Improving Utility Vegetation Management with GIS-Based Crew App
We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), part of the WEC Energy Group, provide electricity and natural gas to more than 3 million Wisconsin customers. Routine maintenance includes making certain that 31,450 miles of power lines have clear space around overhead lines. The power lines generate thousands of work tickets related to customer requests and storm events. We Energies and WPS employ hundreds of utility and contractor crews to maintain the power lines and respond to work tickets.
The merger with the WEC Energy Group united We Energies and WPS under a single vegetation management program. The merger brought to light manual process and business inefficiencies that We Energies and WPS could no longer ignore. Using a geographic information system (GIS), We Energies and WPS were able to rebuild their processes into a more efficient program.
Encroaching trees impact power reliability, safety, regulatory compliance, and service quality. Maintenance to trim trees is ongoing and costly for We Energies and WPS. In the past, We Energies and WPS operators managed their vegetation management systems with hard-copy maps and paperwork tickets. These manual paper-based processes caused several inefficiencies. There were long delays in communication and lost paperwork. As a result, costs and errors increased. The old systems also restricted the ability to report and share the status of work in the field. This contributed to supervisory and compliance challenges. Between the volume of work and the inefficient processes, it took a digital and work management approach to merge the two organizations' data into a singular system. This also created a program that was easy for the crews in the field to use.
Electric & Gas
Following a merger with WEC Energy Group, We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service needed to overcome challenges with manual processes and work management while merging the two vegetation management programs into one.
We Energies and WPS implemented an Esri technology-based vegetation work management solution built around office and field applications from Esri partner Clearion.
We Energies and WPS achieved a digital transformation of the entire vegetation management business program. The companies eliminated overhead costs and created a more efficient system.
We Energies and WPS chose Clearion, an Esri partner with GIS expertise in vegetation management. Clearion works with global infrastructure companies to manage complex workflows in markets such as utilities, transportation, and telecom. Clearion provided an end-to-end solution to address the work challenges at We Energies and WPS.
We Energies and WPS wanted to guarantee that the new vegetation management system would meet business needs and help utility crews overcome the challenges they were experiencing. To best fit field crew needs, the companies used vegetation work management office and field applications from Clearion, built using Esri ArcGIS technology.
The Clearion system leverages native ArcGIS data layers from the utilities' resources and land GIS. The system also integrates work tickets using web services to connect to the customer call center software. By pursuing a native ArcGIS solution, We Energies and WPS can direct the line-clearance activities based on the electrical assets and the grid/feeder configuration.
GIS maps and apps help orient crews to the location of their work in the field to make sure they are working at the right place at the right time. The solution consists of desktop work management software and integrated field applications for crew work completion. It also contains arborist/inspector work planning and auditing. We Energies and WPS deployed the Clearion application to several hundred field personnel using a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach secured through the contractor's in-house mobile device management system.
"The big benefit with the implementation of the new technology and the changes to our program management is [that] we can see in real time what is happening in the field and can be proactive in the work that needs to be done instead of reactive," said Dan Siewert, regional forester, Wisconsin Public Service.
We Energies and WPS operators achieved a transformation of the entire business process. This transformation made data collection and communication across all stages of the work more efficient. Overall, the changes achieved a more reliable program. This allowed staff to eliminate paper in the field and improved oversight and reporting on the vegetation management program. With these process improvements, contractor accountability, customer service, and budget management also improved. We Energies-WPS's transformation proves the convenience of deploying software to contractors in a BYOD model while meeting strict IT security requirements. The transformation also proved that purpose-built apps could gain strong adoption by a field workforce that had not used this type of mobile technology before.
"We wanted to make sure that this technology was easy for our crews to use—and it is, which has allowed them to work remotely and independently. This has been essential for working in light of the COVID-19 pandemic," continued Siewert. "It was long and hard to simplify the program, but the Crew app has made us more efficient overall."