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SMECO Digitizes Planning and Tracking Crew Moves With Software

March 5, 2021
ARCOS Crew Manager gives the cooperative visibility into the availability of its crew members and equipment.

ARCOS LLC, has implemented ARCOS Crew Manager at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), so utility managers can not only see where, what and how long the co-op’s 40 service and construction crews are working but also create a digital snapshot of which crews and equipment are available minutes, hours or even weeks ahead. 

“Crew Manager is an evolution from the ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite we installed in 2006,” said Ronnie Wise, Distribution Operations manager for SMECO. “ARCOS callouts use algorithms to call crews in the order our business processes dictate; with ARCOS, we’ve assembled 14-person crews in 24 minutes. Before that we made callouts by hand, one call at a time – it could take an hour to build a crew.”

During normal business hours, SMECO’s distribution system operators (DSOs) use Crew Manager alongside the work and outage management system to keep tabs on crews’ field work and customer appointments. Crew foremen, which SMECO calls operations supervisors, begin their shift and enter the status of crew members into Crew Manager. The software then tracks and computes hours worked, breaks and availability – on a dashboard for the DSOs.

To manage resources for a forecasted storm, SMECO’s managers access a visual display of the status, skill sets and location of crews and equipment in Crew Manager via color-coded icons. Managers drag and drop icons across the utility’s territory to create different restoration scenarios. If a scenario shows a gap because, say, a crew will have worked too many hours or there aren’t enough resources to cover a set of circuits, SMECO can reorder its plans in Crew Manager and quickly see an alternative or know precisely how many contractors to call on.

SMECO has also relied on Crew Manager during the COVID-19 pandemic to split its crews into blue and gold teams to better manage, or mitigate, a potential outbreak. The system allows DSOs to quickly see if a field assignment might cause crews from different teams to inadvertently converge at a work site, which helps to prevent crossover.

DSOs also rely on the crew management software to set up attributes (or badges) for resources. For instance, next to a truck’s serial number in Crew Manager, a DSO can link a color-coded badge reading “digger-derrick” or “single-bucket truck.” Before Crew Manager, SMECO relied on an ever-evolving number scheme to track trucks and other equipment.

Wise added, “Cooperatives that don’t have these systems will ask, ‘Why do I need to buy a software system to make calls and track crews when I have dispatchers?’

“We gave our DSOs these tools, so they can put more time into researching what crews need, or formulating a game plan for restoration,” said Wise. “In the midst of chaos, it’s made life less chaotic.”

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