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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.”

Saskatchewan’s Co-op Refinery Complex Taps ARCOS for Shift-Management Needs

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Columbus, Ohio – December 2, 2019 – Saskatchewan-based Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC), one of Canada’s largest refineries, has signed a contract with ARCOS LLC to implement the ARCOS Resource Management Suite for automating shift management and emergency callouts at its facility. The Refinery currently uses a manual system to contact up to 1,200 craft and non-craft workers, fill shifts, manage shift changes and account for workers’ rest periods, seniority and overtime.

The CRC, like most refineries, operates 24/7 year-round to process crude oil to produce more than 130,000 barrels of gasoline, diesel and propane, among other products, each day for customers throughout Western Canada. With CRC’s manual process, Refinery supervisors meet daily with team members in Maintenance and Process to manage availability and schedules. After building these lists, if, for example, an emergent issue arises, supervisors then review and call contacts on the list, while trying to adhere to established work agreements.

“There was a need to automate callout, primarily for filling shifts on the floor of the Refinery, even before we knew of ARCOS,” said Jan Franken, director of Information Technology at CRC. “Our shift-management and call-out processes are inefficient in comparison to what the ARCOS software can provide. The software will allow supervisors to focus on their primary duties instead of handling nuanced scheduling issues.”

With ARCOS, CRC plans to put shift changes into the hands of employees with mobile technology and automated rules that exactly mirror union agreements. By computerizing scheduling and callouts, CRC supervisors will eliminate trips to the plant floor to meet groups and create and update paper rosters. The ARCOS system’s ability to integrate with CRC’s other systems will enable real-time reporting of overtime hours and absences and establish a consistent application of company policies and procedures, all from a mobile device.

ARCOS will also implement its Incident Manager software for CRC to automate the planning, staffing and scaling of resources for emergency plans. The CRC can also tap Incident Manager to route information to an incident-command-system management team and instantaneously communicate with employees and contractors.

“Our vetting process for ARCOS included a reference from Toronto Hydro. They indicated they’ve been successfully using ARCOS’s Resource Management solutions for a number of years,” said Kaumba Kaumba, CRC’s senior applications manager and project leader for the ARCOS implementation. “After considering other workforce management software systems, we knew only the ARCOS suite could handle the complex nature of scheduling requirements.”

To Manage Growth and Restore Power Faster, Texas Coop will Turn to ARCOS

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Columbus, Ohio – November 5, 2019 – ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, will implement its ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite this winter to automate Bastrop, Texas-based Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s after-hours crew call outs. According to Bluebonnet managers, the cooperative’s customer base is growing at a rate of approximately 500 meters per month; six years ago, the utility set about 1,500 meters annually.

“Our western territory touches Austin, so we’re seeing more growth. We believe the ARCOS software will have time-saving advantages for us from the get-go,” says Paul Herzog, operations superintendent for Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.

The ARCOS suite simplifies an electric cooperative’s ability to respond to and restore outages and report on the outcome. ARCOS will replace Bluebonnet’s manual call out process that includes control center operations staff juggling an online calendar system, phone calls and lists to find available workers to respond to after-hours outages. With Bluebonnet’s existing manual system, finding, assembling and dispatching a crew after business hours with the right skill set to repair a broken pole or transformer can take up to an hour.

“During our daily shifts, we rely on a radio system to dispatch crews. But after normal business hours, ARCOS will be our system of record for automatically calling out and scheduling approximately 150 journeymen, substation technicians and helpers,” notes Herzog. “In the future, we’re planning to call out contractors with ARCOS.”

As Bluebonnet’s level of operations goes from normal to storm planning and, ultimately, major events, the cooperative will use the ARCOS system to check lineworkers’ availability and call them. According to Herzog, with ARCOS in place, control center operators can launch a callout from a keyboard or mobile device and then return to analyzing messages and details about an outage to help prepare crews for what they can expect on site.

About Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is one of the largest electric cooperatives in Texas and has been serving its members since 1939. Bluebonnet serves more than 102,000 meters, and owns and maintains 11,750 miles of power lines, located across more than 3,800 square miles within 14 Central Texas counties. Bluebonnet’s service area stretches from Travis County to Washington County, and from Milam County to Gonzales County. For more information about Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, go to bluebonnet.coop and follow the co-op on Facebook and Twitter.

With Help from Utility Customers, ARCOS Innovates Resource Planning, Sharing

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Columbus, Ohio – October 8, 2019 – In the fourth quarter of 2019, ARCOS LLC, the market leader for utility and critical infrastructure resource-management solutions, will unveil new resource planning and sharing capabilities with the launch of Resource Planner™, Event Awareness™ and Resource Assist Lite™, a free version of ARCOS’s leading contractor management solution Resource Assist™. Resource Assist Lite will be an easy-to-use, web-based tool available to ARCOS utility customers and participating contractors to help the utility industry respond, repair and restore service faster during mutual assistance and other major events, such as hurricanes and wildfires. Available as a SaaS solution, these capabilities build on the ARCOS Resource Assist platform, which launched in 2018 for contractor management. The new capabilities expand a utility’s ability to plan for and focus on damage assessment, repair, restoration and the safety of all crews by minimizing the manual planning, entry and tracking of emergency resources.

When utilities prepare for events like hurricanes, the planning process includes identifying where managers can obtain resources (e.g., crews). Utility managers and contractors work closely by phone to refine the number and type of crews available and the distance over which crews will travel. Information on available crews, equipment and material comes to requesting utilities in many formats (e.g., spreadsheets, phone calls, emails). Due to the manual nature of managing this information, during major events, managers and staff can spend up to 100 hours to obtain crews, assess skills, enter data, make calls and send emails to vet who and what is truly available and disperse the information in a consistent way.

“Manual processes around resource planning and acquisition are a bottleneck for restoration,” says Bill Brackett, vice president of Product for ARCOS. “With our new Resource Planner solution, we’ll enable utilities to better model crews and logistical needs; we’ll also give utilities and contractors a streamlined way to account for and exchange equipment, material and crew rosters including non-employee resources, such as contract line crews. With our ‘Event Awareness’ capabilities, utilities can roll up and catalog the planning and resource management activity that occurs during an event, start to finish.”

“The complex process of getting the right mix of resources for quickly and safely restoring power is far-reaching,” adds Bruce Duff, chief executive officer of ARCOS. “For example, our data shows a utility with one million customer outages can require, on average, 3,200 resources. From what we’ve seen, companies can burn up to seven or eight person days managing and documenting resources by hand. With guidance from our customers, we continue to add capabilities to our resource planning tools to eliminate bottlenecks.”

With Resource Assist Lite, ARCOS offers utility customers and any participating contractor a way to easily upload and share crews, equipment and more, so they can plan for and secure the right number of FTEs for restoration. Utility customers using the ARCOS Crew Manager® software will also see rosters flow from the portal without retyping data. The portal supports
utility mutual assistance and complements the resource planning work of Regional Mutual Assistance Groups.

“The soon-to-launch capabilities, along with Resource Assist Lite, will help the industry overcome a long-standing challenge,” Duff says. “A lot of our success comes from partnering with customers and other utility professionals who voluntarily give us time and advice to help their peers. Providing these new resource planning and sharing capabilities is one way we can pay it forward.”