What’s in place to ensure your ‘stream’ of service?

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Many of the businesses and industries (e.g., utilities, airlines, manufacturers, critical infrastructure) I work with at ARCOS every day have customers who depend on the smooth, uninterrupted operation of technology. Take the airline industry as an example. Aircraft makers design air-frames with multiple, built-in fail-safe elements. Planes have to be able to fly with a failed engine, land with broken landing gear, and have a backup power source, among many other redundancies.

For utilities who depend on cloud services to organize day-to-day operations, the principle is the same. A constant, unbroken “stream” of water, gas, or electric service is imperative to utility customers, and thus, fail-safe measures are built into the network to ensure this. There are a few different layers of redundancies that can be built into cloud systems. The first layer of redundancy should always be physical. If you need a server operating constantly to keep the system going, there should be a backup server in the event the first goes down.

Another important fail-safe layer is called location redundancy. In addition to physical hardware in a single city, it’s important to have redundant systems set up in other cities. If, for instance, there were a problem in ARCOS’s Columbus, Ohio, office, those services could be shifted to a similar facility in another city.

Finally, if a business relies on a vendor-provided service, it is imperative to have a layer of vendor redundancy. A good example is a business’ internet service provider (ISP). If constant internet service is critical to the business model, there should be a managed plan in place that if that ISP goes down, another one picks up immediately.

Ultimately, when uninterrupted service is a top priority, it is the responsibility of a business owner to look for every fail point and implement fail-safe measures to bridge that gap. These examples are just a few of the places that technology professionals and business managers can build fail safes into cloud systems to ensure service is always on point.

Two reasons why water utilities should automate workflow

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When a major storm impacts a region, the demand on that region’s water utility skyrockets. Pumps need monitoring, chemical doses need measuring, and urgent issues need swift resolution. Often, operations superintendents must document each action as well, meaning plenty of paperwork in an already stressful time.

An effective way to lessen the pressure on workers is to simply automate these workflows with a system like ARCOS’ Mobile Inspection. For water companies, having a system in place to deal with slower manual processes can help to mediate emergency situations, allowing employees to take care of other pressing matters, rather than fill out paperwork.

For the water industry, the benefits of automating workflows can be seen in routine maintenance work, like a hydrant inspection. The inspection itself is managed by a form that has to be completed, with each element verified to be done. After the inspection is complete, the team then has to check in with their manager and fill out an inspection form. By automating this system, workers can complete a hydrant check form virtually, and the team no longer has to check in with a manager in between jobs. This saves man hours and makes compiling GIS data much easier. A further benefit is that the ARCOS program stores data, such as hydrant inspection notes, for future reference. For instance, once a worker in the field completes a maintenance inspection and the ARCOS system collects the data, a utility manager at headquarters, or elsewhere, can tap into the ARCOS software to produce a pre-configured report such as a monthly operating report, or MOR. Managers can produce reports to assess the condition of field assets, identify system trends or fire off data to governing bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to saving hours, automated workflows can also be applied to assess worker progress and productivity. ARCOS’ Mobile Inspection program uses location services to update GIS information in real time. This, in turn, provides the company with data about how long the employee is at the job site, what work they did there, and many other KPIs.

This data can be used to create a system of goalposts. When a worker reaches a particular goal, they can move on to another, which provides the feeling of progress. It just goes to show that automating workflows doesn’t just help the company, but the employees as well.

How can companies address social issues including change management?

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The ARCOS Sunday Read considers how companies need to face social issues and a change in workforce ideas, ideals, wants, needs, desires and thought processes. Is this a way to address change management? The Harvard Business Review shares more:

Flexibility is the key to making ICS work across utilities

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Every utility, at some point, will have to respond to an urgent incident. Whether a small power outage, a water main break, or a full-on natural disaster, a system needs to be in place to manage workers and supervisors as quickly and accurately as possible.

Many utility companies use a variation of the Incident Command System, or ICS, which was developed in the 1970s to help different departments work together effectively to fight wildfires in California. Since then, the structure has evolved into the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Because utilities often need to coordinate with the federal government in the events of large-scale incidents, it makes sense for companies to adopt a similar command structure. ICS is also extremely flexible and able to be applied in many different scenarios. The core ideas of ICS revolve around melding multiple agencies together quickly by giving them a unified chain of command and common terminology to use. It also significantly cuts down on freelancing and otherwise duplicated labor, saving time and resources down the line.

The flexibility of the ICS system, however, means that few utilities use exactly the same version of the system. Some utilities may have extra or fewer roles within ICS, and roles that have the same title across multiple companies may have varying responsibilities attached to them.

A number of factors can affect these structural and organizational differences. Whether the company is owned by an investor versus a municipality, as that alters whom workers ultimately report to. The type of services provided can also change the ICS framework, as responding to a water main break will require a different structure than a downed power line.

All these variables make creating an ICS system that spans all types of utility companies complicated.  A good example of how to do this is ARCOS’ Incident Command Center. The Incident Command Center system can be tailored to each customer’s needs by altering the organizational structure and the duties within it.

Furthermore, the system is very scalable. For a small incident, multiple roles can be condensed to be done by one employee, allowing other workers to continue routine work while the incident is addressed. These roles can also be broken up to be performed by multiple workers in the event of a major breakdown. This flexibility is key to a successful ICS system, one that saves the most time and overhead while also making sure incidents are addressed quickly and effectively.

ARCOS Incident Manager – Deep Dive Solution Overview

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Get ready for a full look at ARCOS Incident Manager!

Go to our events page and register for our latest deep dive webinar! Find out for yourself how critical infrastructure companies are using ARCOS Incident Manager to automatically stand up their ICS or Emergency Response structures, creating templates for type and severity of events, building a central location for all necessary documents, and scaling events up or down with a simple click as they move through them!

Change Management is key to successful tech roll-out

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Our friends in Australia took a look at rolling out new tech and found that a focus on change management can help. Read up and see if you can implement the ideas to your organization:

Norwegian Airlines is one to watch…

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Yahoo News is drawing attention to Norwegian Airlines. $200 round trip flights to Europe? No wonder the sun hardly sets there! With the influx of business, can using ARCOS Ascend and RosterApps be too far behind? We would be honored to help!

The Best and Worst U.S. Airlines of 2018

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So who who made the list of the best and worst airlines of 2018? The Wall Street Journal reviews and rates them all. We applaud our partners and clients for being some of the best!

Ditching custom code: The benefits of APIs for software implementations

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When a utility company implements a new system from a vendor, a smooth rollout of the new application is of utmost importance. Systems rarely stand on their own these days; so that means utilities and their vendors must also build a nexus between new and existing software platforms. Writing custom code to allow existing programs to communicate with a new system can often be time-consuming and costly.

Application programming interfaces, or APIs, allow for two different programs to talk with one another without the need for custom code. It acts as a layer in the architecture that allows data to pass between systems. Some third-party middleware services can even write logic in between, allowing information to be manipulated and transferred to other systems as needed.

A common way APIs can be used in the utility industry is when dealing with automated crew management systems. For example, say a utility using the ARCOS Callout & Scheduling Suite receives a work order. The data from that work order is needed both by the utility’s work management system and dispatchers using ARCOS to assemble a crew. APIs facilitate the transfer of this data between programs in real time.

This real-time data transfer has major benefits for utilities. During a major event, accurate real-time data is imperative in order to respond correctly, safely and efficiently. Since utility executives, emergency operations center staff, dispatchers, field personnel, corporate communications officers, contractors and local government want real-time information in an emergency, APIs become critical data transfer tools.

As utilities receive data in real time, they can even provide an appropriate subset of this data to customers as well. This is especially useful during after-hours or major events, when a utility wants to provide timely updates for an estimated time of restoration, or ETR.

Moreover, APIs can help trim labor costs, and also increase the security of data transfers. In the days before APIs, there had to be an administrator from each system entering information manually. Without an automated way to transfer this data, insecure data would sit unconsumed, which leaves the company at risk of a data breach. APIs circumvent both of these problems as well, reducing both unnecessary work and security risks.

In Urgent Need of Shift Replacement

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Ground Crew

In a day and age when we can stream almost any TV show ever made to a device held in the palm of our hand, it’s hard to believe that some in the airline industry are still scheduling ground crews using paper forms and Excel spreadsheets. The errors and rework that manually adjusting or assigning traded shifts can cause is a tedious process, especially when those exchanges can tally in the hundreds. Resource management innovation has moved past these antiquated modes of working by providing automation that eliminates this massive headache for Station Supervisors and un-knots the time it takes to properly staff shifts based on employee skill sets.

This technology is available now in ARCOS RosterApps.

Let’s take a look at a quick hypothetical. A ground crew employee is caught off-guard by a family matter that they need to attend to, yet they are scheduled to work a six-hour shift that evening. That employee dashes to ARCOS RosterApps and contacts a superior with a tagged caption that reads along the lines of “in urgent need of shift replacement.” A solution then has multiple ways of manifesting itself. If work rules allow it, the employee could simply request “real time” PTO to a supervisor. The supervisor can either approve, deny, assign that shift to another employee or even post it to the Open Shift board. By presenting multiple avenues towards finding a solution, ARCOS RosterApps allows for greater flexibility in real time and makes balancing work and life much more achievable.

An everyday process kicks off with a supervisor posting a bid to a Work Group. That shift is then open for claims from other employees within the group who are interested in picking it up.  Initiating a “bidding” process for the shift includes multiple employee interests – such as a hierarchy based on seniority and specific preferences set by each individual employee. If any conflicts arise, supervisors are notified immediately to reach out to involved employees and resolve the issue. Factored into the equation are union rules, employee skills, and mandatory time off. This all takes place in a fraction of a second and leads to the filling shifts faster without worry of mistake or operator error.

Modernizing flight and ground crew scheduling is easy and stress-free and helps airlines save money and regain the valuable employee time wasted while navigating outdated procedures. Contact us to find out how ARCOS RosterApps can innovate your scheduling procedure.