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ARCOS Congratulates Many Partners on Top Airlines of 2019 List

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The holidays. Summertime. Spring break. What do all of these things have in common? Oh yeah, busy travel times! In fact, holiday travel records were broken at the end of 2019, with 115.6 million Americans traveling between December 21st and January 1st, 2020, according to AAA.

The same article mentions that amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, air travel saw a 4.9% growth, with over 6 million Americans expected to fly around the holidays. That’s the most the industry has seen since 2003. (AAA Newsroom)

Each new year brings new rankings and lists, with everything from “2019’s Best Films and TV Shows” to “The Best and Worst U.S. Airlines of 2019” – a yearly piece with The Wall Street Journal. This year, ARCOS is proud that many of our airline industry partners landed top spots on the list.

According to the article:

 “Airlines say 2019 had stronger everyday storms and more congestion on air-traffic routes and big airports than 2019. They expect things to get even worse this year.” 

How is your airline keeping up? Top-ranked airlines on the scorecard face unpredictable storms and increasing amounts of travelers by automating their ground shift management and filling trips with solutions like ARCOS RosterApps and Ascend – helping airlines to get planes into the air more efficiently.

Despite all of the challenges, from weather to more travelers taking to the skies, ARCOS partners have even seen improvement with KPIs like:

  • On-time arrival rates
  • Number of cancellations
  • Number of delayed flights
  • Number of late or lost bags, and more

This can be accomplished by engaging your employees, administrators, and schedulers with tech that gives full visibility into open shifts and trips, all while automatically applying your company’s rules and policies. And yes, that means eliminating the manual processes that often lead to human errors and grievances.

Want to learn more? Check out our airline solutions, or download our whitepaper on how ARCOS RosterApps increases the efficiency of airline ground support.

Save your Sanity while Managing Shift Bidding & Swapping

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Many large corporations have started to realize the complexity required to maintain shift management swapping, trading and bidding processes. If you have a shift-based workforce with specialized skills and strict business rules or union agreements, shift management inefficiencies can be costing you big time.

If you’re struggling with filling unplanned gaps in shifts, finding people to meet overtime needs, or keeping your employees happy with their schedules, technology exists to help. Specifically, new shift management solutions can address filling shifts but also shift bidding and even shift trading processes.

What’s the Problem?

Far too many companies are still attempting to handle this process with Excel spreadsheets, phone calls, paper requests and whiteboards. This process becomes even more daunting when you’re also dealing with filling last minute gaps in the schedule. Recently, we took a poll of several critical infrastructure companies. Nearly 80% fill their shifts manually with phone calls.  Additionally, 40% of those companies report that they lose valuable time trying to get the correct skilled employees into the correct shifts. When you look at the overall picture here, it’s a recipe for inefficiency that can cost you big time.

What Can You Do?

It is time to digitize and automate the shift management process.

Automation will… 

  • Ensure business rules, union contracts, and company policies are followed without error in a consistent and fair approach 
  • Cut administration costs and enable employee self-service; greatly improve employee morale, which can reduce turnover
  • Dramatically reduce errors in payroll associated with overtime and shift swapping
  • Free up managers and supervisors so they can focus on leading their employees, not handling administrative tasks

ARCOS has the leading solutions for critical infrastructure companies trying to manage their workforce and increase productivity of managers and supervisors. Too good to be true? Don’t just take our word for it, check out how we helped our customer Piedmont Airlines streamline their shift management processes. 

An Interview about Cyber Security, SOC 2, and AWS with Ted Schneider, ARCOS Chief Technology Officer

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Ted Schneider, ARCOS chief technology officer,  knows a thing or two about cyber security. In addition to being interviewed by Forbes and contributing articles to Energy Central, Ted manages the technology team responsible for ARCOS cloud operations, software development and product management. Schneider also oversees development of the product strategy plan, software road map, and user experience. During his career, he has managed teams who have developed software for the manufacturing, industrial automation, biomedical, healthcare, and HR industries all with a keen eye on keeping data secure. He has been a technology leader, executive, or product owner for leading companies like Taleo (now Oracle), Eaton, Rockwell Automation and GE Healthcare. He holds a bachelor’s degree and graduate degree studies from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. 

We thought we would pick his brain about cyber security, ARCOS’ recent SOC 2 compliance testing and passing and AWS.

Cyber security is an unending theme that is in the foreground of our digital age. Ted, ARCOS takes the security of utilities, airlines, and critical infrastructure industries very seriously and recently completed a SOC 2 audit. What is SOC 2? Did ARCOS pass certification? You have to be compliant. What does that mean?

Security is an evolving practice. There used to be perimeter-based security, which meant you built fences within your fences and moved them around. Now the idea is that the security practices are where you are. So, what SOC 2 ensures is the people that are accessing server areas in the moment have a need to be in those environments and there isn’t just a simple fence gate letting people in or out or letting them wander about. It’s more discreet in each piece of functionality that is served. The audit guarantees that only the people who need access to a small concise piece of information are allowed to obtain only that.

Listen to Ted’s answer about SOC 2 below.

So, to be compliant, kind of going backwards with your question there, is that we need to go through a third-party audit. We have a major firm that comes in and audits all of our different controls. SOC is “service organization controls” – and we are type two, which is a deeper audit than just the basics. And we did pass, and we have no qualifications on our passing the audit. What it does for the organizations that we serve, it ensures them that we are consistently following all of our organization’s standard operating procedures, our processes, and all the security practices that go with that as well. And that is confirmed each year, that we have documented, and we continually meet those practices every day.

Why is compliance so important?

It’s important in a couple of ways. Generally, our customers will give us an RFI or an RFQ around what we do for security or what we do for our controls. You know, back in the day, a client would send in their own audit team that would come in and interview ARCOS and check all of our standard operating procedures manually. Now through SOC 2, a company can fast track that whole process, and be ensured that during the procurement process, ARCOS is complaint and exceeds their security needs. We have roughly a 67-page report that shows them SOC compliance by all the different controls that are measured. They no longer have to spread their resources thin by sending anyone to interview dozens of ARCOS team members. They can confidently check off their own criteria by reviewing a single document.

Listen to Ted putting questions to rest. 

In many cases simply having the SOC  2 type compliance almost puts the question at rest immediately and allows the customer to move on to, is the solution a good fit and can we serve them best with that solution?

The product itself that we sell and offer to our customers as a solution must also be compliant in the fact that it has all the access controls, it has all the parameters and has all the configuration points and it does all the password management, a single sign on, et cetera, that comply with our customer’s standard operating procedures as well.

Are there other ways that ARCOS protects customer data?

Listen to Ted describe the other ways. 

There are many other ways. Some of the things that may or may not be part of the SOC compliance, but more so concerns of the customer is encryption. We definitely encrypt at rest. We encrypt in transit. Do we limit the access by our employees? Our employees do not access any of the customer’s data and only during support instances do the customer support people use the application to try to take care of any customer configurations that may be needed. So there’s other things outside of that. In addition to buying some of the best of breed products, as Oracle is our database, we use Oracle’s security operations to ensure that a company like Oracle is also behind us with security.

We have thousands of monitoring points. They measure real time. We measure up-time, every 30 seconds from around the world. And we do have at least four major touch-points from different products that we use for monitoring our own application. In addition to, we’ve built in our own alerts and monitoring system in the product to ensure we have a hardened system that can self-detect. We even have capability to do some self-healing within the product as well.  On top of that, we have regular patch management and updates that are monitored on our servers and for any situations that could occur on them.

Listen to Ted talk about ARCOS’ dedication to security. 

Security is an everyday practice at ARCOS and with the team that we have here serving all the technology out to the customers, it’s more than just putting things in place such as technology and products to ensure that or being audited. It’s in our thoughts every day. Security has to be every step you take along the way of serving the customer with the solution. And it needs to be thought through. Is it a secure practice? Am I doing the right thing that protects the people and the people’s data to ensure that it is very, very secure and at the same time not losing any speed or performance while doing it because the security can affect that as well.

Can you explain how ARCOS works in the cloud with AWS (Amazon Web Services)?

AWS is a very strong partner with ARCOS and our platform is housed within the AWS infrastructure in multiple regions and locations. We not only have redundancy within the tiers, but redundancy within the regions and locales. ARCOS uses approximately ten different products within AWS that helps us, but the security in and of itself is above and beyond what a normal in-house, on-premise, IT organization would be adhering to because it serves a worldwide network. All the different AWS security features and functions are available to us in addition to our SOC compliances.

Have you ever personally helped a Nigerian Prince or bought $2,000 worth of gift cards for your CEO when you received his email asking for them?

(laughing) I have not responded to any rogue emails that appear to be from our CEO or any other person in the company that are requesting gift cards. And in addition to that, while I’ve helped a lot of people, I may have helped a Nigerian Prince somewhere along the way in my life, but I’m not sure exactly how I did that, whether it was opening a door or helping them carrying a bag. I have no idea. (laughing)

Get Ahead of the Curve by Empowering Employees with Tech

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Consider this – everyday, digital transformation is happening all around us. Technology puts our world in a constant state of change and forces critical infrastructure industries to quickly automate another manual process in their operations.  Gallup Research shows that in the working world, millennials are quickly outnumbering generation x-ers and baby boomers. Within the next two years, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be made up of millennials. Companies face the challenge of attracting and developing this powerful contingent that has different priorities and values than previous generations. In industries where skilled employees are retiring in droves every year, technology is the key to engaging new generations of employees.

How Businesses Are Responding

Almost half of millennials say they have the newest and greatest technology items, while Boomers come in at one quarter, half the size of the millennial bloc. Engaging your workforce via technology is one of the best ways to attract new employees and ensure your workers feel connected to the work being done – not to mention provide flexibility around their work/life balance. Today’s workforce is looking for both stability and flexibility. They want to work, but they want to work shifts on their terms. Critical infrastructure industries will need to be able to provide this flexibility in order to attract a vibrant workforce – and do so in a manner that is efficient, safe and cost effective.

As this landscape of workers continues to change, digital and mobile technologies will be at the cutting edge of employee engagement. 42% of Millennials use real-time messaging at work, 42% use social media and 32% use work storage or sharing applications. The bottom line is, when you invest in technology – you invest in your employees. Just because a company has done something a certain way “forever,” doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it.

The Role Technology Plays

Companies like ARCOS are helping critical infrastructure companies stay ahead of the curve of innovation by automating manual processes and providing mobility to field and plant technicians, as well as supervisors – all within regulations and business rules. ARCOS can help your organization take those tedious processes like paper note keeping, spreadsheets, whiteboards and manual phone calls. Digitizing shift management by automating the filling of shifts and managing complicated processes like shift bidding and swapping can help empower employees and give them guided autonomy and flexibility.

In a recent survey of critical infrastructure companies, we asked about the top challenges that these industries are facing. Here’s what they said: 

  • 80% are being weighed down by manually handling processes that can be automated to save both time and money
  • 40% are worried about the age demographics of their employees shifting
  • 30% of companies are worried about falling behind technologically

Let us help you. Learn more about how ARCOS can help your bottom line while engaging your workforce with our shift management solutions. Don’t just take our word for it, read more to see how we helped Piedmont Airlines dramatically improve their key performance indicators significantly. Learn more from our Ground Crew Support Scheduling white paper

Reclaim your Time by Eliminating Inefficient Operations

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Each year, companies are being pressured to do more with less. There is an infinite amount of work to do, but always a finite amount of resources to use. Being able to pick up the slack from unproductive, painful, manual processes can be a game-changer when it comes to your bottom line. Luckily, you’re not on your own and ARCOS can help.

So, What’s The Problem?

In a recent survey, we asked companies in the critical infrastructure space to think about their processes and tell us where they’re losing the most productivity time. We asked them to rank processes on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most time-consuming. 

Our responders shared that they ranked creating schedules and following through on reporting as a 9.9 out of 10 difficulty. Whether it’s trying to get specialized employees into rigid shift structures according to your business or union rules, or spending time trying to figure out who the eligible employees are that can fill empty shifts, ARCOS works as your personal shift management assistant.

Another interesting response to our survey had to do with what tasks cause management to struggle at critical infrastructure companies, and honestly – we weren’t surprised by the result. 60% of the folks that took the survey listed managing work, reporting and productive time as their biggest struggle. 40% of those also lose valuable time getting the correct workers, with the correct skills, into the correct shifts, in the correct order. Automating this manual process could change the way managers and supervisors structure their day, leaving more time to focus on priorities and production.

How Can We Help?

With ARCOS, the manual, time-consuming processes described above can be a thing of the past. All the time spent with handwritten notes, spreadsheets, whiteboards, and manual phone calls and texts can be reduced and, in most cases, eliminated. With ARCOS shift management, you can complete processes that take several hours a day and shrink them down to mere minutes. The technology now exists that will enable you to spend more time on value added activities than emails and phone calls – here’s how Shift Management solutions from ARCOS  helped Duke Energy overhaul their plant operations and drastically help their day to day operations. 

The Sunday Read: Being Thankful

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The ARCOS Sunday Read focuses on the holiday that just passed – Thanksgiving. And while we as a business are thankful for the utility and critical infrastructure markets, we aren’t the only ones.

We totally agree with these op-ed pieces we found that express how thankful we should be for having reliable gas, water, and electric.

What you do to keep everything running is often overlooked. Thank you. We admire your hard work and dedication.

The Sunday Read: Business Customer Overall Satisfaction with Electric Utilities Climbs, J.D. Power Finds

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The Sunday Read shares JD. Power’s findings that business customer satisfaction with Electric Utilities climbed this year. ARCOS is proud of our customers and glad we could play a part in improving caidi/saidi scores. Our own, Jim Nowak, explains how in this Energy Central article.

 

 

 

The ARCOS Sunday Read: Transparent Compliance

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The ARCOS Sunday Read is re-racking an important blog we ran a few weeks ago about keeping #compliant in the face of regulatory scrutiny. How can a business polish up their transparency? Read-on and find out!

Measuring and Weighing Distributed Energy Resources

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How will utilities be impacted by distributed energy resources (DER)? The answer is, no one is sure yet, but with the growth of solar, wind, electric vehicles, energy storage devices and natural gas fueled generators, the output from DERs is helping address demand, replacing aging infrastructure and becoming the industry’s top area of investigation and support.

In Ontario, Canada, the IESO says over 4,000 megawatts of DERS were contracted or installed over the last 10 years. It has given customers a reduction in costs and addressed inadequate attention to regional load growth. According to Black & Veatch’s 2019 Strategic Directions: Smart Utilities Report Survey, a top industry poll of energy producers, DERs were sighted as the number one application to examine over the next 3 to 5 years. With a predicted energy drain thanks to increased EV acceptance and other factors, DERs are expected to aid and sometimes carry future power grids.

Analyzing the Analytics

Integrating this decentralized system of outside power producing entities into the fold is a task that needs to have a focus on the right analytics and interpretation of customer consumption data. Most utilities are doing due diligence by studying the growth of DERs now. If these alternative power options for generation can be optimized, how much can they feed into a system? Is it making a difference? Are they curbing peaks and leading to less outages? Are the most affected outage areas seeing a decline in restoration crews thanks to the power DERs are providing?

As outages happen and crews are sent to respond and restore, a tool such as the ARCOS software suite can report on when, where and exactly what happened. This data can then be unified with smart meters and other measuring instruments to gain clarity on exactly what DERs are doing for a utility’s service area. Matching up the historic record of response calls over time can easily show a decrease of outages in identified trouble areas and can verify if DER implementation is having a positive effect, needs routed a different way, or the energy provided increased.

DERs are only going to continue to grow. They will be a part of tomorrow’s energy landscape and a solution to some of today’s problems. Is your utility ready to effectively utilize distributed energy resources? How are you researching DERs impact on current grids and planning for future implementation? Contact ARCOS and let’s start a conversation. 

The ARCOS Sunday Read: The Domino Effect of Inefficient Airline Shift Management

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Airline ground crew scheduling is an expensive problem. Inevitable delays cause canceled flights, missed connections and has a vast and long-reaching ripple effect across all operations. If one open shift is left unattended, it can create a cascade of cost and waste which reduces industry profit, reliability and customer service. Crew costs are only second to fuel charges so it’s in a carrier’s best interest to efficiently use all and any resources possible to resolve shift management disruptions. But how?

Traditionally, two models have been used, short-range and long-range planning. Short-range planning has always been applied to make ground crew assignments when under the gun of restrictive time restraints. It’s the last-minute changes that happen when someone falls ill, has a commitment they must attend to, or a family emergency occurs. Long-range planning has tried to manage schedules months in advance but has fallen flat thanks to inclement weather and too many last-minute requests for swaps, PTO or absences thanks to aforementioned short-range shift issues. The problem with both is they have been handled manually or inefficiently at great cost to airlines.

ARCOS RosterApps handles both models with ease while improving efficiency by automating the process of shift trades, swaps, bids and PTO requests with employee self-service functionality. That means a drastic drop in delays, a cut in cancellations, and a rise in customer satisfaction scores. Carrier profit is also increased as crews are completely manned in a fraction of the time it took to do things the old way. Phone call after phone call, bulletin boards, and paper spreadsheets are eliminated so airlines can be at their optimal shift management performance and in the skies faster. The benefits are many as our new white paper and Piedmont Airlines case study point out.  

Learn more and schedule a demo. If an airline wants KPI’s to rise and put an end to shift management worries, ARCOS RosterApps is the answer.