Connecting the utilities workforce

Utilities are facing increasing pressure to improve productivity and safety of field operations. More stringent demands from regulators and higher expectations from investors and customers are forcing utilities to change their ways of working. For many organisations, the current means of evidencing and communication between field workers and managers involves paper-based systems and a high volume of phone calls. This process is not productive and impacts site safety; potential hazards may not be reliably captured or elevated to management.

The ‘paper capture’ problem

Although field teams drive a large portion of a utility company’s labour cost base, many utility companies still rely on legacy tools and processes to assist them. In fact, a 2018 report states that field workers represent more than 40% of the utilities workforce and account for 60%-80% of a utility company’s capital expenditure.

Utility companies have extensively relied on paper-based ‘systems’ that lead to unnecessary data entry errors, reduced productivity and potential safety risks. As a workaround to this, field workers use unofficial platforms such as messaging apps (e.g. WhatsApp) that do not give the company centralised oversight of information or provide contextual analytics for managers.

Digitising paperwork, capturing real-time site information, and leveraging advanced analytics can boost field force productivity and reduce the cost of non-compliance due to poor record keeping.

Fieldworkers can save time on paperwork, focus on critical tasks, and complete more jobs per day. Managers can use real-time information to drive better performance from their teams, ensure appropriate resource allocation, and increase their span of control.

However, the path to digitisation is not easy: utilities are struggling to develop the right use cases, capture data accurately, integrate data feeds into existing systems, and allocate the appropriate amount of spend on software to make it happen.

In this whitepaper we examine how to improve the productivity of field teams with tools that replace paperwork and enable real-time site observability through technology such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML). We also introduce how a connected workforce can materially impact ways of working among utilities, including performance management, resource allocation, and training.

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