Heat waves are typically expected. Unfortunately, the location and timing of the resulting power outages aren’t predictable – making it impossible to know what will be needed to get the lights, air conditioners, fans and refrigerators back online.
It may seem that all you can do is wait for an outage to strike. Not so. With these 5 tips, you can have the right number of workers, with the right skills, in the right places, at the right time – a surefire way to stay cool when the heat is on.
Tip 1: Maximize visibility and communication
Remember the old public service announcement “It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” It’s a simple but powerful message: with great responsibility comes a great need for knowledge.
When an outage occurs, the right information will let you respond swiftly and with maximum impact:
“- Where is your workforce?
“- How easily can you postpone what they are doing and reallocate them to the outage?
“- Have they been in the field so long that you risk fatigue (and mistakes) if you reallocate them?
“- What equipment and materials do they have?
“- Where can you get additional materials and equipment to speed resolution?
In short: If you can’t see it, you can’t manage it. Mobile solutions are proven to maximize field workforce visibility. When the whole organization has such information in real-time, everyone – from the back office to the field – gains the ability to make the right decisions.
Visibility also fixes the all-too-common disconnect between workforce management and operations management systems, aligning the decisions of resource assignment with the knowledge of the energy “network,” problem locations and overall status.
While the location and timing of an outage may be unexpected, outages fall into one of several categories. Seasoned workers and managers can help identify the tasks and resources required for each category – beyond the usual checklists and procedures. Combining these insights with real-time visibility can automate the process of identifying the best resources, assets and materials for the current situation, while balancing other needs.
Automation lets you consider millions of possibilities in seconds, including:
“- Requesting assets from neighboring regions
“- Assigning a nearby team near shift end, while dispatching a fresher, distant team for relief
“- Pre-empting ongoing tasks, while scheduling for later completion
Tip 3: Do What Needs to Be Done – and More
Outages offer the chance to complete some “opportunistic” work, e.g. lower priority asset maintenance. Depending on the outage and the resolution steps required, decision support and optimization software can help fit this work in and assign the perfect team to handle both routine and emergency work without extending the outage duration, eliminating work and shutdowns likely to have occurred later.
Tip 4: Don’t Forget the Rest of the Work – and Those Affected by It
Even during emergencies, there’s other critical work that must be done — and some work that can be postponed.
Regardless of what will or won’t get done, someone, somewhere needs to know what’s planned and what needs to change. Automation can make quick and efficient work of notifying multiple constituencies, including employees, contractors, customers of necessary changes to the plan – letting you on full attention to the real emergencies and challenges.
When the lights are back on, take time to assess. Ask – and answer:
“- What can we do better, in terms of workforce capacity; training and locations; assets and prefabrication?
“- Would dividing the response team into more (or fewer) “waves” have delivered any benefits?
“- What delays occurred? Why?
“- What information was missing?
“- Was the right work postponed?
“- Were there idle resources we should have used?
“- Were resources assigned, but not used?
“- What was the impact on workers and customers not directly affected by the outage?
Even just one improvement uncovered through these questions justifies all the effort dedicated to the assessment.
All of these tips have a common theme: Coordination and alignment across operations and the field workforce; between humans and technology; and between geographically and organizationally separated units.
When these silos share real-time information and decisions to respond effectively to outages, it possible to do the impossible: plan for – and meet – the unplanned.
Author: Hannan Carmeli is president and chief operating officer of ClickSoftware. Reach him at Hannan.Carmeli@clicksoftware.com