Shared Data Helps Utilities Integrate Ops

By Jenny Malcolm, GPS Insight

All utilities must ensure that operations run with optimal efficiency. It is common for utilities to require several technology platforms to run their business, so sharing data between software increases effectiveness. As integration becomes more common practice, businesses are realizing how sharing data between platforms simplifies operations considerably and helps them make better business decisions.

Integrating automatic vehicle location (AVL) data with other data platforms provides a complete view into fleet operations without the need to log into multiple interfaces. Any modern software should have the ability to send data back and forth for streamlined daily workflow. Utilities that integrate AVL data with other backend systems can improve outage response times, prevent fuel card fraud, verify payroll accuracy, improve maintenance management and much more.

Improve Outage Response Time

A powerful use of integration for utilities is combining AVL data with an outage management system (OMS). Sending AVL data into an OMS creates a mapping overlay to display current vehicle locations and power lines. Utilities can populate the locations of nearby crews on their OMS to increase response times during power outages, which becomes incredibly valuable during a customer emergency.

If a power outage occurs in a highly populated area and dispatch needs to send the closest driver to the outage site, action must be taken as quickly as possible. Taking time to log into multiple portals to identify which power line is down, compare the downed line’s locations to current vehicle locations in an AVL system, and then dispatch the driver to the job site is incredibly inefficient. With a simple mapping overlay of current vehicle locations and power lines, utility fleet dispatchers can identify the driver who is best-equipped and closest to the outage site, provide the most accurate time of restoration, improve fleet and public safety and ultimately serve customers faster.

Prevent Fuel Card Fraud

Fuel card reporting is another significant integration benefit. By sending fuel card information to an AVL platform, the fuel card data can be integrated into the AVL system through a data dump, which collects data from two systems and puts it into one scheduled report. By integrating fuel card information into AVL reporting, utilities gain access to multifaceted reports on fuel card transactions, fuel card usage and mileage.

One of the most valuable use cases for integrating fuel card data into an AVL system is to prevent fuel card fraud. It’s unfortunate, but some drivers take advantage and use company fuel cards to fill up their personal vehicles or purchase unapproved items inside the gas station. It is important for utility fleet managers to have in place a fuel card tracking system to monitor fuel usage, when and where their technicians are filling up on fuel, and how many miles are driven between fill ups to ensure purchases are legitimate. This integration allows utilities to combat fuel card fraud and improve accountability.

Verify Payroll Accuracy

Most utilities have transitioned to electronic timecard systems for payroll. Although using this modernized method has streamlined payroll tremendously, it can be difficult to identify discrepancies in billable hours reported if employees are not required to clock in and out or take their work vehicles home. To ensure payroll is as accurate as possible for all field employees, utilities can import AVL data into a payroll system to verify that time cards are correct.

By importing a beginning and end-of-day report gathered from an AVL platform into the payroll system, a utility’s accounting department can identify and fix payroll discrepancies at the click of a button. It might not seem that meaningful if a driver miscalculates his or her hours by 15 minutes here and there. It can, however, add up over time and increase labor overhead by a significant amount. Utilities that have integrated payroll with AVL to fix payroll discrepancies have reported saving at least $100,000 per year on labor costs alone.

Streamline Maintenance Management

Staying on top of fleet maintenance is crucial for utilities to ensure vehicles are safe to operate at all times, prevent expensive repairs due to outstanding maintenance and improve overall vehicle reliability. Utilities are incorporating AVL systems with fleet maintenance management systems to improve maintenance management through process automation.

This integration allows utilities to access current meter and odometer data, which streamlines maintenance reporting. This integration has tremendously improved scheduling preventative services like oil changes, tire rotations, emissions testing and more to ensure important maintenance is never missed.

Integrating AVL and maintenance management also allows utilities to take action right away when diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) are displayed. DTCs are imported automatically into the AVL system so that utilities can assess the engine issues in real-time. AVL systems provide a DTC alert that will send management a notification if a vehicle is experiencing issues with its engine, transmission, brakes or any other situation that requires the vehicle to undergo immediate inspection.

Software Compatibility

Integration plays a significant role in fleet management. It is, therefore, important to ensure the capabilities described here are available when selecting new software. Some software providers can’t or won’t integrate with other companies’ software and systems.

Integrating data from different platforms and sharing it in one location, as shown here, simplifies operations and improves business decisions.

A utility should confirm that any new IT equipment it might purchase is compatible with its existing important software. Top tier AVL partners should be willing to integrate with other backend software systems to provide customers with full insight into all fleet activity and allow for more effective management from one portal.

Utilities that integrate their data between platforms will improve dispatching during customer emergencies, reduce the chance of fuel fraud, reduce labor costs, streamline maintenance management and improve their fleet’s overall effectiveness. Integration creates access to the most meaningful fleet data available to optimize business operations.

Jenny Malcolm is the content marketing specialist for GPS Insight. She graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and is responsible for external marketing communication for all business segments that GPS Insight targets.

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