Four weeks before a field project launch, a City of Statesville municipal utility realized that a management system for scheduling appointments and collecting meter data had not yet been selected. Meters had already been delivered to a warehouse, fieldworkers had passed through security checks, and the City of Statesville staff were anticipating the new project phase.
Statesville is one hour drive from Charlotte. Their goal was to replace thousands of electric and water meters in one year, starting in the spring of 2021. Like most utilities, buildings in the City of Statesville had a collection of many different meter models and manufacturers, and all had to be read monthly by meter readers. The city planned to replace all these disparate units with next-generation smart meters and a smart grid infrastructure, enabling more efficient operations and power distribution.
The City of Statesville had prepared for this project in advance. They had recorded all the criteria for a potential utility vendor, published an RFP in 2020, then selected Contract Callers Inc., who have substantial relevant experience, to start the job a few months later.
Contract Callers Inc. has provided utility field services for decades and installed millions of smart meters. As Mike Maguire, VP of CCI, recalls, they were certain that the City of Statesville already had specific field management software in mind as part of their planning, and proceeded to settle all work details. CCI focused on hiring workers and preparing for the project to launch.
One morning in March 2021, when it was time to review data formats and establish technical contracts, both companies learned, to their dismay, that the field management platform in this project was missing. A field management system speeds up the installation process and design workflow for all workers and supervisors throughout the project lifecycle, and it looked like a substantial problem that could significantly delay the launch by months.
A couple of hours later, Fieldman received a request, and the company's IT team kicked into action immediately, began pre-project planning, and started to gather all the necessary data ready for the project to launch successfully.
Organizing data typically takes one to two months, including sending data back and forth and securing data exchange channels. Below is the initial process:
- Data must be evaluated to check for incomplete records.
- Then, IT specialists must geocode addresses for visualizing deployment on the map.
- Next, product mapping from legacy devices to smart meters is established and the blackout schedule configured to ensure no installations occur during the meter reading period.
The Fieldman team set the platform up for the City of Statesville project in four weeks. It sounds easy, but of course, nothing is. All projects typically have some technical issues. In this project, some address and contact information was incomplete, the data was spread across CSV and Excel formats, and technicians had to calibrate all the data to upload it into the field management platform.
The Fieldman team validated and customized workflows by the middle of April 2021.
After the successful project launch, the City of Statesville recognized that it would be helpful for future project planning to collect additional meter data. They wanted to record extended information, for example, mark where the galvanized pipe on the service side was located and gather data about outdated meter boxes that would need replacing in a year or two.
The unique Fieldman architecture allows the platform to be configured even in the middle of a project, and no work stoppage or additional coding is required. In just three days, all new client requirements were added to the platform, and field workers began collecting additional data in May 2021. Neither City of Statesville employees nor CCI had to involve their IT departments to do any extra coding.
The project stayed on schedule with no delays or unplanned stoppages. A couple of times, when the utility vendor had to catch up after a slow down, Fieldman added a significant number of users to the platform in minutes with no additional cost for vendors and the ability to facilitate the higher volume on installs. No license purchase or approval was necessary. Other software would require adding new user licenses that typically take five to seven days to approve and execute.
By November 2021, 88 % of legacy meters were replaced, and the City of Statesville has experienced zero issues with billing citizens for their water and electric services. The City of Statesville was then able to reassign highly valuable and experienced meter readers to help with maintenance and customer service.