Utilities restore 1M customers in 24 hours with ARCOS field mobility solutions
Like many agencies, utilities face an annual gauntlet of severe weather in the form of hurricanes, which routinely bring with them widespread outages and property damage. In 2005, Category 3 Hurricane Wilma cut service to 3.2 million customers. In the storm’s wake, the responders worked for 18 days to restore power to 90 percent of their customers.
Using traditional storm protocols, utility companies could only move so fast in mobilizing the massive workforce of native and mutual aid crews needed to deal with millions of outages. Response was delayed as they worked through the manual process of checking in crews, assigning work via paper work packet, and then attempting to coordinate without a real-time view of activity in the field. These processes in the past required radio, phone calls, emails, whiteboards, circuit maps, and drive-time to field offices.
With manual processes in effect, it was difficult to track where crews were at any given point in time. This impacted all work and timing throughout the restoration process, from understanding when mutual aid crews might arrive on the scene to properly coordinating crews in the field to make sure that their productivity was maximized. It could also impact safety as crews were operating without any sense of where their peers might be located on a downed wire or inactive circuit.
After a Category 4 Hurricane hit in the fall of 2022, more than 2 million customers lost power. Within six days of the hurricane’s landfall, response teams had restored power to 90 percent of their customers. An essential part of speeding up restoration was due to investment in a digital transformation that included the use of mobile workforce management technology from ARCOS, especially for assessing damage.
It is routine now for armies of over 20,000 line workers to tackle restoration as soon as it’s safe to do so. These workers simply get into action faster than crews handling Wilma’s outages. For example, damage assessors can tap mobile devices to find and catalog broken poles, downed wires, and wrecked transformers. Gone is the wait for assessors to deliver handwritten notes to a manager or repair team. Work group alerts to wire-guards and environmental clean-up crews are now automatic and instant. Using ARCOS mobile, assessors are disseminating information in seconds via their mobile app, versus the hours long manual process used after Wilma. Shortening a storm’s tail by digitizing damage assessment and safely expediting restoration means a utility can release mutual assistance and contractor crews sooner. Conservatively speaking, the cost of retaining thousands of crews for an additional two days can easily rack up to millions of dollars in labor.
By giving workers and managers field mobility software that links field workers, operations center staff, and back-office employees through a single pane of glass, everyone working on storm or other major event response can get a real-time look at damage, logistics, and restoration. With mobile workforce management tools, workers and managers (whether employees or contractors) have up-to-the-minute information about equipment needs, work orders, damage, restoration progress, lodging, and the location and status of field crews, all via smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Getting thousands of workers on the same platform to restore service would be a Herculean task if not for the fact that ARCOS Mobile Workbench runs on virtually any mobile device or laptop. Making the application easy to use spurred adoption, safety, and collaboration. Employees, mutual assistance crews, and contractors can download the app and began using it with an average 15 minute onboarding. That ease of use enables a utility to resource up easily and quickly, no matter the scale of the event. Assessors photograph broken assets and can even scan name-plates or QR/bar codes all within Mobile Workbench. The system tags all reports to an accurate GPS location rolled up to circuit and incident to give restoration crews all the information they need prior to getting to the job site.