Our industry is seeing our customers move quickly to electrification. ArcGIS will help us to manage that change.
Municipal Utility Builds an Asset Management Foundation in the Cloud
West Boylston Municipal Light Plant (WBMLP) provides dependable electric power to the residents and businesses of historic West Boylston, Massachusetts. For over 100 years, 8,300 citizen owners have depended on WBMLP for safe, reliable, and cost-effective service. Given the utility's aggressive goals for decarbonization and electrification, WBMLP needed a better way to anticipate system needs and manage its infrastructure.
WBMLP is proud of its reliability record, and the utility needs to maintain this high-quality service as customer behaviors change. Electrification in West Boylston is rapidly advancing both electric vehicle and heat pump adoption. Responding to these needs demands detailed electric system information in the office and the field.
The traditional paper-based circuit maps and single-line diagrams lacked sufficient detail. Moreover, they were challenging to modify, keep current, and reproduce. These maps lacked true locations of assets like poles, pull boxes, and transformers. As a result, field crews struggled to locate some facilities, particularly when hidden by vegetation or snow.
WBMLP wanted an easier, more user-friendly way to maintain, understand, and utilize asset information. Looking ahead, the utility was determined to provide employees with state-of-the-art tools. This effort fully supports the organization's service reliability, effectiveness, and sustainability goals.
Realizing that digital transformation was within reach, WBMLP selected the cost-effective ArcGIS Online solution for small utilities. The utility was able to get up and running very quickly with the cloud-based software. The software as a service (SaaS) architecture delivers agile services to meet WBMLP's present and future requirements.
The solution contains a full data model as well as applications and dashboards to support collection, inventory, and management of assets in an electric distribution network.
WBMLP is rapidly building its digital database via field inspection. Field personnel use ArcGIS Field Maps with high-accuracy GPS/Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers. Poles, transformers, switches, reclosers, and meters are being gathered first, followed by underground structures. Eventually, underground primary and secondary cables will be added as well.
Brian Allen, WBMLP assistant general manager, is pleased with the progress. "This is a project we started at ground zero, and we're seeing it grow," Allen said. "It's not one that has taken 10 years to do. I'm very impressed with that. Everything has worked flawlessly."
WBMLP teamed with GEO Jobe for additional technical support. GEO Jobe is a long-standing Esri Gold Tier partner with a wide variety of services fully leveraging the power of GIS technology. GEO Jobe's enterprise services team specializes in data management solutions for electric, gas, and telecommunications organizations.
WBMLP promptly put the solution components to work, capturing detailed data in the field. As data is gathered, staff can make edits directly on web-based maps. Centralized real-time information enables WBMLP to update records upon inspection and respond quickly to unexpected events like outages.
Preconfigured dashboards readily monitor field data collection progress in real time. As it is assembled, the data is immediately put to work, aiding troubleshooters and reducing downtime. Allen noted, "Line workers don't relate to one-line diagrams—they need to tie the system to landmarks and roads. ArcGIS does that well."
The built-in apps for editing and viewing are exposing new opportunities to streamline workflows while setting a firm foundation for analysis and digital asset management.
WBMLP is preparing to deploy mobile apps on iPads, enabling crews to locate assets with authority and plan service restoration switching more effectively. Allen also anticipates using work order management and equipment reference photos for additional productivity gains.