COLUMBUS, Ohio – May 17, 2022 – ARCOS® LLC is implementing its Software-as-a-Service ARCOS Callout®, Crew Manager® and Mobile Workbench solutions for Ramsey, Minn.-based Connexus Energy, so Minnesota’s largest electric cooperative can automatically secure crews and manage the utility’s work and crews in one dashboard, integrated with its outage management system (OMS).
Connexus Energy system operators are spending more time than ever analyzing data from AMI, the SCADA system, and substations. The utility sees ARCOS’ system helping in two ways: First, automating operators’ manual processes and reallocating their time to focus on complex tasks and helping co-op members or first responders, and second, improve the efficiency of, visibility into and reporting on field services like restoration and construction.
“ARCOS automating callout wasn’t what appealed to us; the concept of ARCOS being a field management tool is what put our decision over the top,” said Kristin Whitwam, Electric Operations Project Leader for Connexus Energy. “Being able to bring together and integrate all our work and crew data in one repository and govern all of it is what sold us.”
To deliver work assignments to the field, Connexus Energy now relies, in part, on software from Clevest to send trouble tickets to crews’ mobile devices. Connexus Energy says, while Clevest works fine for sending trouble tickets, the transition to getting all work order types embedded in it never happened.
“That isn’t as appealing as having one product to manage callout, crew management, and mobile work,” Whitwam says.
A goal of improving member satisfaction
Today, Connexus Energy sends crews work orders on paper and clipboards, and crews report back intermittently by radio on the status of jobs. With large construction projects like distribution lines or energizing service for new subdivisions and commercial buildings, a packet of paper in each truck is the official record of progress until crews update managers, usually at day’s end.
“With a paper-based system, our crews run new residential service, but we can’t confidently tell builders, who are our members too, that service is energized until we hear from our crews,” added Whitwam. “With ARCOS, we’ll see work as it happens and tell builders exactly where their service stands.”
Connexus Energy printed out more than 7,000 construction work orders in 2021, all of which went onto clipboards, into trucks and came back for reconciliation. Relying on paperwork makes it challenging to know where crews are and the pace at which they’re accomplishing jobs. With the ARCOS platform, Connexus Energy sees an opportunity to give management real-time visibility into work and crews, while improving member satisfaction. The utility connected approximately 1,500 to 1,700 new service lines last year, with some of its biggest builders requesting up to 100 service connections per year. The builders are managing schedules just like Connexus Energy. So, the utility says the ARCOS system will help these builders save money because ARCOS’ software will, for example, deliver real-time updates on when there’s energized service. That, in turn, makes builders more inclined to construct residential and commercial projects in Connexus Energy’s service territory.
“We want builders to know we’re easy to work with,” said Whitwam. “With Mobile Workbench, if a builder is waiting for critical service to be energized, as a company we’ll see that work completed as it happens in the field; anyone a builder contacts in our Construction department can get them information and reduce wait time.”
Benefits for callout
The utility relies on two, dedicated crews for after-hours restoration. But when trouble strikes, these crews can be tackling other jobs. When that happens, Connexus Energy taps system operators to find and call available crew members for after-hours emergencies like downed poles or blown transformers.
“Completing a callout varies but can take up to an hour,” Whitwam added. “Workers want to know how long they’re needed, who they’ll be working with and answering those questions takes precious time. When system operators complete a callout, they also fill out a report for our leadership, summarizing what happened; that can take another 15 to 30 minutes.”
With ARCOS’ software, emergency response begins when the OMS alerts the system operators to an outage. An operator launches an automated crew callout describing the job, skills required, and more, which typically takes a few minutes to fill. The Crew Manager system notifies the operator that a repair crews is responding. The system operator then goes into Mobile Workbench and select the OMS repair ticket and responding crews. The called-out crew will head to the trouble, make repairs, close the ticket via their mobile device and release themselves from the job, alerting the system operator.
“Implementation is now underway and begins with callout, followed by Crew Manager and Mobile Workbench,” said Mark Koplin, vice president of Technology for Connexus Energy. “We’re very early into implementation, but ARCOS is well-organized, and we don’t feel like we’re pulling them along to get this done; they have a roadmap, and they’re leading us, so we don’t have to figure this out alone.”