Software softens the blow of major flooding

This year’s record flooding saw major power outages in Australia and a 60-percent rise in work orders for electricity distributor, Powercor. Thanks to mobile workforce management software from Ventyx, an ABB company, the company handled every call, with no loss of efficiency.

By ABB Communications

CitiPower and Powercor Australia manage the poles, wires and equipment that deliver electricity to homes and businesses in and around Melbourne in the state of Victoria. Just a few months after installing the Service Suite mobile workforce management (MWFM) solution from Ventyx, an ABB company, Powercor’s fault management crews were faced with a major outage due to record flooding.

Supported by the highly scalable Service Suite mobile scheduling and dispatch software, Powercor rose to the challenge—managing 60 percent more work orders while maintaining the same levels of efficiency and job completion rates.

In 2009, CitiPower and Powercor implemented the Ventyx Service Suite MWFM software solution to help schedule and dispatch crews tasked with installing 1.1 million remotely read “smart meters.”

The efficiencies achieved led Powercor in October 2010 to expand the scope of Service Suite to encompass the Faults operations of Powercor. This included the integration of the utility’s Outage Management System (OMS) and mobile software for approximately 300 work crews tasked with restoring faults in the electricity distribution network.

Very heavy rainfall in January 2011 caused some of the worst flooding in the history of Victoria, Australia, causing thousands of evacuations and widespread power outages across the state. Software from Ventyx, an ABB company, helped utility crews quickly and smoothly restore lost power.

Once in a lifetime
In January 2011, only a few months after these crews went live on the new system, disaster struck. A giant lake of floodwater 90 km long washed over the state of Victoria, causing widespread outages. At one point as many as 43,000 Powercor customers were off supply, along with the removal from service of a zone substation supplying 8,000 of those customers. The scale of the outage caused a major spike in work orders—up 60 percent on the previous week. It was a challenge that no one at the utility had ever experienced, the type of natural disaster that may happen only once in 200 years.

With the surge in work volume and only a few months’ experience with the new Ventyx solution, Powercor was concerned that the crews would struggle. “This flooding emergency was considered a true escalation event, for which crews are allowed to revert to paper, if required. But, most crews didn’t. They continued to use Service Suite on their mobile devices,” said Alan King, Manager of Field Mobile Applications for CitiPower and Powercor’s CHED Services. “This was seen by Powercor as a very good sign of their faith in the system as the best solution for handling this crisis.”

Despite the significant increase in workload, “The crews were able to handle the volume of work thrown at them,” said King. “This was the first time they really ‘stress tested’ Service Suite, and it held up as expected and did the job they needed it to do.”

The improved ability to capture accurate data and receive real-time updates from the field also aided the business during the flood, said King. “I doubt we would have been able to handle that work volume so easily using paper,” said King. “It's fair to say that Service Suite played a major role in helping us respond to this emergency. Our crews have never seen anything like it, and Service Suite saved us significant costs in terms of overtime, resources, and dispatch demand. It aided the business immensely.”

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    Innovative mobile work management software from Ventyx, an ABB company, helped utility crews in Australia restore power after major flooding in the state of Victoria.
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