Seeking to bring best-in-class mobile workforce management technology to match the largest storm event hotspot in the US, Southern Company seamlessly manages damage assessment and repair with ARCOS Mobile Workbench.
Southern Company’s primary operations are located in the south where the unique geography, mountainous terrain, and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico set the region up for severe weather throughout the year. Faced with ongoing damage to electric utility infrastructure from winter storms, hurricanes, tornados, straight line winds, and thunderstorm downbursts, Southern Company remains at the forefront of storm restoration with best practices in the field and sophisticated GIS capabilities. The company set out to find the right mobile workforce management solution to complement its best-in-class operations.
Like many utilities, Southern Company had relied on paper feeder maps across its vast operational footprint. With constant updates to circuits and new service areas, such maps are often out of date within weeks or days of printing, which is in stark contrast to the company’s meticulously maintained and robust GIS. Southern Company wanted to eliminate the high cost of printed maps and improve safety and crew performance by giving them up-to-date digital feeder maps while also eliminating related back office data entry (e.g., transcribing handwritten damage assessment notes from maps).
Southern Company has developed extremely effective methods and systems for outage management, system failure prediction, and circuit mapping. However, people, process, and technology involved in storm response were disconnected, limiting situational awareness for the company’s own teams and massive waves of non-native crews who still relied on paper feeder maps. The utility wanted to provide crews and the back office with a single pane of glass to see and manage storm events in real time.
Storm response typically targets equipment and service that have completely failed, leaving partially damaged assets following storm restoration. This includes low hanging service lines, leaning poles with broken guidelines, and blown lightning arrestors that will fail and require repair months later. As a result, Southern Company accrued significant costs and risk that were booked as operating expenses instead of storm-related costs.
Southern Company set out to find the right mobile workforce management solution but was dissatisfied with the lack of flexibility and cumbersome interfaces of large, commercial software vendors who force customers to adapt their workflow to their technology and perform many steps to accomplish simple damage assessments. The company turned to ARCOS who partnered with the utility to adapt Mobile Workbench to its specific storm response requirements. Mobile Workbench delivers the single pane of glass that Southern Company was looking for with a modern mobile app that provides crews with a simple and intuitive tool to manage storm events with the ability to work in offline mode.
Mobile Workbench enables the utility to take full advantage of its GIS data, outage management system, and investments in mobile devices in iPads by integrating back office systems to deliver a complete, street level view of people, work, and assets. Paper feeder maps have been completely eliminated along with the time and cost of manually keying in damage assessment. Crews now have secure access to the most current circuit diagrams and maps with electric utility-specific annotations and symbols (e.g., fuse name and amp rating with symbols indicating electric current direction), enabling faster response by giving crews complete confidence and avoiding time-consuming tests.
Mobile Workbench empowers Southern Company’s full time linemen, native-crews, and non-native mutual assistance crews to ramp up and respond to storm events faster and seamlessly orchestrate damage assessment. Non-native crews are provided with temporary access to only the circuits they require and receive the same level of details as the company’s own teams, requiring a few simple steps to mark damaged assets and move on. The mobile app also enables crews to “divide and conquer” a circuit and work on different areas simultaneously with complete real time situational awareness.
With hundreds or even thousands of non-native crews being paid to wait in a post-storm holding pattern before being released, Southern Company leverages the skilled manpower for feeder sweeps instead. During this phase of storm response, the utility pre-positions bucket trucks at every substation then performs a systematic sweep to mark and fix equipment using Mobile Workbench to instantly capture and assign equipment for repair (e.g., service hanging low). This enables Southern Company to book costs to the storm account and avoid OpEx later and other liabilities.