Ergon Energy, Brisbane Australia.

Mobility solution helps power company meet regulatory compliance and improve resource allocation for pole inspection activities.

Business Challenge
Ergon Energy operates as an electricity generator, distributor and retailer servicing around 680,000 customers across a vast operating area of over one million square kilometres – 97% of the state of Queensland.

Ergon Energy owns over 800,000 power poles. These need constant inspection and maintenance by teams made up of internal staff or external contractors.

The level of record keeping varied from region to region. A paper-based system was used to record information on each pole inspected including the number of lights or switches attached, any defects found and any maintenance work carried out. Manual data entry to the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system was both time consuming and error prone.

Regulations dictate that damaged assets must be repaired within specific timeframes based on the impact of the damage to customers and the environment. However, the paper-based record keeping consumed a significant portion of the allotted time leaving less time for actual asset maintenance. This placed high demands on available resources to meet regulatory standards. Ergon Energy soon realised that the pole inspection process could be improved using a technology solution to improve workflows and record keeping.

Solution Overview
Ergon Energy conducted extensive research for a mobile computing solution that would meet its pole inspection needs. These needs included having a centralised asset management and maintenance system to coordinate inspections, having the ability to accurately record inspection information in the field, and having the ability to map power poles. Finally, due to the huge inspection area, the solution needed to operate in both connected and unconnected modes.

At this time the Geomatic Technologies (GT) Field Mobile Computing (GT FMC) solution had been successfully deployed at a Victorian power company. However, it was acknowledged that the business processes at Ergon Energy were quite different to those at the Victorian company. In order to configure GT FMC for Ergon Energy, GT led workshops with stakeholders to develop and detail the specific requirements for the mobility solution.

Some improvements to existing processes could be realised with GT FMC. For example, previously a single inspector was tasked with maintaining all assets in a defined territory. GT FMC allowed this to change so that anyone from a pool of inspectors could be deployed to any area but would have the required pole asset information at their fingertips, thus improving flexibility and utilisation of resources. The GT FMC solution is utilised by multiple contractors with a total of 150 active inspectors.

Outcomes
GT FMC for pole inspection provides the following outcomes to Ergon Energy:

  • Field asset information can be captured and loaded into corporate systems immediately (or as soon as teams have connectivity if operating in unconnected mode) leaving more time for essential defect remediation.
  • Faster response times to faults improve customer satisfaction.
  • Data quality is improved through elimination of manual data entry and paper-based records.
  • The availability of inspection and maintenance history of poles on mobile devices helps teams make more informed decisions in the field.