Central Maine Power restores power Central Maine Power Co.

Central Maine Power Co. crews restoring power.

Software Visually Depicts and Mobilizes Utility Crews with a Click

ARCOS, Inc. has released its Crew Manager software to give utility storm managers and others access to a computer-generated board for visually organizing and mobilizing crews required during large power restoration events.

“The ability to mobilize and track crews efficiently in a storm is a game-changer for the utility industry,” said Joe Purington, director of Electric Distribution Operations at Central Maine Power Co., a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA. “We needed a system that precisely captures crew staffing, the time crews worked and lets us play it back after a storm has passed. That’s data at our fingertips that we can use to better gauge restoration costs and address information requests from executive management and our utility regulators.”

Crew Manager is powered by a cloud-based, enterprise SaaS system that Iberdrola USA, NSTAR and Pepco Holdings Co. now use. Crew Manager’s point-and-click graphics let supervisors tap smartphones, tablets, PCs and touch-screen interactive whiteboards to immediately see where crews are working and, if needed, reassign them as power restoration progresses.

With Crew Manager’s “virtual board,” supervisors can track crews by job classification, staging area, elapsed-time worked and status. Working shifts, rest time, emergency callouts and work exceptions appear as movable icons, so users can quickly visualize ongoing work and potential needs. Users can reorganize crews with a click to address the constant inflow of questions and information that come with storm restoration work.

As storms strike, gathering crews and reporting on their status is usually choreographed chaos. For most utilities, the centerpiece for assembling and reporting on storm crew status and resources is a whiteboard – in fact, dozens of whiteboards spread across multiple service centers. The crew data on these boards is inevitably captured on hundreds of spreadsheets. Storm managers email the spreadsheets back and forth throughout the day between themselves and ad-hoc groups of dispatchers and supervisors whose job is manually piecing together crews and matching them to their daily reporting location and supervisor.

Utility personnel must accurately report the number and location of crews working, so they can inform regulatory commissioners, executives, customers and reporters. If a chief executive wants to know where crews are, it’s not uncommon for the storm center to take four to 24 hours to respond.

In contrast, Crew Manager works like an air traffic control system. Supervisors tap the software to direct crews (including foreign contractor and mutual assist crews) and show their precise status during a major event. A utility can use the software to designate who can update crew status, so storm managers always have accurate information, which eliminates delays in rolling up crew data from phone calls and spreadsheets. 

“Crew Manager can also rewind or fast forward the work it records to instantly report on each crew’s performance during an outage,” said Bruce Duff, chief executive officer of ARCOS.

“Having all of our crew management data in one, easy-to-use system for analysis will play a significant role in reducing storm costs and follow-up reconciliation after the storm for internal and external resources,” said Purington.

ARCOS is a registered trademark of McLeod & Associates, Ltd.

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