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ARCOS Supports MultiSpeak Tech Spec to Help Utility Munis, Coops

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – September 22, 2020 – ARCOS ® LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, has signed an agreement to support the MultiSpeak® technology specification, which municipal and co-operative utilities and participating vendors rely on to standardize the exchange of data between software systems that handle things like field work, outage management and distribution operations. ARCOS is now offering utility managers the MultiSpeak interface as part of its resource-management platform. The interface will help utility managers easily take data about a power outage from, for example, NISC’s Outage Management System (OMS), create a work order and assign that order to the closest available crew via ARCOS Mobile Workbench.

If, for instance, a hurricane damaged hundreds of meters, web services available through the MultiSpeak specification could carry XML-formatted data from the utility’s OMS and launch an automated callout for damage assessors via the ARCOS Damage Assessment solution. Once in the field, damage assessors using mobile devices and GIS could send data back to the utility via data packets that would in turn launch a callout for repair crews via the ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite.

“MultiSpeak links a utility’s enterprise software systems and eliminates duplication of data entry, and manual processes, to give managers one picture of what’s happening,” says Lisa Steinhart, vice president of Marketing & Product for ARCOS. “By supporting MultiSpeak, we’ve done the upfront work of building a connection between our platform and other software systems before our customers buy ARCOS’s solution.”

The benefit for utility customers is that ARCOS is delivering a pre-defined connection point between its resource-management software and the outage management systems, SCADA systems and work management systems commonly used by many cooperative and municipal utilities. By adopting the MultiSpeak specification, neither ARCOS nor a utility’s information technology team have to undertake a software services engagement or develop APIs.

“Without this integration, a utility would have to build its own interface between systems or just rely on manual, time-consuming tasks like phone calls, entering and rekeying data and watching minutes slip by that could be better used to restore service,” adds Steinhart.

MultiSpeak is an initiative of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, or NRECA.

Dakota Electric Association automates call outs, boosts safety and efficiency

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – August 20, 2020 – ARCOS® LLC has implemented its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite for Farmington, Minn.-based Dakota Electric Association, so the utility’s dispatch operators can better prepare crews working on after-hours emergencies in the field instead of spending time to call out available crews. Before putting in place ARCOS, Dakota Electric Association operators would scour handwritten lists and make phone calls to find crews available to meet first responders at an emergency outside of regular business hours. Since last fall, operators, supervisors and other authorized managers have launched hundreds of automated callouts from their laptops, tablets and mobile devices. For each callout, the ARCOS suite mirrors the union and business rules Dakota Electric Association has in place.

“With an outage, there’s a lot of automated data coming; using ARCOS to call out crews means operators can now process things like SCADA data, sift through it and work with our OMS to pinpoint what’s out,” said John Thurmes, control center manager for Dakota Electric Association. “The operator has more time to locate an open circuit, zero in on a probable component and tell a crew where to patrol, which improves efficiency and safety.”

The utility has uploaded information into ARCOS for more than 100 workers, including information technology staff, who the company can identify by job description and availability for after-hours emergencies. According to Thurmes, the utility also used ARCOS to set up and test emergency notifications for field crews, IT staff and office workers should events related to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 require outreach to employees. The ARCOS solution ties into Dakota Electric Associations’ HR system to maintain up-to-date employee contact information. And the utility integrated ARCOS with Kronos; so, when employees punch out of work, they automatically make themselves available for a callout, unless they indicate otherwise.

“Manual callouts were long and painful, and operators could spend up to two hours finding an available crew after hours,” added Thurmes. “Operators now push a button, launch a callout and, in the meantime, they can spend time analyzing things like a possible overloading of a transformer or gathering information about the outage from a member’s call; they can work with our SCADA system and, if needed, close a circuit remotely ahead of the crew’s report from the field.

“ARCOS is worth its weight in gold for tracking who’s reacted to a call out and the outcome of the job,” said Thurmes.

About Dakota Electric Association

A customer-owned, non-profit utility since 1937, Dakota Electric Association provides electricity to more than 109,000 members throughout Dakota County and portions of Goodhue, Rice and Scott counties. Dakota Electric, a Touchstone Energy cooperative, serves its member-owners with integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.

ARCOS earns place on Inc. 5000 list for sixth time

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Columbus, Ohio – August 19, 2020 – For the sixth time, Inc. magazine has named ARCOS® LLC to the Inc. 5000. This year, ARCOS ranked No. 3,319 on the list. ARCOS delivers SaaS solutions that continually report on the location and status of equipment and crews via mobile technology for utilities and other critical infrastructure industries like airlines and manufacturers. According to Inc. staff, “In the history of the Inc. 5000, only two percent of companies have made the list six times.”

“We’re on this year’s Inc. 5000 list, in part, because we’ve worked as a team to continually improve the way managers of utilities, manufacturing facilities and airlines keep their operations running,” said ARCOS CEO Bruce Duff. “The software solutions we’ve developed automate many of the manual, behind-the-scenes processes that:  restore electric, water or gas service; staff manufacturing lines; and get planes and their crews back in the sky.”

“The 2020 Inc. 5000 achieved an incredible three-year average growth of over 500 percent, and a median rate of 165 percent,” wrote Inc. magazine in a press release. Inc. Editor-in-Chief Scott Omelianuk said, “From health and software to media and hospitality, the 2020 list proves that no matter the sector, incredible growth is based on the foundations of tenacity and opportunism.”

The 2020 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2016 and 2019. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2016. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2019. The minimum revenue required for 2019 is $2 million. The 2020 Inc. 5000 list, including company profiles and an interactive database, is at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

ARCOS launches Resource Planner to speed up restoration, boost situational awareness

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – June 29, 2020 – ARCOS® LLC has launched ARCOS Resource Planner, so utility managers can have one software platform to quickly plan for and see the resources – organized by type and location – they need to restore service. Using Resource Planner, along with ARCOS’s complementary products Resource Assist and Resource Assist Lite, managers can automatically track resources at the moment they acquire them from other divisions, neighboring utilities and contractors.

In contrast, manually planning for resources (e.g., distribution workers or tree experts) and making phone calls to secure their help often yields a final number of resources arriving at a utility that is higher than requested. Often a request for, say, 800 resources ends up yielding as many as 880. The difference can be attributed to various reasons such as responders sending additional support staff and crews. Among the first priorities utility managers have when running an event is capturing basic numbers, including how many people are on their property and how many they need. Acquiring a true picture of the data saves a utility time and money when calculating how many hotel rooms, meals and gallons of fuel it needs; what a utility truly has on hand also impacts how it calculates an estimated time of restoration.

“The sooner a utility organizes and sees all resources the faster it can restore power,” says Jim Nowak, senior director of Operations, Product and Services at ARCOS. “A utility has to validate the classifications of workers being sent and process the right number of people and titles.”

Once a utility learns of a pending storm or other situation, managers go into Resource Planner and begin capturing the number of resources they need by resource type (e.g., distribution, transmission, damage, tree, etc.). Resource Planner then tallies requests and responses to show executives how the acquisition of resources is progressing. Operations managers can quickly see shortfalls and ask for workers from:  areas of their utility unaffected by the event; neighboring utilities or contractors. With a storm prediction model, the utility supervisor can take what’s been modeled for, say, the number of required distribution workers and plug that into Resource Planner to construct a profile of what’s available at that moment.

Through ARCOS Resource Assist, operations staff from different utilities and contractors can share people and equipment via a common language that draws from the standard resource types in the Edison Electric Institute’s National Response Event RAMP-UP tool.

“Making the naming conventions within Resource Planner, Resource Assist and the ARCOS platform the same as RAMP-UP eliminates confusion and standardizes requests,” adds Jason Singer, director for Resource Management Services for ARCOS. “The values a manager enters into Resource Planner are taken from damage assessment data, historical knowledge or outage prediction modeling.”

For ARCOS customers, there is no separate licensing fee for Resource Planner, and the solution links to ARCOS Resource Assist and ARCOS Crew Manager. Download the Resource Planner Data Sheet and learn more here.

ARCOS launches Managed Services to help utilities, airlines and other CI firms reach business goals, ROI faster

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – May 11, 2020 – ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, has launched ARCOS Managed Services to help critical infrastructure customers speed up the deployment and adoption of their ARCOS solution, which spells a faster ROI and assures ongoing value for managers and workers.

“If you consider how technology gets implemented, before the system even goes live, a customer has to think through project management, how to roll out the technology, change management, training,” said Ted Schneider, chief technology officer for ARCOS. “Employers don’t always have the talent pool or skilled resources available to make sure they get value from the technology they’ve invested in.” 

Critical infrastructure companies face a variety of pressing challenges to manage union or other skilled workers. ARCOS Managed Services offers CI companies the technical experts and project managers who can successfully plan and launch ARCOS’s solution and stay involved to ensure the solution keeps paying off for users, even as new business challenges arise.

With Managed Services, ARCOS customers get dedicated experts (beyond the implementation team assigned to each ARCOS project) from various disciplines who help customers measure and monitor their investment in ARCOS products.

The ARCOS Managed Services portfolio contains:

  •         ARCOS PM Select, which includes a dedicated project manager to help customers simultaneously implement multiple ARCOS products;
  •         ARCOS PM Plus for customers who can’t spare an employee for project management, but need an on-site or remotely based project manager;
  •         ARCOS ACTivate™ to add ARCOS experts who go beyond a traditional rollout by managing and implementing the project, including developing a rollout schedule to ensure a single business unit or multiple divisions get the most benefit from the platform;
  •         ARCOS Business Ready, which includes workshops for change management, technology adoption and training and communication plans;
  •         ARCOS Premier Training, a tiered offering beyond the standard training program to help customers reinforce instruction or target a specific work group’s need; and
  •         ARCOS Advisory Services that assign a dedicated customer success manager to review and analyze customer progress, including an annual assessment of results and seat for one user on the ARCOS Customer Advisory Board.

“An employer could call its internal IT to analyze and adjust its system, but other business interests, or a crisis, can stretch resources thin,” added Schneider. “Managed Services brings a safety net – a dedicated team who can help at a moment’s notice.” 

After success automating callouts, El Paso Electric tunes ARCOS for pandemic

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – April 29, 2020 – A year ago, ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, launched its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite at El Paso Electric Company, so the Texas utility could turn its manual process for identifying, assembling and dispatching crews for after-hours emergencies into an automated one that dispatchers complete with a few keystrokes. According to Jason Villanueva,  supervisor of Distribution Dispatch at El Paso Electric Company, the benefits to using ARCOS’s SaaS software have been:

  • reducing service-restoration time by tens of thousands of dollars per year;
  • compressing the time to conduct callouts from up to two hours to a few minutes;
  • virtually eliminating grievances related to how workers are called out, and
  • distributing the appropriate type of work to the crews best-suited to tackling a job.

“Before we implemented ARCOS, our dispatcher group hand-keyed data to maintain worker profiles and records,” said Villanueva. “And our supervisors spent too much time determining who was responding to callouts. But now ARCOS tracks every response automatically and regularly emails a report to supervisors, so there’s a single, verifiable record.”

Because El Paso Electric integrated ARCOS with the utility’s financial system, supervisors can also automatically track overtime hours for nearly 200 linemen, apprentices and dutymen. Automation has also saved the utility’s clerks hours of manually tabulating overtime statistics.

Pandemic response

In late March to mitigate the novel coronavirus threat to operations El Paso Electric Company chose to handle emergency callouts by keeping its daily crews together; the switch meant the utility wouldn’t mix crew members who weren’t ordinarily working together. Villanueva tapped the ARCOS software to create a system for assigning pre-set groups to after-hour callouts, instead of building a crew composed of the first, available responders.

“With the new approach, we call out a crew as a pre-determined unit,” adds Villanueva. “It’s a way we’re using technology to respond to customers, while navigating the novel coronavirus.”

ARCOS Launches Free Portal for Utilities and Contractors to Easily Share Crew Rosters, Equipment, & More

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Columbus, Ohio – February 13, 2020 – ARCOS LLC has launched Resource Assist Lite™ for ARCOS utility customers and contractors to break through resource-management bottlenecks and safely speed up service restoration by efficiently sharing crews and equipment at the time and place of need. Resource Assist Lite overcomes the challenge of efficiently uploading and sharing crew rosters, so utility managers can plan for and secure the right number of FTEs for restoring service in the wake of any event, regardless of size. The portal – an easy-to-use and free, scaled-down version of ARCOS Resource Assist™ – supports utility mutual assistance, the resource planning work of Regional Mutual Assistance Groups (RMAG) and RAMP-UP, a tool for utilities to simultaneously request resources.

“As the RMAG process ends and utilities are matched with responding partners, a requesting utility can email each responder a link to the Resource Assist Lite portal; responders can then easily upload rosters,” says Jason Singer, director of Resource Management Services for ARCOS. “Resource Assist Lite does away with calls and emails between utilities and contractors clarifying and verifying spreadsheets.”

Without a tool like Resource Assist Lite, during a major event, a requesting utility might ask scores of utilities and contractors for crews. That request would translate into scores of different roster formats for the requesting utility to manipulate by hand and upload into one system of record; this work typically lasts several hours. With Resource Assist Lite, a utility defines the roster template when managers request crews and equipment. In turn, using a simple 3-step upload process, the responding utility or contractor knows exactly what data to input, in one place and with a format defined by the requesting utility.

“Although the industry has tried to implement a common roster format; it’s not been widely adopted, yet,” adds Singer. “Using one format for the industry would eliminate the bottleneck of vetting and manipulating rosters; it would streamline importing an ever-changing list of crews and equipment into crew management tools or homegrown systems.”

Until that time, ARCOS customers can request rosters via Resource Assist Lite from any contractor or responding utility, even those with whom they haven’t worked before. Resource Assist Lite also integrates with other ARCOS solutions such as Crew Manager®, enabling ARCOS customers to easily import crew rosters supplied via the free portal. 

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for a responding partner to upload a roster so the requesting utility can get a quick start on the restoration effort,” says Singer. “If that drives an industry standard for rostering, then all the better.”

With ARCOS Mobile Workbench, Grant PUD efficiently tackles daily work, trouble

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Columbus, Ohio – January 22, 2020 – ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, has launched its ARCOS® Mobile Workbench solution for Grant County, Wash., Grant Public Utility District to help managers efficiently assign work to crews by automatically identifying not only a crew’s skill set but also which crew is nearest to the trouble. ARCOS integrated its Mobile Workbench with Grant PUD’s geographic information system (GIS), in part, to replace the utility’s outdated trouble reporting system. ARCOS Mobile Workbench now provides field crews with a single, simple solution to manage field order assignments, track work progress and collect work detail as it happens.

“Mobile Workbench gets our crews to the trouble by visually routing them there; crews can make notes, capture time and use the system to close out a ticket simply and efficiently,” says Derin Bluhm, chief technology officer for Grand PUD. “There are other field service solutions, but Workbench does exactly what we want without making things overly complicated.”

According to Bluhm, Grant PUD’s crews wanted a system that would allow them to identify and accept a job, complete it and move on to the next work order easily, regardless of work location or weather conditions.

“In the dead of a winter’s night, we don’t want crews fumbling with gloves and a laptop to accept work,” adds Bluhm. “With the Workbench app, supervisors broadcast work to the available crews in the field most able to perform it, then our crews poke their mobile device to accept the job via the app.  They can then see the necessary tasks and even dictate notes.”

The Mobile Workbench now running at Grant PUD works online and offline to give workers and supervisors directions, information on an asset, and its real-time location, so crews don’t have to pour over maps and printouts that may not reflect reality in the field. Using the app via a smartphone, crews can accept available work, self-assign new work or put a job in their queue. Bluhm says the Mobile Workbench improves safety because, even without automatic vehicle location (AVL) data from a vehicle tracking system, a utility can see where crews are in real time, making the app “a secondary source of crew location in an emergency situation.”

“With Mobile Workbench, we expect to reduce non-value-added windshield time by nearly 15 percent,” notes Bluhm. “Our folks were working with faxed service orders, sometimes adding a trip back to home base or using a personal device to take a picture of a fax and text it. We’ve eliminated at least one trip a day to the office, probably more.”

Grant PUD is expanding its use of Mobile Workbench to include damage assessment and as a source of record for all the work performed on a trouble call. Since May 2015, Grant PUD has automated its crew call outs via the SaaS-based ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite, recently expanding use of callout for its IT service desk after business hours.

City of Riverside utility will reduce paid wait time, expedite restoration with ARCOS

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Columbus, Ohio – January 7, 2020 – To help the City of Riverside, Calif., Public Utilities (RPU) efficiently respond to, restore and report on after-hours electric and water service emergencies, ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, will implement its Resource Management software during the first quarter of 2020, replacing the city’s paper-based process for managing utility workers.

By relying on paper lists, phone calls and emails to determine the availability of crew members for restoration work, RPU crew callouts average one hour per event. RPU’s on-call troubleshooters are the first to arrive in an after-hours emergency. But, if a troubleshooter at an after-hours situation needs a crew, then RPU manually calls workers to build a crew with the right skills and seniority. With situations like broken water lines, the delay tied to a manual callout only adds to potential safety and liability issues.

With the ARCOS platform, RPU’s Grid Control Center can electronically contact and confirm the availability of workers in minutes, which reduces the time employees are paid to wait while RPU assembles a crew.

“ARCOS will not only reduce our paid wait time but also safely speed up our ability to respond to and restore customers during significant electric and water events,” said Richard de Aragon Jr., Electric Operations manager for RPU. “We’ve calculated that with ARCOS each year we can save $113,900 in paid wait time, and recover $2,500 in customer meter revenue.”

By implementing the ARCOS SaaS solution across RPU, the utility will save its Grid Control Center from gathering crew data, including a lineman or substation electrician’s availability and skill set. The ARCOS system will also automatically track and account for overtime, which eliminates a manual callout system prone to errors and grievances.

“The ARCOS solution is a game-changer for us because it logs and records what’s happened, so we electronically see the result of every callout and automatically follow complex business rules related to how our utility and union want to build crews,” adds de Aragon. “For the members of our union, we expect a more equitable distribution of overtime.”

ARCOS RosterApps to track time, attendance for Piedmont

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Columbus, Ohio – December 3, 2019 – ARCOS LLC signed a contract with Salisbury, Md., Piedmont Airlines, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group (AAG), to expand the use of its ARCOS RosterApps shift management suite, including a time-keeping solution, for the air carriers’ mechanics and back-office workers. Since 2011, the ARCOS RosterApps SaaS suite has helped Piedmont ground staff automate and centralize the management of work schedules.

“We began using ARCOS RosterApps nearly 10 years ago to automate shift trades and schedule work, which had always been an administrative burden managed with pen and paper,” said Brian Wemple, director of Planning and Support for Piedmont. “As we used the software, we understood its functionality could be beneficial in other ways, for other work groups.”

By expanding the contract, Piedmont will automate shift-bidding and work schedules for its maintenance group and administrative staff in the same way that ground handling staff have used RosterApps for years. With the newly added ARCOS RosterApps time and attendance capabilities, Piedmont will also integrate the ARCOS solution with Workday, the maker of Piedmont’s payroll system.

“The ARCOS suite will enhance the way we create pay records to send to our payroll system for accurate, efficient payroll tracking,” added Wemple.

After Piedmont learned that its time and attendance solution provider would discontinue support for their product, the airline began a search for a new solution. Chief among the features that Piedmont wanted in a new time and attendance system was reliability, or uptime. Piedmont also wanted a system that employees could easily learn and navigate. After analyzing several solutions, the airline chose ARCOS RosterApps. Once implemented, Piedmont’s employees will manage schedules and time and attendance data via ARCOS RosterApps from a company computer at their respective station or on a handheld device.

“A key to improving flight operations is getting planes back in the air efficiently; air carriers can improve efficiency with centralized, automated shift management,” said John Brant, managing director of RosterApps Projects for ARCOS. “Automating shift management frees up Piedmont supervisors to analyze schedules, so they can quickly place the right workers, with the right skills when and where needed.”