Nova Scotia Power Upgrades Information System
by Frank Nelson, Program Manager, Enterprise Marketing Programs, Intel Corp.
Kathy Covey, Manager of Production Services – MIS Division, Nova Scotia Power
Privatization and free-market competition initiated in 1992 prompted Nova Scotia Power to review all of its operations to seek greater efficiencies. Their challenge now is to stay competitive not only with electric utilities, but also oil and gas companies. Management realized that using its resources more efficiently while delivering the highest level of service at the lowest cost to its customers was even more crucial to its success in the new, competitive environment.
The review of operations included an examination of the company`s mainframe-based information system. The old information system was unresponsive. If a customer called and asked when a repair truck would arrive, the best response was “sometime.” The mainframe-based system wasn`t designed to make workload-scheduling information available to customer-service representatives.
Maintenance costs were high. Software licensing and hardware maintenance fees were adding up, and some of the hardware was in need of replacement. To get the mainframe system in proper working order would have required a $4 million hardware upgrade.
Another primary challenge to Nova Scotia Power was the fact that more than $1 billion in new construction had been planned for the next five years, and there was simply no way to keep track of the system with the old mainframe capabilities.
Rather than computerize its existing operations, Nova Scotia Power reviewed all of its operations in light of how they might be improved with client/server technology. Work teams were formed to improve the way workers carry out business processes. Employees needed to have access to the information required to make decisions.
An open and flexible system was envisioned that used industry-standard hardware and software. Nova Scotia Power selected an Intel processor-based system using third-party software. The new system has provided an affordable, scaleable system that allows communications across the company`s various operations, improves scheduling efficiency and other operations.
The client/server system puts processing power on the desks and in the trucks of employees while maintaining advanced databases to be shared company-wide. The result is faster processing, more open communications and more efficient operations. The system involves thousands of PCs networked to a select number of system servers (also PCs) that provide key applications and databases for the company.
Customer Service Improved Dramatically
Increased communications, efficiency and allocation of capital resources enabled Nova Scotia Power to improve productivity by 18 percent. The new Ethernet network stretches across 46 district offices, four division offices, six thermal plants and several hydroelectric generating stations. Now, all scheduling is handled locally by district offices through a custom work-management system, which allocates the equipment, fleet vehicles and workers. Employees now have everything they need in their own offices to deliver great customer service. The standardized network has lowered total costs. In 10 months, the headcount had been reduced by 400 positions resulting in $10 million in annual savings. Each employee today serves 185 customers compared with 166 four years ago. The truck fleet was also reduced by 142 vehicles through more efficient resource use.
Improved customer satisfaction resulted when there was no need for a rate increase in 1994, which is attributable directly to the reengineering initiatives and the move to client/server technology.
Nova Scotia Power can make better use of valuable experts and expensive inventory by tracking power plant maintenance on flexible client/server systems.
Nova Scotia Power, the primary power utility in Nova Scotia, moves to client/server technology.