Every week, Eversource Energy plans approximately 40,000 hours of work for 410 crews across 40 work centers serving 3.4 million customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Historically, the vast majority of that work was planned manually—leveraging a combination of work management systems and paper-based job packets. But as new technologies have emerged, the company sought a better way to plan and manage work—a way that would drive efficiency and consistency and ultimately, deliver better service for customers.
“Data drives so much of what we do today, and our employees and our customers have higher expectations for the kind of information we’re able to provide,” said Steve Gilkey, vice president of electric field operations for Eversource Energy. “That’s why we implemented an automated crew management system—creating greater visibility for our leadership into crew operations and eliminating the inefficiencies of a paper-based system that could create delays for customers.”
Eversource began using new programming to automate the process of planning and managing work for line crews. Now, rather than waiting to be provided with a stack of paper work packets each morning, line crews arrive to work each day and see an 80-inch smartboard displaying which truck they’re on, which crew they’re part of, and any customer appointments they have scheduled that day.
“Like many utilities, Eversource relied on a combination of work management programs and paper work packets to plan work,” said Mike Brubaker, vice president of sales for ARCOS LLC. “Each planning period, the optimized work packets would be released to the area work centers. Unfortunately, the ideals of the plan sometimes ran into the realities of daily utility work. Crew Manager allows the latest resource management information to be included in the planning process, including who may be gone this morning due to callout last night, re-allocated to different areas, “Ëœcrewed up’ differently based on need or mobilized for a major storm event.”
By using the new solution to schedule work and the make-up of crews, Eversource has increased its work schedule maximization rates and completion rates for planned work have climbed more than 10 percent companywide. The program has also helped supervisors from different states and work locations share best practices and identify ways to plan and manage work more efficiently.
“I was balancing time between sending out reports and queuing up crews. It could take me one to two hours per day to deal with changes in jobs and the make-up of crews as well as coordinating it with my planner,” said Frank White, a supervisor for overhead distribution lines at Eversource. “That extra time has given us a way to do more on-site supervising.”
Since all 40 work centers are using the same technology, supervisors also have greater insight into what works best in terms of how to plan and schedule crews and resources. Managers and directors can see which trucks the crews are using on certain jobs, and determine if the crews are accomplishing jobs with, for instance, fewer vehicles. This helps operations management decide if some of the equipment on the property can be better used or redistributed.
That type of resource management is especially useful during major storm restoration. Prior to implementing a single automated system, Eversource relied on resource management software to track crews for major events. As managers moved into storm mode, the utility would have supervisors call and fax dispatchers to obtain storm mode layouts.
“In the past, when a storm was forecast, people would have to pull out an instruction book to refresh their memory about how to use the resource management tool,” said White. “What we were looking for —and what we found—was a system for everyday use, so the transition to storm mode is effortless.”
Since implementing the new crew management system for storms, dispatchers and supervisors can see crew data and assignment scenarios as storms approach. And, when faced with a forecasted storm, executives can immediately see if each area has responded properly to resource requests.
“If we need 25 crews covering the state by 4 p.m., we can see that in Crew Manager,” said Gilkey. “The technology helps us avoid making a half-dozen phone calls to verify it’s happened.”
This same information is readily available to the dispatch center on their display screens. Even after hours, Eversource can see via the new crew management system how much of its workforce is on the property. This approach provides Eversource a data resource beyond just employee scheduling. If there is a need to optimize the fleet, Eversource can drill into how each center is using the fleet as well as their approach to “crewing.” This data is used with confidence to standardize the disbursement of various types of vehicles and equipment.
The end result is a more efficient workforce during normal blue-sky days, and during storm response, when efficiency and productivity is perhaps most critical.
“When we know where a crew is and what they are doing, including the details, we can improve response time and restoration for our customers,” said White.
About the Author: Dennis Desrosiers is the business integration manager for Eversource Energy.