Taking the Uncertainty Out of Disaster Management

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For water and public works companies operating during these uncertain times, there are many things on the horizon that don’t include the current pandemic. When you are tasked with keeping people’s homes and businesses able to run with clean, potable water – the pressure can be immense, especially in times of emergency or disaster. You’ve already had to face what’s being called “The New Normal” with this current pandemic, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Want to know why? Natural disaster season is here. 

Before the last few years, natural disasters like hurricanes, fires and flooding were fewer and far between, making it easier to respond to and restore service and clean water; however, with the increasing amount and intensity of high impact weather or fire events, water and gas utilities have been affected a little more each year. During this time of year, water and public works companies face a myriad of challenges. Whether its responding quickly to damage or a broken main, making sure people’s water is still safe to drink after a weather event, or simply trying to get enough tradesmen into the field with the right qualifications to help maintain infrastructure that is badly in need of replacement, these problems only get compounded as the events increase. The national weather service has predicted over 20 named storms for this year’s storm season – and that doesn’t include potential fires and earthquakes. We want you to be able to breathe freely knowing you have the tools you need to respond to anything that may arise – especially since you’re operating under social distancing restrictions and pandemic response regulations. 

During this season, there’s so much to manage and it seems there is so little time to manage it. Here’s how the ARCOS Resource Management platform can help with some common situations. It will: 

  • Allow you to dispatch the correct skilled workers to the correct jobs all with automation 
  • Enable you to quickly respond to demand changes on staff due to storms 
  • Communicate quickly with your entire team to make announcements or ensure their safety 
  • Capture all work done in the field completely and in a holistic way that will allow you to use ARCOS’ powerful reporting tools 
  • Have full visibility to all people, equipment and crews currently dispatched to the field 

I know, I know – this is only scratching the surface of what you face daily, but we are here for you. We can help you get a leg up on your Incident Management activation, provide you with powerful crew management tools to help remote work, and even help you manage your contractors and crews. 

At ARCOS, we’ve worked with many of your peers who understand a day in the life of your operations. For further reading, check out our Storm Restoration page on the ARCOS website for specifics on how we can help every aspect of your operations. 

How to Optimize your Labor Costs in the New Normal

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There are many challenges facing critical infrastructure companies during these strange times. Whether its trying to accomplish more work with less people to respond to demand, fill open shifts after a positive test from the current pandemic, or even just communicate instantly with your entire staff – the need to simplify and optimize operations has become apparent during these uncertain times. When it comes to optimizing your labor cost, critical infrastructure companies must juggle many things from shift coverage on short notice to maintaining compliance with union and workplace regulations, or even maintaining productivity levels through unplanned events. 

So, how do you make these decisions to manage your workforceThe first priority – having all the information you need in real-time and historical look-back. Having visibility into all parts of your organization is paramount and can be the difference between lean, efficient operations and a complicated, tedious situation. By harnessing the power of automation and digitizationyou could eliminate many manual processes. As an example, imagine a world where your employees would have the ability to trade and swap shifts on their own, within established business guidelines, without having to get a supervisor involved. Not only that, but you could open new non-standard shifts and fill them with a bid process in accordance with union or business rules without ever having to email or pick up the phone. That means less grievances, less headaches and less money out of your pocket. 

Lastly, when trying to optimize your labor costs, communication is of critical importance and can save you from wasting precious time and remove hours of manual process that may end up costing you. 

ARCOS can help make the difference between an agile, flexible morning to maintain service levels and having to manage inefficiencies with labor that will affect your bottom line. Saving operating costs by reducing the amount of supervisor time for more important tasks, maintaining minimum staffing levels automatically and ensuring the safety of your workforce is of the utmost priority. Helping your workforce feel safe, in direct communication with supervisors, and in control of their schedules will not only keep them focused and productive, but it will also later help you with retention, and attract new skilled labor. 

The benefits of the ARCOS platform can take your operations from slow, inefficient, and costly, to a well-oiled machine. 

How Airlines are Tackling Summer Travel and COVID-19 Challenges with ARCOS

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This year, summer vacations are looking a little different amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Family travel plans continue to change or take on new traditions (road trip, anyone?) as we all work to maintain social distancing and be as sanitary as possible. Back in April, airline traffic was the lowest it has been since 1994. So, what do things look like now as we head into the heart of summer – AKA the busiest travel season for the airline industry? 

According to Forbes: more people are flying againAlthough at lower rates than normal, major airlines are continuing to add flights, and are expected to offer even more flights throughout July. Passengers now have more domestic flight options across the United States, with Florida proving to be a popular destination as Disney World re-opens.

As larger groups of travelers start to fill airports, many airline staff could still be taking unexpected time off to face COVID-19 challenges. Critical infrastructure industries throughout the world are quickly adapting and evolving to make last-minute changes and allow for remote work. But some are finding that it’s hard to be innovative and accommodating when weighed down with manual paper processes and dealing with a lack of visibility into employee schedules and shift management.

How is your airline keeping up? We know that stacks of paper lists, grievances due to human errors, and lines of employees waiting to swap shifts or request PTO may be your unfortunate reality. Thankfully – it doesn‘have to be this way. Your peers are using the ARCOS Resource Management platform to help manage daily operations and IROPS during the pandemic with one source of truth, and the ability to:

  • Empower employees to manage their own schedules, including: shift swapping, trading, bidding, and PTO – directly from their smartphones, while automatically adhering to your company policies and union rules 
  • Handle unplanned absences automatically, reducing administrative time 
  • Access a cloud-based solution with 99.99% uptime for emergency response, shift management and mass communication from anywhere, on any electronic device 
  • Send mass notifications to workforce about changing schedules, new shifts, or updated work locations or procedures 
  • Provide situational awareness to all levels of management and stakeholders, like who is working, which shifts are affected, and more 

Learn more about automating your shift management to keep up with unplanned changes during the COVID-19 pandemic with our latest on-demand webinar and demo of ARCOS RosterAppsEmployees, managers, and supervisors can start gaining more time and control today, leading to efficient operations that are ready to handle the increase in summer flights. 

Reversing the Status Quo with Resource Management

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No one knows what challenges tomorrow will bring. COVID-19 surges, natural disasters, and aging infrastructure surprises all attest to this simple fact. As storm season approaches, flooding and other events that cause damage to the water infrastructure are seemingly increasing. Spending time updating crew whiteboards and attempting to compile multiple spreadsheets can be a daunting and tedious task, however these headaches can be a thing of the past. Both decrease efficiency and when efficiency is low, more money is spent, and less work gets done – a situation where no one benefits. But you’re under constant pressure to do more with less, so the key is to figure out where you can automate some of those manual processes.

Streamlining operations and work during these situations can result in more wrench time and higher efficiency for priority projects. The key to maximizing efficiency and diminishing destruction is quick response and clean execution. When a water main breaks what you need are skilled men and women on the job as fast as possible. Rather than wasting time with manual preliminary tasks, wouldn’t it be nice to focus on the important things like safety and priority work? Organizing crews and work in the morning, sorting through vacation requests and union rules daily can get complicated quickly. As the old saying goes, ‘the grind never stops.’ Let’s put an end to the status quo by working smarter, not harder.

With automated systems, the time it takes to recognize and respond to a problem can be more than cut in half. Getting crews assembled with the right skill sets along with assets like trucks and equipment, and information about the job in a quick and organized manner (all while being recorded for historical look-back) makes a world of difference. Technology and automation are your best friends during stressful situations and allow workers and managers to focus less on menial tasks and more on productivity and safety.

With the ARCOS Resource Management platform, all of this is achievable. ARCOS solutions have helped water companies across the country manage the disasters that come their way every day. Whether it is caused by a natural disaster, water main break, or simple day to day operations, automation can make your life so much easier. The powerful tools we provide will ensure that you’re using your time as efficiently as possible and getting the job done right.

Outrun the Storm: Speeding up your Resource Acquisition, Planning, and Sharing

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We know utilities face major challenges when it comes to the resource planning and acquisition process during major events. There are often not enough resources to go around, or logistics are managed manually without full visibility. And let’s face it – the extra time and inefficiency that come along with keeping track of your resource planning and logistics in a variety of places (which probably includes spreadsheets and handwritten notes) is just not worth it.

Along with the manual song and dance comes a significant risk of overlooking important details as you ramp-up for your event. Considering that 40% or more of the utility workforce is made up of contractors, we know how difficult it can be to respond to an event with crews. With all of this going on against a ticking clock, establishing one source of truth for your event needs becomes essential.

Take our current situation, for example. We are in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, as storm season builds around us. Your operations may be functioning differently than normal as you work to promote social distancing and manage remote work. As you continue to get used to the “new normal”, an unexpected event may come along and turn your daily work on its head. Unfortunately, natural disasters and other major storms do not care about COVID-19, but we do.

Recently, ARCOS announced a new series of solutions for resource acquisition, planning, and sharing that integrate with the full ARCOS Resource Management platform, free to the utility industry. Now, you can manage resources and logistics surrounding events all in one place, giving visibility to supervisors, leadership, and stakeholders.

Automating your resource planning and acquisition means:

  • Ditching the paper and time-consuming manual processes
  • Giving your team, leadership, and third parties a bird’s eye view with one source of truth
  • The ability to assemble and track crews, see gaps in scheduling, and manage lodging and other logistics all in one place
  • Get a jump-start on planning before crew rosters arrive by utilizing “Stick Count” functionality, allowing users to create crews from Resource Planner into Crew Manager

Creating visibility into a real-time picture of the data saves a utility time and money when determining how many hotel rooms, meals and gallons of fuel are needed, compared to what the utility truly has on hand – ultimately impacting the estimated restoration time. Check out ARCOS Resource Planner to learn more and change how your utility handles resource planning, sharing, and acquisition. 

Going the Distance: How to Maximize ROI with New Technology

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You’ve purchased new technology to become more efficient – now what? Afterall, your journey doesn’t just stop after implementation and launch. So, what exactly has to happen for a successful implementation, and what type of roll-out or user adoption strategies are best for your ROI?

Research has shown that without a well-organized and executed plan, many benefits of new technology (and the reason you hopped onboard in the first place) could fall flat. According to

  • For every $1 billion invested in the United States in 2016, $97 million was wasted due to lacking project performance
  • Only 64% of projects completed over the last 12 months successfully met the original goals and business intent of the project, and 14% were deemed failures
  • 9.9% of every dollar is wasted due to poor project performance. The pace and scope of change underscore the need for excellence in project management

It’s obvious that strong workforce, work order, and project management is a necessity for coordinated, fast, and effective implementation projects. However, the adoption of new technology does demand thorough preparation to ensure a smooth transition with optimal adoption. The faster users adjust to the change, the quicker you can drive ROI and intended outcomes.​

ARCOS knows how essential a high-level rollout plan is – from recruiting and retaining a new generation as a part of your workforce, to bringing leadership and existing employees up to speed and keeping stakeholders in the loop. And we can help. 

The newly launched ARCOS Managed Services can assist critical infrastructure customers with speeding up the deployment and adoption of their ARCOS solution, ultimately spelling a faster ROI and assuring ongoing value for managers and workers.

The ARCOS Managed Services portfolio contains various offerings, like:

  • The option to add a dedicated project manager to help customers simultaneously implement multiple ARCOS products
  • ARCOS Experts who go beyond a traditional rollout by managing and implementing the project to ensure that your organization will see the most benefit
  • Workshops and materials for change management adoption training and communication
  • An assigned customer success manager to review and analyze your progress, and more!

Best practices and education surrounding products are always evolving. There are many big changes that come with adopting new technology, and ARCOS can help make things easier. Check out our latest Managed Services Webinar, on-demand, to learn more.

Reduce Operations Costs without Sacrificing Productivity

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Doing more with less – we’ve all heard that old adage is the key to lean operations, but what does it mean? What does doing more with less look like in the real world? For operations, doing more with less means having information at your fingertips that will allow you to make quick, informed decisions about your staffing, output levels, resources, equipment and current priorities. This can range anywhere from payroll and shift coverage information, to manufacturing data or inventory numbers. Having visibility into all parts of your organization is paramount and can be the difference between lean, efficient operations and a complicated, tedious situation.

However, this information and your decisions don’t magically appear in the minds of your supervisors – you need automated systems in place to help you access information instantly and be able to make changes at a moment’s notice. The current pandemic has taught us that we can in fact maintain business continuity with adjusted shifts, remote work and unusual work groups – but it isn’t easy to manage all of the changes, especially if you have manual processes in place. By giving back some autonomy to employees regarding accepting work on new shifts, swapping regular shifts and submitting PTO or time off requests, you can avoid the countless hours of emails and phone calls for your HR groups and managers on duty. By automating shift coverage and management, you can instantly make calls to your entire workforce, in the right order according to your union or business rules, and fill shifts within minutes.This can also help if you need to get creative with your staffing or work groups, as these days many employees are looking for freedom and a semblance of control over their schedules, especially during these particularly trying times when we are reducing the chance of virus transmission

ARCOS can help you have that transparency and also make non-traditional shifts to cover all of your productive hours. With ARCOS, you can reduce some of the unnecessary costs that come with manual administrative work, quickly notify your employees of a company decision, and free up your supervisors to focus on important tasks and not time off requests, shift trades, or sick leave. You’ll have transparency with your employees and can also make non-traditional shifts to cover all of your productive hours, and increase the safety of your employees. Did we mention that it also automatically is compliant with your current business or union rules, eliminating those costly grievances that happen with improper staffing? Handing your schedules correctly alone could save your company tens of thousands of dollars in unneeded grievances, disputes and paperwork.

The reality is the benefits of automation to your bottom line can be significant. From reducing productivity or service disruptions due to inadequate staffing or resources, to keeping managers on task, ARCOS can help you utilize your workforce efficiently and effectively.

How to Better Manage Social Distancing with ARCOS

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Storm season is rolling in, long-term projects are in motion, and your day-to-day work still has little surprises popping up along the way. While you continue to navigate these challenges, the COVID-19 Pandemic does not seem to care, but we do. Within just a few weeks, we saw the world change – and to stay ahead of the ever-evolving situation, utilities and other critical infrastructure industries had no choice but to adapt quickly. Through it all, ARCOS has listened and provided valuable assistance.

Some of our innovative customers, like Grant County Public Utility District, are implementing new pandemic response plans centered around the ARCOS Resource Management platform. There are creative ways to utilize your ARCOS solutions to help encourage social distancing – ultimately limiting exposure and putting your employees’ and customer’s safety first.

For example, a year after implementing ARCOS Callout and Scheduling, El Paso Electric Company was able to make timely changes in handling emergency callouts during the Pandemic. To minimize crew member interaction, many utility companies have switched to “pods.” El Paso used the ARCOS solution to initiate “pod” structures to keep daily crews together, so crew members who hadn’t come into contact with one another wouldn’t be placed together at night. ARCOS software created a system for assigning pre-determined groups to after-hours callouts, instead of building crews composed of first, available responders.

Here are a few simple ways the ARCOS Resource Management Platform can quickly help your organization during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Set up pod structures in Crew Manager. Keeping pods small and protected is a priority. Crew Manager can apply pod grouping rules to crews out in the field, limiting team exposure to other pods while promoting social distancing.
  • Use ARCOS SIREN Messaging.  The ARCOS SIREN mass notification solution can help fill after-hours shifts on the weekends instead of using those who respond first to a callout. By ensuring that those working in a pod will continue to work only with each other, pod members will not come in contact with new crewmates.
  • Keep track of logistics in Crew Manager.  Crew Manager can track logistics like lodging, meals, and amenities by showing you when and where everyone and everything is. Besides supporting traditional hotel-based accommodation, Crew Manager also helps manage alternative hospitality options, like tents and bunk trailers.
  • Reduce cost and liability during disaster management with Incident Manager. While operating differently under the Pandemic, you may have to manage another significant event, such as a storm. Once restoration efforts for the second event are complete, you can close the incident in Incident Manager, and reports can be generated on the restoration while the Pandemic event remains open. This functionality provides a way to seamlessly track what’s happening at the big picture level, all the way down to what crews are working on for multiple events at the same time.

To learn more about how you can adapt your ARCOS solutions to help tackle COVID-19 challenges better, contact us for a conversation or visit our COVID-19 resource page.

5 COVID-19 Best Practices For Your Utility

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Although storm season is upon us, the world has been facing a different type of crisis: The COVID-19 Pandemic. As many businesses shift to a work from home model or temporarily close their doors, utilities and other critical infrastructure companies have continued to work long hours and make sacrifices to keep us safe.

But while functioning under a pandemic, you may find yourself facing a new set of challenges: How do we keep OUR employees safe? By proactively rolling out a COVID-19 Response Plan, Grant County Public Utility quickly changed protocols to better protect their crews and customers.

According to an article published with T&D World, the utility’s response was rapid and extreme:

“In a pandemic, the direct risk isn’t to the infrastructure as it is in a wildfire or natural disaster.  What’s at risk is the availability of the people to get the work done and the ability to keep up under changed processes. Having been hit early with a COVID-19 threat, we’re improvising and learning new protocols, and maybe what we’re learning could help other utilities.”

After recently implementing ARCOS Mobile Workbench, Grant County PUD was able to easily facilitate remote work. With Mobile Workbench, supervisors, customer service, and dispatchers are able to remotely create tickets and distribute them to crews via a mobile device, without ever having to see each other in person. Crews can then update the ticket and mark it complete with the option to add additional notes. This new approach replaced an old fax-based system, and allowed crews in the field and employees at home to communicate within social distancing guidelines.

Besides optimizing new technology, Grant County PUD made other changes to help their operations run smoothly and safely during the pandemic:

  1. Allow non-essential workers to work remotely. Grant County permitted all office personnel to borrow any devices or office equipment that would help them work comfortably from home. They were also able to deliver office chairs, and offer a temporary reimbursement program so employees wouldn’t be burdened with extra costs during the transition.
  2. Bolster your internal communications. It’s important to have a streamlined process for communicating updates with your organization so everyone is in the loop. Consider a weekly email or living document that everyone can bookmark and access with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Socially distance and sanitize. Encourage your workforce to uphold the 6ft+ social distance, or work remotely. Ask that employees wear face-masks, and thoroughly sanitize all work stations and equipment regularly.
  4. Keep safety first. We know that utilities value safety above all. Social distancing, working from home, and proper sanitization are all considered basic safety protocols during this time.
  5. Finally, take a deep breath and be flexible. None of us are able to see what the future holds, or what will even happen a week from now. Be prepared to make changes that are best for your organization, employees, and customers.

To learn more about Grant County Public Utility District’s pandemic best practices, and how they rolled out their plan, check out their article with T&D World

For some quick tips and creative ways to adapt your ARCOS solutions to help you better tackle challenges related to COVID-19 and beyond, visit our COVID-19 resource page.

COVID’s Impact on Managing Operations: Activate your Workforce Automatically During Emergencies

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The recent pandemic has shown us that organizations have to be ready for anything – natural disasters, pandemics, and even cyber-attacks. When the unexpected happens, your demand for staffing, as well as material resources like equipment can change quickly. During events of this magnitude for this pandemic, the amount of time it takes for your company to adjust your resources can be the deciding factor between managing an emergency event smoothly or taking a large hit to your productivity and bottom line due to inefficiencies caused by manual processes. Whether you’re using the Incident Command System or another emergency response structure, the ability to stand up your teams and fill those important roles in your org chart is critical. Fortunately, there are solutions that allow for a real-time view of all of your resources that are truly available (versus what is on the schedule), so that you can make quick decisions based on the type of event you are experiencing.

One of the most important factors during any emergency event is consistent and clear communication. Many times you need to get an emergency message out to your workforce, whether it’s a quick notification to inform your workers that shifts are changing to lower transmission of a virus, that some departments are working remotely, or you may even need to notify specific groups (such as Maintenance) that a piece of equipment needs to be serviced. With an automated solution, you could even send messages to help support the current social distancing measures we’re experiencing, by letting workers know of a new government order or changing work conditions. By automating some of these tedious tasks, you can remove wasted time from critical operations and allow your managers to focus on productivity and safety. 

During a pandemic like we are facing today, or other unexpected emergencies, real-time information is critical. With full situational awareness into your workforce availability and resources, decision-makers can assess, respond and handle unexpected circumstances quickly. Automation of some of these manual processes and having a single source of truth for all of your resources can help maintain production or service levels when it counts – not to mention prevent loss of revenue due to workforce gaps or equipment issues. 

Are you seeing the theme here? What do companies need to manage their workforce and operations at their maximum potential during emergencies? Information and automation of manual, disparate processes. That’s why the ARCOS platform will also act as a centralized, cloud-based location to scale resources up and down according to your emergency plan and business rules, provide real-time information and communicate instantly when it counts. With ARCOS’ robust API, you can even pull in data from legacy systems such as payroll, human resources, asset management or work management systems in order to ensure you have the full picture of your operations. Once the smoke clears and business as usual resumes, you can do a full historical look back so you’ll be prepared for the next emergency. Whether it’s daily operations or the next unprecedented event, ARCOS will keep you and everyone in your organization on the same page.