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Helping Electric Co-ops Resolve Power Outages Faster

Advanced Crew Management System for Electric Cooperatives

By

Jake Wanner

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Read Time: 4 minutes

Advanced Crew Management System

How one southeastern electric cooperative used an advanced crew management system to transform their business: expediting the requesting process, coordinating and tracking lodging, notifying crews of assignments, creating service orders and streamlining the dispatch process.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael left 1.7 million homes and businesses without power in the Southeast. In July 2019, summer storms hit Michigan, causing around 700,000 members/customers to lose power. And later that November a major storm left nearly 2 million people without power in the Northeast and parts of southeastern Canada.

These examples tell only part of the story of the far-reaching impacts of storm-related power outages in our country. Studies estimate that storm-related outages in the US cost the economy between $20 billion and $55 billion each year. That means that, when the power goes out, utility companies and electric co-ops have to act quickly to restore power — not just to homes and businesses but also to vital health and safety services like hospitals, fire stations and water treatment facilities. But what happens when electric co-ops lose valuable time fixing outages because they are relying on outdated processes?

Electric Innovation

That’s exactly what happened to one regional co-op located in the Southeast. When a storm in the area caused an outage, the co-op needed to pull in external crews from co-ops in the region (even across states) that were unaffected by the storm.

Because every minute counts during an outage, the co-op needed to schedule and deploy these outside crews quickly or risk not having enough resources to restore power to their members.

KeyMark's advanced crew management system helps electric cooperatives better manage their crews and resolve outages faster.

Removing a Few Key Obstacles

When the electric cooperative came to KeyMark for help, they understood the inefficiencies that were hindering their ability to respond to outages quickly, but they weren’t sure which steps to take to make long-lasting improvements to their processes.

Traditionally, many electric utilities and co-ops are utilizing outage management systems like Milsoft to track outages and communicate to teams across their footprint. However, crew management is often done using some combination of an ESRI GIS, an SEDC billing system and a white board. 

Knowing they needed tighter crew management, we worked together to pinpoint two areas that could significantly improve their response time: mobilizing their crew assignment system and managing their outage crews through an “Advanced Crew Management System” – all while integrating with core systems like Milsoft.

We first looked at the process they used to assign their external crews. With a service area that covers more than 1,800 square miles, travel time was an issue. Their current system had external crews physically coming to the central office to fill out paperwork before being dispatched to an outage — many crews had to actually pass the outage area, go to the main office and then double back. Not good.

By automating their Crew Request Forms, the crews could now enter the needed data remotely and receive their assignment without physically travelling to the central office. Crews were then able to arrive at the outage sites far more quickly.

Next, we developed a better way for the cooperative to manage the external crews that they needed whenever their own resources were exhausted during an outage. By leveraging a modern enterprise information platform like OnBase, the cooperative is now able to schedule, assign and track their own crews, as well as manage outside crews more effectively.

Milsoft Integration

Many electric cooperatives use outage management systems to accurately detect, communicate and analyze outages. For this particular cooperative, it was imperative that they had a crew management solution that would integrate directly with Milsoft, their core outage management system. The outcome? Not only does the solution directly integrate with Milsoft, but it also now  allows for a total outage view, complete with crew management. 

Smooth Sailing and the Future of Electric Co-Ops

The cooperative now has greater visibility into which crews are working on which outages at any given time. They know how long they have been at that particular site, and they can move crews to and from the area as needed. In turn, the cooperative has more control over managing their crews – whether they’re “inside” or “outside” – and can get the power back on for their members faster than ever.

As electric cooperatives continue to thrive and innovate — and as storms continue to hit the country with widespread outages — it’s more important than ever to restore power to your members and communities quickly and effectively. At KeyMark, we have the right mix of technology, experience and support to ensure you are serving your members in the most modern and productive ways possible. Contact us today and let us help you weather any storm – and power productivity on all the days in between.

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