Unlocking the Power of GIS in a Utility Network Journey
With a population of just over 10,000, the Boston suburb of Hull, Massachusetts, is most known for its beaches comprising the Nantasket peninsula. Since 1894, Hull ratepayers have received power from Hull Municipal Light Plant. In its more than 120-year history, the utility has advanced its capabilities using technology and process improvements. To continue providing residents with lower rates, Hull Light led a digital transformation of its business practices and asset management system.
Electric & Gas
Hull Municipal Light Plant staff improved business efficiencies by leveraging ArcGIS Utility Network for a comprehensive utility management system.
Hull Municipal Light Plant leadership, staff, and mobile employees.
To keep customer rates low, leadership at Hull Municipal Light Plant looked at ways to improve efficiency and trim costs. After discovering inefficient processes and data integrity challenges, it decided it was time for a digital transformation.
Hull Light partnered with Patrick Engineering to implement ArcGIS Utility Network for a comprehensive utility management system.
Hull Light achieved its digital transformation. It created a common operating picture, improved data integrity by 80 percent, and enhanced business decision-making by 25 percent.
In 2020, leadership at Hull Light did an internal analysis to see how it could keep customer rates lower and trim operational costs. This audit shed light on inefficiencies in day-to-day operations such as outdated technologies and siloed workflows between office and field staff. Often, staff members were doing twice the work interpreting field data because of paper forms and manual inputs.
Additionally, much of the field data existed in computer-aided design (CAD) files and spreadsheets. While the old systems provided some visual information, staff could not perform network tracing. They lacked a common operating picture when discussing assets. The data was managed in too many places, causing slower customer response and leading to higher rates.
To better serve customers, Hull Light staff needed an updated solution that could reduce inefficiencies.
Hull Light chose Patrick Engineering, an Esri partner with geographical information system (GIS) expertise in electric and utility networks. Patrick Engineering serves a wide range of clients in the rail/transit, highway, aviation, manufacturing, utility, renewable energy, education, and health-care markets across all 50 states. The firm's focused and step-by-step approach ensured smooth transitions in system and data changes. Additionally, since Hull Light is a smaller utility without in-house GIS staff, Patrick Engineering provided support and guided staff education in GIS.
Hull Light staff wanted to ensure their GIS would meet business needs across the organization. The GIS solution would affect asset management, field crew data collection, billing, customer service, and more. The goal was to create a common operating picture where office staff and field teams could see the same data, at the same time, to make the right business decisions. Patrick Engineering recommended a three-phase operation to migrate Hull Light systems to ArcGIS Utility Network. The custom network leverages ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Enterprise for advanced asset modeling, analysis, business integration, and communications.
The first step was implementing ArcGIS Enterprise and using ArcGIS Pro. The rest of phase one focused on converting existing CAD, spreadsheets, and other forms of data into a consolidated geodatabase for ArcGIS Enterprise services, maps, and web apps. The six-week process identified other data and process barriers for the project team to improve. The goal of phase one was to create a foundation model for the ArcGIS Utility Network. The model included all assets, data, and necessary information.
"From the beginning, this collaboration was about implementing enterprise-wide unity for Hull Light to embrace all the capabilities of ArcGIS and the Utility Network," says Scott Fierro, GIS consultant at Patrick Engineering.
Phase one also revealed Hull Light's 6,000 smart meters that needed to be documented and updated for the new system. Phase two has focused on helping Hull Light staff with this process. Using ArcGIS Survey123, field crews are now locating each meter, replacing it, and collecting individual meter data (including imagery). This information will feed into the ArcGIS Utility Network dataset.
"Patrick Engineering took the time with us to optimize the Survey123 application for workers in the field. Working out the fine details of the survey has allowed mobile workers to be as efficient as possible," says Michael Schmitt, assistant operations manager at Hull Light. "This streamlined survey will be very beneficial and add time savings to our AMI meter system deployment and future Utility Network needs."
The meter data in Utility Network also feeds into Salt Creek Software's PowerManager. This power billing software will improve billing accuracy. Phase two will be complete by spring 2021, with the full software to be launched by summer.
While Hull Light is just now moving into the later phases of its utility network journey, staff are already seeing positive results from ArcGIS. After the ArcGIS Enterprise implementation, Hull Light management noted that decision-making, data quality, and field operations efficiencies improved by 25 percent. Using ArcGIS Enterprise and Survey123, staff reduced time collecting field data and updating the billing system by 80 percent. Additionally, Hull Light achieved the goal of creating a useful common operational picture for staff.
The benefits of Hull Light's digital transformation to ArcGIS Enterprise and the ArcGIS Utility Network will include outage traceability for quicker response time, in-depth analysis, and proactive asset monitoring.
"Digital transformation often sounds like there is a lot of effort involved in there. As a company, we show our clients that they can achieve it regardless of the size of their organization or the number of residents they serve," says John Young, director of geospatial services at Patrick Engineering. "At the end of the day, organizations have some of the simplest things to overcome or sometimes the most complex. But it starts with committing to the transformation and getting started on the foundation."
Working with Patrick Engineering and ArcGIS, Hull Light created a foundation for success with accurate data, lower costs, and a more efficient business.