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Balancing Automated Callouts and Collective Bargaining Agreements

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ARCOS likes bargaining agreements

Suffolk County Water Authority was recently in a logistical conundrum.

Consistent water service is extremely important to its 1.2 million customers across Long Island, New York. But in urgent situations where a response crew is needed quickly, Suffolk County was still relying on outdated paper lists to contact workers.

Superintendent of Maintenance Chris Given was involved in finding a solution to this problem.

“There wasn’t one moment that made us decide to fix this,” Given said. “It was an accumulation of years of knowing that our supervisors were spending too much time on the phone to get people on the scene.”

Knowing that electric utilities use automated call systems as part of daily operations, Suffolk County decided to put out an RFP to find a similar system to manage its callout.

Given helped screen a number of options, but decided to implement the ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite.

“We ultimately decided on the ARCOS system as it was the only system able to balance our complicated CBA, while also able to call multiple job titles from our seven locations,” Given said.

The ARCOS system was the only one that could balance the complex union agreements between the offices, while also quickly assembling a full response crew. Once implemented, the automated callout system brought average crew response time down from 100 minutes to just 80.

“It changed the way we operate regarding emergent callouts, and it eliminated grievances,” Given said.

When a supervisor is calling dozens of workers, human errors occur that can result in employee grievances. The ARCOS Callout system takes that human element out of the equation.

Furthermore, if, for example, two water mains broke in one night, the supervisor may end up so busy trying to assemble a crew that they are unable to supervise anyone else.

But ARCOS opens the supervisor up to be able to support the crew with additional information, and allows them to more adequately supervise multiple crews in an emergency situation.

For other water utilities struggling with similar difficulties, Given highly recommends looking into an automated system.

“We had been doing callouts the same way for over 50 years, and we knew there was a better way,” Given said. “You don’t have to create a solution by yourself, but you also don’t have to keep doing it the way you always have.”

Ensuring an Equitable Process for Thousands of Ground Staff

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by John Brandt, JBrandt@arcos-inc.com

           

The recent Aerolineas Argentinas strikes are an example of a severe, yet self-inflicted, scheduling challenge. But weather, equipment issues and illnesses can all add up to just as many or more cancelled flights. Any of these scenarios pose a difficult prospect for an operation of any scale. While employees have their own agendas and priorities to attend to, business operations do not sit idly by waiting for their required work to be covered. It’s a real burden for managers to keep track of the various actions and activities of their company’s workers, especially when relying on the use of a dated three-ring binder and bulletin board-centric system. ARCOS RosterApps addresses these issues head-on.

RosterApps, which is airline ground crew scheduling software, helps managers organize their scheduling information in one centralized, digital location. Company employees can submit requests and communicate with one another in a convenient, instantaneous manner. The transition to a digital platform eliminates the need for paper-based submissions, ridding managers of potentially mishandling time-management issues. Different tiers of authority allow for various levels of access and freedom. The base level is given to the standard employee, while upper levels can be assigned to supervisors and both company and location administrators. These upper tiers allow designated users to grant permissions and regulate lower-level profiles. They can also send out notifications and alerts on a large scale if need be, which is critical when it comes to messages, specifically emergencies, that require employee response on short notice.

ARCOS RosterApps gives airlines a way to automate many of the manual work-management processes relied upon behind the scenes. According to one manager for airport operations, “RosterApps standardizes the way we manage the requirements of our union agreements and company policy and ensures an equitable process for thousands of ground staff.”

From a base-level employee perspective, it assures users that their scheduling requests were received and addressed, in real time. For supervisors, RosterApps enables them to access individual scheduling concerns at the click of a button. Finally, for consumers, improved, in-house ground crew communication and scheduling helps keep flights on time. RosterApps may not prevent a strike like the one at Aerolineas Argentinas, but it certainly can get ground crews back on schedule in the wake of an interruption in service.

Automating Water Utilities’ Planned and Unplanned Work

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by Joe Kostelnick, JKostelnick@arcos-inc.com

The challenges facing a water utility everyday are numerous, but dealing with unplanned incidents is often one of the most difficult. Assembling a crew, even on short notice, can be labor-intensive and take hours when done manually with paper lists.

ARCOS helps crew water main break fixes.In emergency situations, a fully automated callout system is a way to circumvent these challenges. Already used by more than 100 electric and gas utilities across North America, ARCOS Callout is an automated system that sends an after-hours call to every available worker simultaneously — mirroring workplace agreements — and allowing response teams to assemble in minutes. When dealing with electricity and water, speedy response times are of critical importance, especially to customers.

While an electric company may make an automated callout up to four times a day, a water company may only need it four times a week. Unplanned work isn’t as common in the water industry, but managers can also apply the ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite to planned labor as well.

Often, a water company will plan maintenance work or equipment upgrades in advance. Sign-up sheets are frequently used to allow workers to volunteer, but that requires a worker to come to the office, or be in constant email communications with management.

With ARCOS Callout, however, sign-up sheets for projects can be sent digitally, the same way a request would be sent for an emergency.

Employees receive an alert on their phones asking if they’d like to work a certain project. The ARCOS solution automatically tracks responses, which eliminates workers missing a call or being skipped over to work additional hours. Whether a water utility faces planned or unplanned work, ARCOS makes help automatic.

ARCOS Founder Inducted Into BGSU 2018 Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame

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Our founder and visionary, Mitch McLeod, was inducted into the 2018 BGSU Paul J. Hooker Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Hall of Fame.  Mitch set us on our path – and we are so incredibly proud of him.  Check out this video which pretty much sums up Mitch’s incredible leadership.  Only four inductees were chosen this year, and we think you’ll agree – this award is pretty special.

Paul J. Hooker Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Hall of Fame 2018 – Mitch McCleod from Bowling Green State University.

…Mitch’s Acceptance Speech

From the corner office to the field, communication is key to improving safety

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Concise and quick communication is one of the most effective skillsets in an organization – when it’s going well, processes are smooth and efficient; however, on the flipside, poor communication leads to disorganization, inconsistencies, tedious processes and even potential safety issues. With a workforce that is more widely distributed and mobile than ever before, supervisors are facing extreme communication barriers. Handwritten logs, manual phone calls and time-consuming processes are just a few of the obstacles that could have an effect on safety in the field. As the expectations of customers rise and the number of incidents grows- safety is more important than ever before.

Let’s take a deeper look into how an active approach toward improving company-wide communication is a step in the right direction to keep safety issues at bay.

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ARCOS acquires RosterApps, expands airline industry solutions to include ground crew scheduling platform

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Columbus, Ohio – October 2, 2018 – ARCOS® LLC has acquired Des Moines, Iowa-based Sciengistics, Inc., doing business as RosterApps, a provider of airline ground crew scheduling software. This acquisition will combine RosterApps’ airline experience and shiftwork technology with the ARCOS resource management platform to fully automate the scheduling, shift-trading, callout and tracking of flight and ground crew staff.

“We acquired RosterApps to enhance our presence in the airline industry and build on our decades-long ground crew scheduling and resource management capabilities across multiple industries,” said Bruce Duff, chief executive officer of ARCOS. “The RosterApps product is very complementary to our existing ARCOS solution that helps airline carriers automate the process of finding qualified, available pilots and flight crew to fill open trips due to last-minute schedule conflicts or IROPS. Read More

Convergence of technology and social media during a disaster

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In a world of mobile everything, instant connectivity and social media right at your fingertips, many companies are challenged with figuring out the most effective ways to manage the technology and make it work for the organization. During daily operations, social media is usually a communication medium solely used by marketing, however, when it comes to storms or other events, the strategy becomes much more critical to deliver timely, relevant and pertinent information.  A key challenge for utilities is quickly collecting and disseminating the information to marketing so it’s communicated with customers and stakeholders in a timely manner. If you are scratching your head wondering how you can impact the information sent to customers keep reading for how to maximize social media efforts and keep your customers informed.

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Is there a link between cybersecurity and preparedness plans?

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When was the last time you backed up your laptop, tablet or smartphone? I was recently asked whether or not there’s a link between cybersecurity and preparedness plans. If you have a good cybersecurity process in place, you’re always bracing for any situation – whether it’s an emergency response, a major storm, a terrorist attack, or other scenarios. Unlike a preparedness plan, which has a bit of a shelf life, a cybersecurity plan (and the technology underpinning it) changes daily.

With cybersecurity, you are (or should be) doing something daily to change the proverbial combination on your infrastructure’s lock.

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Putting data where the work is during disasters

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As of Sunday, September 16, CNN reported that about 760,000 customers were without power in the Carolinas due to the impact of Hurricane Florence. Cities like Wilmington, N.C., are inaccessible due to rising flood waters.

As utilities from across the country send crews to help Wilmington and other places recover from Florence, technologies like mobile digital computers (MDC), rugged laptops and GPS have put data into the hands of field crews. Just a few years ago, one utility I know of had a stack of manuals for each of its trucks–topics ranging from construction standards to payroll–that would stand four feet high if stacked cover to cover. The days of the paper manual are quickly vanishing. But putting data where the work happens isn’t just about giving field crews the technology they need to restore service.

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3 Ways to Reduce Response Time and Improve Operations in the Gas Industry

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It’s a reality that emergencies and unplanned events are inevitable in most organizations- but what might be overlooked is that your response is the most critical. Utilities nationwide are jumping through hoops to eliminate operational headaches that negatively impact their overall emergency response and bottom line. Separately managed business systems, lagging technology and seemingly impossible to meet safety standards are just a few of the hurdles that plagued a Midwest gas utility. If the thought of any of these gives you a headache- keep reading to learn three of the innovative ways that improved business processes and helped others fix their problem.

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