More decisions taken in the field

Grid workers from Norwegian grid companies Årdal Energi Nett and Skagerak Nett have designed their own services for work assignments in the field. They are now able to report new grid directly from their mobile phones, making their working easier, more fun and more efficient. 

Whilst Skagerak Nett is one of the largest grid owners in Norway with close to 200.000 customers, Årdal Energi Nett is considerably smaller with around 3.600. The two companies have different challenges, experiences and working days. What they have in common is that they have both seen the value of moving tasks from the office out into the field. 

By making information available through mobile solutions, they have achieved more efficient ways of working. Playing an important role in these digitalisation processes are services from Powel’s portfolio, specifically services that harness the power of geographical locations combined with data.  

“In Powel, we focus on the actual users when we develop solutions. This enables us to ensure that we create software that solve current and future challenges in a good way. We believe that mobility and automatisation can make a significant contribution in making grid operations more efficient,” says Business Manager in Powel, Richard Schytte. 

 grid workers climbing

The end of messy and time-consuming processes

“We had both a desire and a need to make our operations more efficient through digitalisation,” says Jan Stian Smedegård, in Årdal. “We used to have paper forms for everything. It was a case of physical maps outside, administrative tasks in the office, and constant phone calls between the workers outside and the people in the office. Basically, we had awkward processes that were both messy and time-consuming,” he says.

Based in western Norway, Årdal has 18 employees, including six installers. They aimed to ease the working day for their entire staff by giving field workers access to better information. With mobile applications from Powel, all installers were given access to map and information on their phones. They now have the same information as the office-based workers at their fingertips, and the interaction between the main systems and the apps works seamlessly. 

“Installing mobile apps was a big step which has made us more efficient. Updated data and information from field workers can now be entered directly into our network information system (NIS) without a middleman. Our office-based employees are experiencing less interruptions and phone calls, which gives them more time to concentrate on their tasks,” says Smedegård. 

Creating heroes in the field

In Årdal, installers are assigned jobs by a coordinator. Skagerak has taken an even bigger leap in terms of giving their installers freedom and moving decision-making out into the field. Four of their 100-strong field team are involved in a pilot project where they control most aspects of their working day. The initiative is part of a current culture- and competence project aiming to empower the field workers. 

“Often, the people working outside are in the best position to make the correct decisions. However, they need the right tools to do so. We asked ourselves how we could facilitate a way of working where a team is in full control of their day and digital tools are a good starting point for this,” explains Morten Gøytilfrom Skagerak. “Together with Powel, we worked closely with our field workers to ensure that it was their needs that guided the solution.” 

Installers for instance, are able to quickly gain an overview of jobs through a dashboard. They then use the Network Collector app to get more detailed information about each job. In the app, there is an overview of different tasks and error reports, enabling them to perform the technical jobs and maintain control of the area. If there is a need to order materials or digging, this can easily be ordered with photos and GPS coordinates in Network Collector. 

“One area where we are seeing an improvement already is a more efficient use of time. Previously, a coordinator would distribute work to field workers. As it could be difficult for a coordinator to plan how long a job would take, you sometimes had downtime in-between jobs. In Network Collector, you have the opportunity to pick minor jobs as and when, which enables us to utilise this time better,” says Gøytil.

 Field workers get information on their mobiles

Exciting and resource-saving

An important driving force behind both companies’ projects was to ensure user involvement in defining software on their terms, which they have succeeded in. 

“Moving several tasks out from the office has been a positive experience for us. Field workers feel more ownership of their grid when they have the information available and do not have to rely on the office staff. We have a young work force who are interested in technology. They are finding these processes exciting so implementing these changes have been straightforward,” says Smedegård. 

“To a large extent, this development is wanted by the field workers themselves. Many have asked for it and said that there is a need. We are already seeing that we save time and resources by increasing the level of self-service and combining this with correct data capture and documentation. Our goal is to reduce operations by 30% and we think this is possible,” says Gøytil. 

“Together with a range of companies, we are exploring how they can move decisions into the field and thus establish the hero in the field. In Powel, our goal is to reach 15.000 field workers and contribute to cost effectiveness, increased quality and a much more fun working day,” Schytte finishes. 

Powel’s Network Collector is built on the ArcGIS platform by Esri

All photos courtesy of Skagerak Nett and Årdal Energi Nett.