Two linemen working on a poleA lot has changed in the past few years. Many workers have gone remote and are not regularly going into the office. It has become harder to hire, train, and retain strong talent as the Great Resignation has seen many Americans change jobs. More turnover is expected in the utility industry in the next five to eight years. At the same time, major storms have also struck more frequently, leading to longer and more widespread outages. All of these present a challenge to utility companies.

Thankfully, the challenges are not insurmountable. A variety of advancements are making these hurdles easier to get past and setting companies up for future success. Utilities must increase efficiency and speed of restoration with fewer resources to maintain service as it’s been, let alone improve it. ARCOS has solutions to help you do just that, setting you up for success.

Hardening the System

ARCOS’ own Jim Nowak retired as manager of emergency restoration planning for AEP (American Electric Power) in 2014 with thirty-seven years’ experience. He recently reflected upon these very issues in PowerGrid International. He noted that many utilities, including Florida Power & Light, have been working to harden their systems. They’re upgrading them to better withstand severe weather events.

Upgrades like this are important, but costly. Further complicating the situation, some parts of systems do get hardened and don’t break down during events. This can lead to a false sense of security; consumers don’t want to shell out the hundreds of billions of dollars it would take to truly make utilities in the United States ready to face major storms if they don’t see the problem affecting them. So, while these are ongoing efforts, they aren’t going to be fully implemented in the near future.

Better Resource Management

A more cost-effective solution, at least for now, is making the resources you already have work more efficiently. One way to do this is through automation. Automated callouts have been used for some time to get responders in the field when disasters strike. More can now be done ahead of time to target these repairs more precisely. Specialized crews can be set up to easily activate with a few clicks. Multiple scenarios can be mapped out to quickly scale the response up or down as needed. Data can be analyzed from past situations so that labor and equipment resources are staged in the most appropriate places for them to be mobilized.

None of this prevents an outage, but it does help to restore power more quickly when outages occur. It also helps shore up the weakest link in a much cheaper way than rebuilding systems to not go down in the first place. The public is more accepting of outages when they don’t last as long. This helps utility companies provide service while waiting on those long-term upgrades to slowly be put in place.

Work From Wherever

Many utility employees can’t work from home, as their tasks take place in the field. There are still ways to decentralize the office to make operations run more smoothly. Many utilities have created take-home kits for staff members to ramp up from where they live. Not only does this allow workers to perform their jobs where they are most comfortable, it also saves time. When an event occurs, employees can almost instantly begin to respond instead of needing to drive to an office first. Without needing to allow for travel time, it’s easier to rotate staff in and out of deployment when they are already in their own living space.

Now, this may not be appropriate for every aspect of the operation. Some tasks must be performed on secure networks, which aren’t easily accessed remotely. But smaller satellite branches may also be an option, closer to where workers live than a central office. So even if the employees need to travel, they may spend less time doing so. This improves efficiency and increases job satisfaction, allowing greater flexibility for employees.

Whether it is automating response or shifting where people work, these advancements allow more work to get done with less. This will help utilities better withstand labor shortages and mass retirements. It also makes the jobs more attractive to potential employees, which reinforces the same.

ARCOS’ suite of resource management solutions can help you prepare for, and respond to, emergencies. Our Incident Manager, in particular, can take off much of the pressure from emergencies if properly set up ahead of time. And when the storms hit, we can help you callout crews, manage your resources, and even give you real-time visibility into the field.

Contact us to get started so you’re ready before the next emergency hits.

Improving Profit and Contractor Management with Digitization

By Blog

Abstract graphic demonstrating a digital environmentAcross companies and at multiple locations, contractor forepersons are spending hours filling out spreadsheets to manage work. They then submit those sheets to the general foreperson for review, who makes changes and asks questions. Then the sheets are looked over again to ensure accuracy. This makes for a long and cumbersome process.

Many times, these processes are manual. They are managed through stacks of paper, which often contain outdated versions of forms. Changes are communicated via phone calls, texts, and emails, which can get lost in the shuffle. Timesheets may not be finalized until the week payroll is due, cutting close to deadlines. These processes result in lost revenue.

Digitization and automation are possible through an electronic system with real-time visibility and instant logging of data. All relevant staff members can instantly see when work is completed. Information can be transferred seamlessly between contractors and the utilities they’re working with. Invoices can not only be more accurate, but they can also be automatically generated. Hours are saved by not having to format, reformat, review, and prove invoiced jobs.

This isn’t just a dream. It’s an option available right now.

Fast, Accurate Callouts

Implementing an automated solution for callout and scheduling can ensure that you have the right people you need to fill shifts, during both daily operations and after-hours emergencies. Using a system like ARCOS Callout, all of your business and union rules can be considered in seconds. Rosters can be pre-built and ready to call at a moment’s notice. They can also be automatically rotated, update, or reordered.

In this way, you can find the exact number of resources you need in a brief time frame. You can ensure that the individuals called are qualified for the job at hand. You can call multiple people at once. All without ever having to actually pick up a phone.

With ARCOS Resource Assist, contractor resources can be integrated seamlessly with your own internal organization. This gives the same visibility you’re used to having for your own resources, to outside companies, improving efficiency and transparency.

Accuracy and Invoice Validation

A fully automated Resource Management platform not only increases efficiency through electronic data capture and distribution of work orders to field crews, but also reduces manual entry and extensive reviews of work orders. You get a real-time view of all resources and jobs, as well as detailed and accurate past reporting. With ARCOS Crew Manager, you can even schedule into the future, too. This expands wrench time and reduces administrative work.

As the situation on the ground evolves, changes in the field are common. With Mobile Workbench, those adjustments can be communicated in real-time with an electronic paper trail keeping track. It connects mobile devices to a browser-based back office that can be accessed anywhere. This makes invoicing simple and minimizes the need for disputes and partial payments.

ARCOS: Your Competitive Advantage

Almost every major utility in the United States is using ARCOS to automate their callout process and organize crews, helping to get the lights on faster during emergencies and complete daily work efficiently. If so many are already using ARCOS in their daily lives – why aren’t you?

Bringing ARCOS into your daily activities will instantly allow access to the work completed and accurate reporting and billing, while bolstering the data you need to respond and restore faster. When it comes to managing the bottom line in real-time, the ARCOS Resource Management platform provides utilities and contractors with one source of truth for assigning field order assignments, managing work progress, and collecting job detail as it happens – all while gaining a full competitive advantage and differentiation in the market by offering an automated delivery of work orders, approvals, and as-built changes.

Want to learn more? Contact us today.

Benefits of Work Management Software

By Blog

Person standing by a meter and taking advantage of the benefits of work order management softwarePiles of spreadsheets and making updates to rosters by phone call and fax are a hassle. In the modern era, work can be managed electronically. Field workers can update a centralized system instantly, so the back office has full visibility into operations. This allows for real-time status updates, swift adjustments as needed, comprehensive and accurate tracking and reporting, and a convenient path to submit feedback. Taken altogether, a well-designed work order management system is easy to use and brings all the data you need into one place.

ARCOS is one such system, with our suite of solutions for all your work order management needs. Our Callout solution lets you build rosters and get employees assigned to jobs quickly. Crew Manager gives you a full view of everything happening at any given time in a configurable dashboard, which you can break down into as many views as you may want or need. Resource Assist adds contractors into the system right alongside your internal employees, which creates a seamless combination of the two. Mobile Workbench brings work management functionality into the field, with those on assignments able to keep the back office always appraised of their progress.

Benefits of a Work Order Management System

We all know that quick, efficient restoration is what customers seek to keep them happy. To do that, work needs to run smoothly. Hundreds of maintenance and repair requests may come in at any given time and you need a way to respond to them systematically and rapidly. Each situation is unique, but there are commonalities and patterns you’ve identified and built-for over the years.

ARCOS’ work order management software helps you take those legacy processes and modernize them to be more efficient and automated. This includes finding the right employee or contractor for the given job, managing the resources they need, and having the data to analyze and plan for the next occurrence. We can work with you to transfer what you’re already doing into a digitized system and automate many of your regular tasks.

All of this decreases costs because it guarantees the right resources, including experienced personnel, are sent the first time. Automating recurring tasks also saves money because they can be initiated fast, with just a couple of clicks. The efficiency gained leads to better performance. With strong tracking, preventive maintenance can also easily be added into the process, preventing the need for costly repairs and downtime.

How ARCOS Does It, Configurable to Your Processes

Our Resource Assist module allows you to connect to thousands of contractors. If those you’re used to working with aren’t already in the system, it only takes a few minutes to set them up; you can then load them into Crew Manager with just a few clicks.

Once in Crew Manager, you can set crews, assign them work, and allocate equipment, lodging, and more. Our timeline functionality lets you see what’s happening right now, what’s scheduled for the future, or what was happening at any given point in the past. This makes reporting for process analysis or invoicing a breeze. You can sort by just about any criteria you can think of, allowing quick glances at service areas, work orders, and more. Also, your staff can keep you informed of progress through Mobile Workbench.

In the field, Mobile Workbench gives workers everything they need to know for the task at hand, right on the phone they use every day. They can see problem areas, equipment, stock, and notes. They can make their own additions and alterations, which are communicated instantly to you. You can even reroute them or give them a heads up on their next assignment. And, if they run into problems, it’s simple to reassign any unfinished work to another team based on the same criteria.

Work Order Management software improves accuracy and efficiency, reducing human error and redundancy. It’s a single source of truth for all of your operations, constantly refreshed with real-time updates.

To learn more about ARCOS’ suite of solutions, and how they can apply to your existing operations, contact us today.

The Real Eye of the Hurricane Part 1: Restoration & Resource Management

By Blog

Crews clean up a residential street during hurricane seasonAlthough it seems like we just got through hurricane season, 2022’s season will be upon us soon. ARCOS wants to help every utility be prepared. In this three-part blog series, we’ll address:

  • Solutions needed to make operations more efficient before and after a large event
  • How to reduce restoration costs through real-time reporting and flexibility
  • Ways to streamline FEMA and regulator reporting for a larger reimbursement

Welcome to our first installment, where we’ll cover the challenges surrounding Restoration and Resource Management.

Step One: Be Prepared

The real beginning to a project of this magnitude starts with pre-planning. Having a dynamic restoration outline in place, based on past events, is essential to organizing a rapid response.

Utilities who use ARCOS have a solid footing for crew and resource management from the get-go, using a historical record of every event that has come before. They can prepare various scenarios and workgroups ahead of time, ready in moments to ramp up or ramp down operations, making response times quicker. They know how many resources they have at their disposal, how crews were previously distributed, and what previous event time frames look like.

Secure in that historical knowledge, utilities can move on to making their pre-event plans wider in range and scope. They can expand and cover more operational tasks, like inventory procurement and increased health and safety measures. A utility no longer must construct crews on the fly during an emergency. They can be prepared ahead of time and simply adjusted, if needed, when implemented.

Proven Results: Ready Before the Storm

In the case of Hurricane Ida last year, utilities knew the storm was coming. They started using ARCOS Crew Manager days ahead of time to track and manage their teams. They seamlessly folded more than 27,000 mutual assistance and contractor crews from thirty-six states and the District of Columbia into the same system. Through ARCOS, they managed and tracked all the associated equipment and specialty tools needed to restore power, as well as every crew member’s hotel and lodging logistical data.

They were ready once Hurricane Ida made landfall and started on its destructive path. The head start created by Crew Manager, due to rosters and teams already being uploaded into the software, significantly shortened the time crews took to arrive on the scene. Pre-placed, crews were ready at staging areas spread across the hurricane ravaged area.

After initial damage assessment was completed, operators using Crew Manager sent out teams to the work that was defined as needed accomplished first. This included dispatching wire-down safety personnel, equipment, repair crews, and stage site management groups. By providing the latest data from the field and sharing it with every invested stakeholder, ARCOS Crew Manager made sure crews could safely, quickly, and efficiently re-wire and replace damaged transmission equipment. Power was restored quickly to thousands of customers.

ARCOS Service: Here for you When it Matters Most

Working with Ida-affected utility IT and Operations departments, ARCOS Support, Customer Success, Development, QA, and Product Management teams stayed online with the utility’s teams throughout the duration of the event to ensure that they had what they needed in their time of crisis. ARCOS was a part of their critical operations systems, such as OMS, WMS, GIS, SCADA, and CIS. The ARCOS teams helped support restoration processes to get power back to customers quicker.

2021 saw 17 tropical storms, seven hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. It’s impossible to know just how many will come in 2022, but we do know that destructive storms are continuing to become more severe. To respond, restore and report to the increasing frequency of devastating weather events, ARCOS Crew Manager is a must-have technology.

In our next blog, we’ll look at how ARCOS Solutions can provide the necessary reporting for storm cost reimbursement. Join us for the “The Real Eye of the Hurricane Part 2.”

Contact ARCOS to learn more about bolstering your storm response, and check out this whitepaper on how ARCOS can help increase your storm cost recovery reimbursement.

Speeding Up Restoration by Digitally Linking to Contractors

By Blog

Two linemen working on a poleWith so many things being instantly available in modern society, it can be a challenge to satisfy eager customers when services go down. They likely don’t know just how much happens behind the scenes to bring their utility service to them and are looking for an immediate fix.

When it comes to restoration, a big challenge for many companies is lining up contractors to assist. Bringing in additional crews can be a timely process, with back-and-forth communications to outside companies and roster spreadsheets that need multiple updates. This impacts the overall speed of the repair greatly.

Once the fixes are in-process, some utilities have turned to text messages and online portals to communicate repair status with their customers. This gives some insight into the process and sets expectations for when services may be running again. But isn’t it even better if the fix itself can be quicker?

Automating the Process

A large part of the time involved in restoration is spent communicating with employees and assigning them specific work. This includes both internal staff and outside contractors, the latter of which often requires a separate process. Add to that the slowdowns that happen along the way, from errors in data entry, to making changes on the fly once the full extent of the damage is known. Sometimes, workers or contractors without the correct skillset are sent to the wrong place. Then there’s the closing -out of the event, which often requires reconciling money spent on work done and reporting on all activities,; including data that you may have to wait to get from contracting partners.

The ARCOS Resource Management platform can improve much of that process by automating assignments and reporting. Rosters can be automatically built by skillset and availability, calling out just who is needed. Crews can be assigned and monitored in Crew Manager. Contractors and mutual assistance employees can be easily integrated into your existing system with Resource Assist, making them part of your workflow rather than an exception.

Real-World Success

One of our utility partners, FirstEnergy, is one of America’s largest investor-owned utilities. Their storm response team includes nearly 100 contractor companies, as well as their own staff. Since adding Resource Assist to their workflow, FirstEnergy has filled tens of thousands of requests for crews, expediting restoration, eliminating errors, and speeding up reconciliation.

They’ve gone from a largely manual process to using our automated portal, making changes quickly and efficiently. Instead of taking hours to build crews, FirstEnergy now begins assigning work within ten minutes of receiving responses.

Another utility partner, Pacific Gas and Electric, uses ARCOS Resource Management daily for clear sky operations, as well as storm support. They’ve eliminated inconsistencies, standardized their crew building process, and now track their work digitally. They can see a snapshot of which crews and equipment are available from their teams and contractors well in advance, or in real-time. This allows them to plan for exactly the number of additional resources and employees needed at any moment.

Once PG&E helped their contractor partners get registered in Resource Assist, the time required to request and manage those crews was reduced by 80%. They no longer have any mistakes when assembling rosters. They know every day just how many contractors are on their property, where they are, and what they’re doing.

Quick and Efficient

All our processes are configurable, and we will work with you to design a solution that fits your existing workflows. We can minimize the manual parts of your processes, saving you administrative time and money, and digitally connect you to your contracting partners to secure resources in minutes. Best of all, you’ll be able to get services back to your customers as quickly as possible – making them, and you, happy.

To learn more about saving time and speeding up your restoration with the ARCOS Resource Management platform, read our latest case study or contact ARCOS now.

How Digitization Can Improve Efficiency and Help Attract New Talent

By Blog

Woman working at a computerFrom an aging work force to the difficulties of attracting new employees in a tight job market, the utility industry is facing plenty of challenges. When you are struggling to deal with the day-to-day challenges, plus any emergencies that come up, it’s hard to think about making improvements. It’s even more difficult when a company’s culture, as many are, is resistant to change. Digitization can help improve efficiency and help attract new talent.

If done correctly, the shift from manual to digital processes can help your business combat inefficiency in a variety of ways. This doesn’t mean just installing limited digital projects, siloed as their own initiatives, without making changes to anything else. Instead, the solution involves embracing the agile, ever-changing digital world we live in.

This process evolution will appeal to younger hires who don’t want to deal with inefficient legacy systems and help position your organization to be more competitive in the modern job market. ARCOS can help with a suite of resource management solutions to manage all your resources, often building upon your existing framework and integrating with your other digital systems.

Getting More Done with Less

In this job environment, finding enough new employees to fill the ranks is tough. What’s more, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the utility workforce is approaching retirement age and will soon be taking their experience and knowledge out the door with them. Companies are faced with trying to get more done than ever with fewer resources than they’re used to having. As a result, legacy processes need a refresh.

Digitization can improve your efficiency, allowing you to get more work done with a smaller staff. By using technology to map resources, you can direct the closest resources to both planned and unplanned work. This allows you to be agile and adjust staff while they are still in the field – no need to bring them back in or make a bunch of phone calls. This allows for jobs to be completed quicker will fewer miles driven. That in turn saves time and money.

Visibility In the Field

Speaking of being in the field, workers can make use of digital apps on mobile devices to keep the back office updated at all times. This allows greater visibility for management, meaning they can catch mistakes before they happen, and reroute crews as priorities change. This is beneficial in blue skies but even more so in grey where the situation on the ground can change quickly.

With this kind of transparency, gone are mistakes that may happen with miscommunications across departments. Employees won’t be assigned to duplicate jobs. Workloads can be rebalanced as needed. Contractors can be added right into your own system, alongside internal employees, so they can be managed in the same ways and with the same oversight.

Additionally, you can build the digital forms that field workers use, standardizing reports to get the same information, the same way, every time.

Easy Reporting

Lots of time is often spent digging through paper reports, rooting through file cabinets, and compiling relevant information. Digitizing can eliminate much of that time and effort by providing comprehensive data, configurable for a variety of situations. Much of the tracking in digital systems is done automatically, eliminating manual data entry and filing processes, and ensuring accuracy. Because the information is stored electronically in standardized formats, it can be pulled, sorted, and filtered quickly and easily in a variety of views.

You can use this data to quickly identify inefficiencies, areas for growth, and other patterns. All of this is done with a few clicks, rather than having to manually compile and examine reports. Changes can be made to the displayed information in a couple of keystrokes.

ARCOS’ Resource Management Platform operates this way. Our digital, cloud-based systems are accessible anywhere with a large range of configurable reporting. We can help you modernize your existing processes, getting more mileage and money out of your legacy systems. This adds efficiency and savings to your processes that are working, while attracting talent to help take you to the next level with new technology.

To discuss how you can move your existing work management process into the digital realm, reach out to us today.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Homegrown and Legacy Systems

By Blog

Change can be hard, and our basic instincts often guard against making changes. You remember the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, this perfectly normal urge can allow us to grow complacent. This applies not only to our personal lives but also our work lives. The systems we use, which have been honed and refined over decades of experience, can sometimes go without review and enhancement for years. Also, even the most refined processes have room for improvement. The needs and requirements of the world keep changing and so must we to stay relevant and competitive.

The challenge is to identify what shouldn’t be touched and what can be improved upon. ARCOS understands this and has a variety of configurable options for all your business needs. We can often incorporate your legacy processes into your personalized configuration in the various ARCOS solutions. This allows you to get more mileage and leverage out of what you worked so hard to build, without disrupting your business.

Replacing Manual Processes with Automated Solutions

One way to make use of ARCOS is by updating your current technology without changing your operational processes. We can help you move things you managed on paper online without modifying the steps you take to do them in. In this way, we’re not tossing out anything, we’re just upgrading the interface you use.

For instance, you likely already have many rules when deciding which employees to call for a job based on your business needs and workforce agreements. We can configure those rules into our software and automate the calls. You no longer need to take all the agreement rules into account on the fly and this helps to eliminate mistakes. We can also call multiple employees at once, making the callout process quicker and more efficient. By replacing a cumbersome task with a few clicks of the mouse, you can still do what you do, but your time is freed up to focus on what’s really important.

If you keep employee schedules in the ARCOS system, you will always know who is truly available, not just who is supposed to be available. This means there isn’t time wasted calling those on PTO or who are already out on another call. Even without the full schedules, each callout will take into account the unreleased callouts that came before.

Reporting Made Effortless

Reporting is another place where ARCOS comes in handy. In the scenario described above, the team making the manual calls needed to keep meticulous records in case a grievance was filed, or an employee questioned the order of those called. Besides essentially eliminating grievances because the system follows the configured rules every time, in ARCOS everything is tracked automatically so you can look back at what was done at any time.

The automated reporting capabilities are not just limited to callouts. Everything you do in ARCOS, from assigning schedules and rosters to managing crews and incidents, is captured and recorded. We have a variety of always available, built-in reports and can build custom reports as needed. This takes a lot of burden off the staff and saves countless administrative hours collecting and inputting data and updates manually.

With ARCOS’s robust reporting, it’s easier to identify weaknesses or areas of improvement. Managers will have more time to look over data and see the trends, as well as analyze performances. In this way, you’ll be able to figure out what truly does need to be changed and what’s already working with a minimal amount of manual effort.

Uniting the Backoffice and Field

By keeping all processes and reporting in one place, you will have instant access to all your information wherever you are. ARCOS offers mobile solutions, too, so that your field workers can keep the entire staff apprised of everything being done outside of the office. ARCOS becomes a single, central source of truth for work done anywhere, removing delays in reports coming in and being entered into the system. You will finally get a real-time look at the entire operation, resources and personnel.

This serves multiple purposes that go beyond the data-centric. It 1) more fully connects your team, 2) makes communication easier while allowing for adjustments on the fly, and 3) lets you manage the flow of work in blue skies or grey, being nimble and responsive to the situation on the ground.

ARCOS doesn’t need to change your current process unless you want it changed. Instead, we help you update your technology and enable your systems to talk to one another while keeping everything that is already proven to be working well.

To learn how we can work with you to seamlessly blend your legacy operations with our technological upgrades, contact us today.

How to Reduce Grievances with an Easy-to-Implement, Comprehensive Callout Solution

By Blog

Kansas City Power & Light had a situation. Callouts were taking hours. Grievances were piling up. Every adjustment to the process caused another challenge. The system they were using wasn’t working and the implementation team, newly formed to handle the situation, was given a deadline to replace it by the end of the year. This was a tight timeframe and whatever solution they chose would need buy-in from multiple parties, including members from two separate unions.

Enter ARCOS. Our configurable callout solution can be implemented quickly and easily, decreasing manual callout processes from hours to minutes. It takes into account all your union and business rules to create fast and reliable calls. ARCOS also logs every action taken and call made to produce comprehensive reporting, providing all the records you need in the rare instance a grievance arises.

Vetting the Program and Exceeding the Test

KCP&L was familiar with ARCOS but they hadn’t used it. They’d heard good things from other utilities and looked into us further. They liked what they saw, but they were understandably hesitant to switch to something new – especially with the stakes involved and the fact that the last system they bought hadn’t worked out.

As a result, they hired the Edison Electric Institute to conduct a survey of companies to find out which automated callout systems they preferred. Respondents were asked what worked, what didn’t and why. This would allow KCP&L to not only know which system their peers considered the best, but what features they wanted and weak spots to avoid.

The results came in and the majority of those that used ARCOS were highly satisfied, which was in-line with the impression KCP&L already had of ARCOS. Buoyed by positive data, they decided to implement ARCOS.

Implementation

KCP&L had specific guidelines they wanted ARCOS to abide by. First, they needed rapid implementation before the end of the year that wouldn’t impact their crews greatly or negatively. Moving to a new system often means an adjustment period but KCP&L didn’t have time. Everything needed to work right out of the box.

Part of minimizing worker resistance was needing fully transparent schedules and rosters that were easy for supervisors to maintain. This way the field workers could see what was expected of them. KCP&L needed 24-7-365 availability for any employee to access the system via the internet so the callout could be made from anywhere.

Lastly, the new solution needed to fully comply with all their business and union rules. If it didn’t there would be grievances, an occurrence that was a driving reason for the switch. It would make all their work to find a better system meaningless if this couldn’t be done.

ARCOS was able to satisfy all these points.

Real World Results

Tom Burke, Superintendent of Distribution System Operations for KCP&L, was pleased. Callouts that used to take hours were done in minutes or even seconds. And he wasn’t the only one who was happy. He reported widespread acceptance from workers in the field and the back office, all overwhelmingly positive.

Tony Laughlin, Superintendent of Field Operations, had a similar reaction. Grievances plummeted. The few that were reported were all traced to user error, not problems with the system. Their new ARCOS reporting backed that up and allowed for easy resolution and unerring transparency. With data instantly and always available, accountability had never been higher.

This left the team with such a positive impression that Burke said he was looking to other ways to use ARCOS in various parts of their operations. His experience left him with the confidence he could count on ARCOS and make use of it more widely.

What more can you ask for?

To read more about KCP&L’s experience, check out their story in our whitepaper. Then, if you’d like us to do the same for you, contact ARCOS today.

 

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