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Nashville Electric Service (NES) Speeds and Streamlines Storm Damage Assessment with EpochField

Project Summary

Project Type:

SaaS-based EpochField map viewer and work management
implementation

Locations: 

Middle Tennessee

Number of Members: 

Nearly 430,000

Applications:

To obtain a system of record data capture solution for assessing and tracking storm damage to utility circuits.

Solutions Implemented:

EpochField Work Management
EpochField Mobile
EpochField WebSuite

Member Benefits:

Avoid time spent reconciling damage data across multiple repositories

Deploy storm damage assessment crews faster

Reassign field crews in the moment based on real-time data

Eliminate redundant storm damage field checks

Get storm-related damage repairs in progress sooner

Introduction

Nashville Electric Service (NES) is one of the 12 largest public electric utilities in the US, serving Middle Tennessee customers since 1939. The company distributes power to nearly 430,000 customers across a 700-square-mile service area that encompasses Nashville, Davidson County, and parts of six surrounding counties, through some 5,900 miles of distribution and transmission lines.

When a storm hits, assessing the damage to utility circuits quickly and accurately is essential to getting power restored. But the lack of a single data repository made it difficult to accomplish that goal. To improve the task of assessing and responding to storm damage, NES implemented the EpochField Work Management solution and mobile app in January 2024.

The Challenge: Conflicting Data Made Damage Assessment Difficult

“We need to get crews assigned quickly to the circuits we believe are most damaged after a storm,” said John Savary, NES Technical Lead. “But the process for assessing and tracking storm damage proved time consuming, inefficient, and error prone.” Though NES had moved from manual maps to the ArcGIS Online/Field Maps app, there was no single system of record for storm damage assessment data.

Instead, the Engineering team would use ArcGIS data to identify damaged circuits and assign crews to assess the situation on the ground. Their completed damage forms would populate a dashboard that informed real-time decisions on where to send repair crews and how to prioritize the work. Concurrently, a Systems Control team in Operations was collecting similar information submitted by field crews and operational centers via email, text, and phone, then creating a spreadsheet summarizing the data.

Without one system of record, many staff hours were spent reconciling the two repositories. “And because we didn’t have consistent data on work progress, some crews were going over the same circuit multiple times, wasting more hours and many vehicle miles,” said Savary, who served as the main technical contact for the project. Accurately assigning contractors to conduct post-storm repair checks also proved difficult. Even gathering the necessary information to report to Accounting and FEMA was challenging, jeopardizing the utility’s efforts to quantify and recover storm damage costs.

EpochField: Providing a System of Record that Streamlines Damage Assessment

EpochField will address all those challenges by becoming NES’s system of record for gathering and tracking storm damage assessments and subsequent field checks. This single repository will track which circuits have been assessed for damage and the findings, automatically triggering utility work orders within EpochField for the necessary repairs.

All storm damage-related data can reside within EpochField, color-coded by voltage, using readily recognizable symbols to represent common field assets for quick reference. And since the system can access NES’s outage and customer call system, it will be much easier to determine where damage is occurring and allocate field crews optimally.

In the field, NES assessors will use the system’s circuit tracing capabilities to identify which circuits and lines are affected and which control points are involved, with the ability to “breadcrumb” the areas they’ve inspected and note completed work using an auto-complete feature. Back in the war room, Operations can use the EpochField mobile app to trace circuits back to protection equipment, track the damage assessment effort, evaluate response times and percentage completion, post-storm inventory, and dynamically reassign assessors as the work progresses.

In the aftermath of a storm, EpochField’s offline access will prove invaluable in the field. “Our crews can keep accessing maps and gathering GIS data even without an Internet connection or cell phone access,” Savary said.

EpochField will even improve NES’s pre-storm planning. “We can organize our Tier 1 and Tier 2 resources and assign them to circuits in advance to reduce our preparation lead time,” Savary explained. “We’ll be able to get crews out at first light.”

The Implementation: "Best We've Ever Experienced"

“This was probably the best software implementation experience I’ve had in over 20 years working with vendors,” Savary said. He credits the Epoch Solutions Group team’s expertise, transparency, and communication as key drivers of the project’s success, along with their detailed approach to identifying the project requirements and the utility’s desired functionality.

“Epoch’s support was great during user acceptance testing and our internal mock storm testing and training,” he added. “They were always willing to go above and beyond.” Epoch’s Technical Lead even went on site during the utility’s field testing and was on call during multiple mock storm tests to provide support and answer questions on the spot.

The Results: Fast, Accurate Response Without the Waste of Data Reconciliation & Duplicate Work

NES will save significant staff time by eliminating labor-intensive data reconciliation steps and improving data accuracy. Before, an average-length storm involving three to four days of assessment required about 150 staff hours just to reconcile data from disparate sources. Another 25-40 hours was typically spent tracking down information to submit to FEMA for storm cost recovery. And that doesn’t include the untold hours wasted on duplicate field checks.

With EpochField serving as a single repository for storm damage assessment data, unnecessary steps will be eliminated, staff hours will be dramatically reduced, and the process significantly streamlined. “EpochField will allow us to efficiently organize resources, track progress in the office and the field, deploy crews faster, inventory repaired equipment more accurately with less effort, and supply all our field users with
our GIS maps,” Savary said. “Now, we can all be on the same page during and after a storm.”

Future Plan: More Ways to Leverage EpochField

Savary sees the potential for EpochField to improve efficiency at NES in other ways. Down the road, NES hopes to use the utility work scheduler to streamline vegetation management and manage Tennessee One-Calls during storm restoration efforts, as well as develop workflows for its pole inspection program and field
checking of design and as-built jobs.

Conclusion

The EpochField implementation at NES is a prime example of how leading utilities are employing SaaS utility software to respond to a dynamic landscape, where severe storms are more common and response speed more critical than ever. By enabling NES to leverage GIS data in a more streamlined way, Epoch Solutions Group is empowering the utility to improve efficiency and save hundreds of hours, enhance customer service, and ensure worker safety in the face of devastating storms.

Esri User Conference 2024

JULY 15-19, 2024 | SAN DIEGO, CA

Visit with Epoch Solutions Group

Join Epoch Solutions Group in booth 912 for the 2024 Esri User Conference, the world’s largest GIS conference. Join us in discovering new opportunities to streamline your utility field operations with EpochField, leveraging GIS technology and Esri.

With EpochField, learn how you can:

With EpochSync Pro, learn how you can:

Presentation Schedule

The utility industry is undergoing a digital transformation. Companies in this space, whether electric, gas, or telecommunications, face significant changes in their business operations. One of the most critical areas is the need to adapt how field work is managed and operationalized. Epoch Solutions Group will discuss key elements for implementing GIS in your utility field management solution.

Don’t miss our presentation, “A Complete Guide to Field Service Management Using GIS for Utilities,” presented by Software Development Team Lead Paul Lam from Southern California Gas Company.

Wednesday, July 17
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM PDT
Room 29 D | SDCC

♥ add the presentation to your Esri Event App schedule!

T&D World LIVE

OCTOBER 1-3, 2024 | ATLANTA, GA

Visit with Epoch Solutions Group

Join Epoch Solutions Group in booth 600 for T&D World LIVE 2024 to learn about EpochField and future grid distribution, digitization & big data, and more.

T&D World Live aims to unite the industry in addressing evolving grid demands, fostering education, networking, and open discussions, featuring top industry experts. This event, designed by and for utilities, spearheads collaborative efforts to navigate challenges and excel in the evolving energy landscape. Join us for a dynamic, community-driven experience shaping the future of the utility industry.

With EpochField, learn how you can:

With EpochSync Pro, learn how you can:

SECO Energy Enhances GIS Capabilities with EpochSync

Project Summary

Project Type:

Smallworld to Esri GIS data sync

Locations: 

Central Florida

Number of Customers: 

230,000 +

Applications:

To enhance GIS capabilities to streamline operations and improve service delivery

Solutions Implemented:

EpochSync

Customer Benefits

Reliable way to sync Smallworld data to an Esri Geodatabase

Hundreds of man-hours saved annually

Enhanced operational efficiency

Improve member satisfaction

Introduction

SECO Energy, a not-for-profit electric cooperative, serves almost 250,000 homes and businesses across seven counties in Central Florida. As the third-largest electric co-op in Florida and the seventh-largest in the nation, SECO has been delivering reliable power, excellent service, and low rates since 1938. The organization’s extensive network management and member service have been supported by a robust IT infrastructure. However, the changing dynamics of utility management and the increasing complexity of data integration presented SECO with a significant challenge: enhancing its GIS capabilities to streamline operations and improve member satisfaction.

The Challenge: Integrating System of Record with Modern GIS Capabilities as System of Engagement

SECO’s GIS data, essential for managing its extensive network, is housed in GE Smallworld. This system of record, while robust, limited SECO’s ability to fully utilize the advanced tools and technologies available in the Esri environment. The need for a solution that could seamlessly integrate these two platforms was clear.

Barry Owens, Manager of Geospatial Services, spearheaded the initiative to find a solution. “Our focus was to gain the mapping and analytics functionality of the Esri platform and to extend our GIS data out to an environment where Esri tools and technologies could be utilized. We wanted to do this through an efficient and stable solution that didn’t require daily manual intervention,” Owens explained.

EpochSync: The Bridge Between System of Record and System of Engagement

EpochSync emerged as the ideal solution for SECO’s needs. EpochSync, specifically designed to synchronize data between Smallworld and Esri, represents the bridge between SECO’s system of record and its system of engagement. Its comprehensive configuration XML file ensured better access to mapping, while hard-coded asset groups and types guaranteed precision in data handling, further engaging their membership. The in-built special Esri functionalities, including examples for containment and structural associations, enhanced its appeal.

“EpochSync offered the most reliable and painless way to synchronize our Smallworld data to an Esri Geodatabase,” Owens noted, emphasizing its efficiency and ease of use compared to other tools. “While we previously utilized other tools for this type of data extraction, they required hands-on management of the system,” said Owens.

The Implementation: A Seamless Transition

The implementation of EpochSync at SECO was overseen by key decision-makers, including Owens and Charles White, Applications Programming Supervisor. The process was smooth and efficient, reflecting the solution’s design with Esri’s complexities in mind. “The unremarkable nature of EpochSync’s implementation underscored its painless and straightforward process,” White recalled.

The Results: Saving Hundreds of Hours Each Year and Gaining Enhanced Efficiency, Precision, and Member Satisfaction

The impact of EpochSync on SECO’s operations was significant. The automated synchronization process saves significant man-hours annually, allowing the team to focus on strategic tasks. “EpochSync’s automation is the key to SECO’s ability to reduce hundreds of hands-on hours each year,” Owens stated.

The precision in data handling ensured by EpochSync’s accurate object mapping and handling of Esri associations maintains data integrity throughout the transition. This precision is critical in managing SECO’s extensive network and maintaining high member service standards. The integration with Esri platforms has also enabled SECO to utilize advanced GIS tools for various operational and business processes, improving overall efficiency and decision-making.

Future Prospects: Leveraging Data for Advanced Applications

Looking ahead, SECO is exploring opportunities to leverage the EpochSync database in Microsoft Power Platforms, particularly Power BI. This move will aim to enhance data analysis capabilities, further improving decision-making processes. Additionally, SECO has now set up the foundation to implement EpochField as a data collection tool which will drive even more optimized operations for the organization.

Expanding the Horizon: SECO's Ongoing Journey with EpochSync

The journey with EpochSync extends beyond its implementation. SECO continues to explore the myriad possibilities that this advanced tool offers. The utility is now better equipped to handle large-scale data, manage complex network systems, and provide enhanced member service. The ability to share GIS data with external sources for improved situational awareness has also been a significant advantage.

Conclusion

SECO Energy’s implementation of EpochSync is a testament to the transformative power of integrating the right technology in utility operations. This strategic move has streamlined SECO’s GIS data management and opened new avenues for data visualization and operational efficiency while strengthening member satisfaction.

SECO’s experience serves as a benchmark for GIS data management in the utility sector, showcasing how innovative solutions can lead to significant improvements in service delivery and operational excellence. In today’s dynamic utility landscape, SECO Energy is a prime example of how seamless data integration can position a business at the forefront of utility data management.

BC Hydro Successfully Leverages the Power of GIS Technology from Multiple Providers

Electric utilities face unprecedented challenges in today’s dynamic and quickly evolving energy landscape. Navigating the complexities of adapting to changing regulations and standards, exceeding higher consumer expectations, upgrading legacy IT systems and aging infrastructure, addressing technology constraints, meeting the ever-increasing demand for energy, confronting extreme weather patterns and moving away from fossil fuel sources, all while delivering reliable and affordable electric service, present utilities with an array of hurdles.

In response to these daunting obstacles, utilities are investing in grid modernization, transitioning to renewable energy sources, focusing on effectively navigating regulatory pressures, and engaging with customers in new ways.

For BC Hydro, generating and delivering electricity to 95% of the population of British Columbia, Canada, involves 30 hydroelectric plants and a network of more than 80,000 kilometers of power lines that transport power across a varied terrain. Ensuring reliable service to more than five million customers in this demanding environment requires ready access to robust GIS data.

Since the utility’s GIS information for transmission and distribution resided in GE Smallworld, the organization sought more tools to work with that data effectively.

Read more on Electric Energy Online >

5 Trends That Will Impact Utilities in 2024

The environment that utilities operate in is more complex and volatile than ever, with significant forces impacting the ability to plan effectively and meet every stakeholder’s needs. James Street, CEO of Epoch Solutions Group, reviews the five trends he believes will have a major influence on utilities in the coming year.

1. Climate risks and electrification are stressing the grid.

More frequent and severe storms have become the norm and are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. While hurricanes have always been a concern, convective storms, extreme heat, and wildfires are also on the rise, placing more pressure on the grid. For example, a McKinsey report forecasts that by 2030, Minnesota will see a 75 percent rise in extreme heat days and Colorado will see a 29 percent increase in severe thunderstorm frequency. Almost 90 percent of the western US could experience as many as 30 high Fire Weather Index days annually. And persistent droughts are making it tougher for thermal and hydroelectric utilities to ensure reliable power. With much of the industry’s infrastructure assets well beyond their intended lifespan, extreme weather also becomes more difficult to respond to, resulting in more temperature-induced power line losses and longer power interruptions. The electrification trend and rising data center power use are likewise stressing the grid in ways we couldn’t foresee just a decade ago. As consumers and businesses adopt electric vehicles and favor electric heat pumps, electricity demand is escalating. And as AI, blockchain, and cloud computing become more prevalent, they’re driving up data center power consumption. With seasonal load profiles changing and electricity demand rising, utilities face greater pressure to ensure grid reliability and performance. In this disruptive environment, field asset management and vegetation management become more difficult yet more critical, demanding digitized, flexible platforms that enable utility staff to complete these tasks efficiently and accurately.

2. Grid planning is becoming more complex.

A dynamic and volatile environment will continue to complicate holistic grid planning that’s designed to manage growth, improve reliability, and enhance resilience. For example, dispersed and aging infrastructures, outdated technology, changing regulations, and evolving risks all make it more difficult to plan and manage field assets effectively. That includes assessing and monitoring asset health and risk, managing vegetation risk, and deploying field resources optimally, both for proactive, scheduled work and emergency situations. The increase in bidirectionality is only adding to grid planning complexity. Millions of devices at the edge—including solar panels, electric vehicles, and smart thermostats—are now participating in power generation and impacting grid behavior. This trend will make it more vital, though more complicated, to model and manage utility assets in the context of rising risks, changing customer behaviors, and aging assets. Enhanced modeling and asset management solutions will prove increasingly critical, especially to help field crews work optimally during regular operations and mutual assistance scenarios. With access to real-time information about live and offline assets, utilities can improve asset management planning by empowering field crews with accurate data and enhanced situational awareness.

3. New government policies are posing new requirements for utilities.

While government policy always has the potential to impact utility operations, two of the latest rules from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will likely require utilities to meet new requirements for ensuring gird reliability. One such rule directs the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop a standard around transmission system planning for extreme heat and cold weather conditions. Another requires power transmission providers to report on their policies and processes for conducting extreme weather vulnerability assessments and identifying strategies to mitigate these risks. In addition, several energy policies aim to advance smart grid technology that has the potential to help electricity distributors reduce costs, improve reliability, and meet the challenge of balancing supply and demand. Though there are significant benefits to be realized, developing and implementing smart grid technology will require major capital investments. Many utilities are already moving ahead with smart grid systems that employ two-way communication and intelligent devices, aided by various US Department of Energy grant programs.

4. Government investment is facilitating the clean energy transition, but risks and challenges will remain.

Renewable energy adoption is increasing rapidly, now accounting for about one-fifth of US total power. With world leaders agreeing to new climate goals at the recent COP28 summit, that figure is set to rise significantly. Governments worldwide are providing financial incentives to ease the energy transition for power companies, with the US alone committing billions through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IRA extends and modifies key tax credits for renewable energy investment and production, funds the acceleration of new energy infrastructure siting, and incentivizes carbon capture, while the IIJA is funding infrastructure modernizations that support clean energy expansion and improve resilience. Despite such financial assistance, along with the opportunity that the clean energy transition offers come a host of challenges for utilities. Renewable energy sources can be intermittent, yet consumers and businesses demand stable, reliable power. New energy sources take time to scale, but power demand is rising dramatically. The ability to plan effectively during this critical transition will require enhanced systems and better access to data that can help utilities make informed decisions about deploying and optimizing assets amidst change and unpredictability.

5. The digital technology transformation is helping utilities tackle emerging challenges.

Many utilities are finding that the transformation to digital technologies can help them meet new challenges, address emerging requirements, and adapt to continued change. In particular, they’re shifting away from legacy systems to more flexible and integrated platforms that support new ways of working. The move to cloud-based solutions, GIS-based applications, and digitized field service workflows, along with the integration of disparate systems and data sources, is helping leading utilities leverage data and technology to transform their operations and meet new challenges head-on. In modernizing their technology infrastructure and applications, utilities are prioritizing use cases that demonstrate the greatest tangible value. For example, a geospatial software platform that syncs asset data in real-time across disparate systems, applications, and devices can yield high ROI by giving operations and field teams the visibility and situational awareness to work more efficiently and safely. These digitized platforms also provide access to the data needed to prevent the disastrous consequences of unmanaged vegetation impacting power lines brought down by extreme weather, as well as inspect and manage joint use assets like poles, wires, and circuits to reduce costs and avoid redundancies.

Why Utilities Are Partnering with Epoch Solutions Group

Leading utilities recognize the value of partnering with a solutions provider that can help them meet new requirements and challenges at a time of great change and uncertainty. For many utilities, that partner is Epoch Solutions Group. Our EpochField solution leverages geospatial technology to help utilities improve field asset management, reduce costs, and minimize breakdowns and outages. This geospatial workforce management platform is empowering utilities across the US to meet reliability requirements, enhance safety, ensure power availability, and maintain compliance in a volatile environment. Schedule an EpochField demo to see how this solution can help you meet emerging challenges.
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The Latest Impacts of Grid Strain, Microgrids, and Other Trends Affecting the Utility Industry

In January 2023, Epoch Solutions Group CEO James Street met with energy industry forecaster Peter Kelly-Detwiler to discuss the growth of new technology, energy sources, and increasingly complex distribution grids. A lot has happened since then, including more severe weather events impacting an aging infrastructure, the growth of electric vehicles putting more strain on the grid, and increased use of microgrids to help ease the strain.
 
Peter and James met again in September 2023 to review the trends they have seen throughout the year, the impact they have had on the industry, and how utilities can adapt and thrive by prioritizing proper asset management strategies and technologies. Download the webinar to get insight from Peter on how your utility company can stay at the forefront of the trends affecting the industry and your utility company in the years to come.

Download the Webinar Recording

James Street

James Street
Epoch Solutions Group Founder & CEO

Peter Kelly-Detwiler

Peter Kelly-Detwiler
Energy Industry Thought Leader: Author, Consultant, Speaker

Future-Proofing Our Grid: Tackling Challenges and Embracing Change

Our nation’s electrical grid is a crucial resource, providing safe energy across the country. While it has been reliable for a long time, it is now facing mounting pressure from various sources, threatening its stability. Utilities and regulatory agencies are being forced to respond and act to proactively address these challenges, which include reducing carbon emissions and addressing issues related to global climate change. Additionally, there’s a growing need to decentralize energy to reduce reliance on a single power source due to the increasing demands of our population and product usage, which strains available resources.

The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as polar vortexes and powerful hurricanes, poses significant difficulties for utilities in planning and anticipating outages. As power outages continue to increase, digital-first consumers and businesses who demand real-time information about power restoration are affected. GIS asset management tools play a vital role in enabling deep situational awareness and quick response.

Read the full article >

Drive Efficiency & Unlock the Power of Location: Geospatial Solutions for Electric Utility Asset Management

Managing your electric utility’s field assets in a way that reduces outages, reduces risks, and improves service has never been more challenging. The EpochField enterprise asset management tools help you drive down costs, improve service response, and avoid equipment failures by conducting more effective, proactive asset maintenance.

View this demo of EpochField’s asset management features to see firsthand how its GIS technology, map-centric interface, and other features can help you maintain, service and trace your field assets more efficiently.

To Migrate GE Smallworld Data to Esri, Utilities like BC Hydro Turn to EpochSync

Many utilities struggle to utilize their GIS data effectively across the enterprise, especially when that data resides within GE Smallworld. With more utilities looking to leverage the power of Esri’s ArcGIS Utility Network to gain more functionality—especially for huge datasets—the ability to migrate Smallworld data to the Esri platform is becoming a must.

So when BC Hydro faced limitations in the tools it could use to work with its transmission and distribution GIS information effectively, the company knew it was essential to make its Smallworld data accessible on Esri.

As IT Advisor Evan Schwab noted, “Other business groups in the company, like our power generation group, were using Esri for GIS data. While we currently have two GIS systems, we’re looking to develop new capabilities on the Esri platform going forward.”

Eager to gain ready access to the GIS data required to provide reliable service to more than 50 million customers, BC Hydro turned to Epoch Solutions Group’s EpochSync automated data migration tool. This scalable solution synchronizes data between Smallworld Version Managed Data Stores and Esri ArcGIS Enterprise Geodatabases, enabling even the largest utilities to easily migrate Smallworld data to an Esri geodatabase.

Once the initial synchronization is done, EpochSync only needs to perform periodic data synchronizations, ensuring just the incremental data changes are synchronized. And through a .NET-based user interface and Smallworld Magik components, EpochSync makes it easy to develop flexible mappings that support data syncing between different data models, empowering a utility’s staff to create those mappings to extract data with minimal training.

At BC Hydro, EpochSync provides a “set it and forget it” solution that runs nightly and is easy for internal staff to configure and maintain. Now, this British Columbia-based utility can use tools like ArcGIS Story Maps to develop distribution planning maps and share GIS data with external groups to provide much-needed situational awareness when major events happen.

Read the BC Hydro case study to discover all the business benefits that EpochSync provides for leading utilities.

BC Hydro Leverages GIS Data in an Esri Environment with EpochSync

Project Summary

Project Type:

Data migration and synchronization with “set it and forget” operation

Locations: 

British Columbia

Number of Customers: 

5 Million +

Applications:

Moved to EpochSync Pro in 2023 to ensure long-term compatibility with Esri

Solutions Implemented:

EpochSync Pro

Customer Benefits

Improved situational awareness 

Simple, cost-effective solution

Ease of use and efficiency

Introduction

BC Hydro is a provincial Crown corporation, owned by the government and people of British Columbia, Canada. For BC Hydro, generating and delivering electricity to 95% of the population of British Columbia, Canada involves 30 hydroelectric plants and a network of more than 80,000 kilometers of power lines that transport power across a varied terrain. Ensuring reliable service to more than 5 million customers in this demanding environment requires ready access to robust GIS data.

Since the utility’s GIS information for transmission and distribution resided in GE Smallworld, the organization was limited in the tools it could use to work with that data effectively.

This case study outlines how Epoch Solutions Group was able to provide their GIS data migration software, EpochSync Pro, that allowed BC Hydro to fully synchronize their data between Smallworld Version Managed Data Stores and Esri ArcGIS Enterprise Geodatabases.

BC Hydro implemented EpochSync Classic in 2020, which involved an initial full synchronization of the data between Smallworld and Esri. Once implemented, the solution only needs to perform periodic data synchronizations, ensuring just the incremental data changes are synced. When BC Hydro learned that the Esri desktop version would be sunsetted, the time was right to migrate to the new EpochSync Pro version.

The Challenge

Limited Ability to Work with GIS Data

“Other business groups in the company, like our power generation group, were using Esri for GIS data,” noted IT Advisor Evan Schwab. “While we currently have two GIS systems, we’re looking to develop new capabilities on the Esri platform going forward.”

Two factors provided a strong impetus for getting BC Hydro’s GIS data accessible on Esri:

  • In the short term, the utility wanted to move to a web-based, map-based application for managing its many environmental documents, with reference layers for the transmission and distribution functions. “Because we were going with a web-based application for our new environmental solution, we had to have the data in an Esri format,” Schwab said.
  • Long term, BC Hydro saw more and more applications eventually moving to Esri. As the organization rolled out other Esri-based solutions, including an emergency operations dashboard and a streetlight management system, the utility envisioned achieving significant benefits from gaining an enterprise view of its transmission and distribution data in an Esri format.
  • For these reasons, BC Hydro needed the ability to sync its GIS data between GE Smallworld and Esri but lacked a solution to make this task easy and efficient.

The Solution

Migrate GE Smallworld Data to Esri with EpochSync

The EpochSync GIS data migration software from Epoch Solutions Group proved the right answer. EpochSync provides a powerful, flexible, high-performance solution for synchronizing data between Smallworld Version Managed Data Stores and Esri ArcGIS Enterprise Geodatabases. It’s also scalable to any-sized enterprise, enabling even the largest utilities and telecommunications providers to seamlessly migrate Smallworld data to an Esri geodatabase.

BC Hydro implemented EpochSync Classic in 2020, which involved an initial full synchronization of the data between Smallworld and Esri. Once implemented, the solution only needs to perform periodic data synchronizations, ensuring just the incremental data changes are synced.

When BC Hydro learned that the Esri desktop version would be sunsetted, the time was right to migrate to the new EpochSync Pro version.

“We needed to be sure we could continue to use this product long term, staying ahead of any software compatibility issues,” Schwab explained. EpochSync Pro is written in the ArcGIS Pro SDK to capitalize on the Esri Utility Network, enabling organizations to bring GE Smallworld data into an ArcGIS format and leverage all the advantages of the ArcGIS functionality. EpochSync Pro also provides flexible mappings that support data syncing between different data models, and staff can create mappings to extract data with minimal training.

BC Hydro completed the migration from EpochSync Classic to Pro in early 2023. With many other IT projects happening at the same time, the organization appreciated Epoch’s flexibility in adapting the migration project plan and schedule.

The Results

Simple Synchronization, Better Access

Schwab describes EpochSync as “a simple tool that works great,” specifically citing its ease of use. “The phrase we use is ‘set it and forget it.’ We set up an interface and now it just runs every night and does what it’s supposed to do.”

BC Hydro also has found EpochSync simple to configure and maintain. “We don’t need to engage Epoch every time we need to change a data model,” he added. Instead, an in-house resource easily makes any required changes.

With EpochSync enabling seamless migration of GE Smallworld data to the Esri environment, the utility has gained powerful advantages.

“We’re leveraging ‘no-code tools’ like ArcGIS Story Maps to develop planning for maps for distribution,” Schwab said, eliminating the need for planners to rely on PDFs and essentially start from scratch anytime they needed to create a map. BC Hydro’s planning maps communicate key details to senior leaders and the Distribution Engineering and Design group, such as low capacity issues and upcoming system improvement
work.

EpochSync also enables the utility to embed maps into off-the-shelf tools like Collector, Field Maps, and SAP Service and Asset Manager, providing its field personnel with the up-to-date information they need to complete their work effectively.

“We’re leveraging a number of software developer kits for Esri to embed maps in web applications for street light management, customer connection requests, and environmental study tracking,” Schwab said. And with EpochSync in place, BC Hydro can share GIS data with external groups—like Emergency Operations BC—to ensure everyone has muchneeded situational awareness when major events occur.

Overcoming the Challenges of Managing Utility Joint Use Assets

The modern world is changing rapidly, and the technologies and infrastructure that support it must evolve alongside it. This is especially true for utility companies, whose infrastructure must keep pace with changing demands and new technology. One area that has become increasingly important for utilities in recent years is joint use asset management.  

Joint use assets refer to the infrastructure components that multiple utility companies share, such as poles, wires, and conduits. They offer a range of benefits for utility companies, including cost savings, increased flexibility, and reduced infrastructure duplication. However, managing joint use assets comes with a unique set of challenges that can significantly impact the efficiency and reliability of the utility network. This article reviews the challenges of joint use assets—including overloaded poles, double poles, unauthorized attachments, conflicting needs, and regulatory compliance issues—and offers viable solutions.

Overloaded and Double Poles: Inventory is Key

Overloaded poles are a common problem with joint use assets, and they occur when too many companies attach their equipment to a single pole, exceeding its weight-bearing capacity. This can cause the pole to lean or even fall, leading to power outages, property damage, and safety hazards. Overloaded poles also make it difficult to perform maintenance and repair tasks, as it can be difficult to identify which company is responsible for the excess weight on the pole. 

Conducting regular inspections and assessments of the poles helps identify any signs of overload, allowing utility companies to proactively address an issue before it leads to a safety hazard or outage. Additionally, utility companies can work together to develop load-sharing agreements to ensure that the weight on each pole is evenly distributed among the companies using the infrastructure.

Double poles are another issue that arises when a utility operates joint use assets. Double poles occur when new poles are installed next to existing poles rather than replacing them, resulting in two or more poles serving the same purpose. Aside from the fact that double poles can be unsightly, they pose a safety hazard and make it difficult to access and maintain the equipment, increasing the risk of power outages and other issues.

One solution to this common joint use asset problem is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of all existing poles and infrastructure to identify where double poles exist, enabling utility companies to prioritize which poles to remove or replace first. Utility companies also can work together to develop joint programs to replace double poles with a single pole that meets the needs of all companies involved.

Policies, Collaboration, and Training Are Essential

Unauthorized attachments are another significant problem for joint use assets. Attaching equipment to joint use assets without proper authorization or approval can create safety hazards, reliability issues, and regulatory compliance problems. Unauthorized attachments can also interfere with the equipment of other utility companies, leading to service disruptions and other problems.

One effective way to reduce or eliminate unauthorized attachments is to develop and enforce clear policies and procedures for attaching equipment to joint use assets, including guidelines for when equipment can be attached, who can approve the attachment, and what equipment is allowed. Utility companies also can use advanced analytics and monitoring tools to identify unauthorized attachments and proactively address them before they become a problem.

Managing joint use assets can also present broader challenges. Conflicting needs are a common problem when multiple companies use the same infrastructure. For example, one company may need to access a pole to install new equipment, while another company may need to perform maintenance on the same pole at the same time. Managing these competing objectives can be a complex and time-consuming process, often requiring significant coordination and communication between the companies involved. 

To resolve conflicting needs for joint use assets, utility companies should develop collaboration tools and processes that allow multiple providers to work together more effectively. These tools can include shared communication channels, such as online portals or chat groups, where companies can coordinate their activities and schedules. Additionally, utilities can develop joint work plans that identify which tasks need to be completed and when, allowing them to better coordinate and schedule their activities.

Regulatory compliance is another area that utility companies must contend with when managing joint use assets. Utilities must comply with a range of regulations and standards, including safety standards, environmental regulations, and industry-specific guidelines, and failure to comply can result in fines, legal liabilities, and damage to the company’s reputation.

To ensure joint assets are managed in a way that complies with applicable regulations, each utility company should develop its own robust compliance program that includes regular audits and assessments to identify any areas of non-compliance. The program also should include training for employees and contractors to ensure they understand the regulations and standards that apply to joint use assets. Additionally, utility companies can work together to develop joint compliance programs that ensure all companies using the infrastructure are meeting the relevant regulations and standards. 

How an Asset Management Platform Can Help

Despite these challenges, joint use assets continue to be an essential part of the utility industry. Given the clear benefits of shared infrastructure, utility companies are finding innovative ways to address the difficulties associated with managing joint use assets.

One way that leading utility companies are successfully managing joint use assets is through the use of an asset management platform like EpochField. With EpochField, utility companies can gain visibility into the condition of joint use assets, such as overloaded and double use poles, along with the real-time situational awareness to manage unauthorized access, ensure safe and reliable power delivery, and meet the regulatory mandates governing the industry.

Highly configurable to meet each utility company’s unique operational requirements, EpochField offers these and other advanced features: 

  • Mobile offline collection and viewing of asset data for field personnel who are often working in remote locales, without an Internet connection 
  • High-performance digital maps that display geospatial data holistically and dynamically update as the system processes new data 
  • Configurable work order forms that are produced automatically based on field mapping data 

Discover how the EpochField platform can transform your utility’s joint use asset management. Schedule a demo today.

Schedule a Demo

Digitization in Mobile Workforce Management: Overcoming 5 Barriers in Field Operations

The pandemic added a level of urgency to digitization in utilities unlike anything the industry has ever seen. And yet, for many companies, the ongoing work towards digital transformation has been anything but smooth.

In this report, we cover some of the barriers we’ve seen firsthand as companies follow the path to streamlining and simplifying end-to-end mobile workforce management.

Read the guide to learn:

  • How digitization is reshaping field operations and bridging the gap between field and office workflows
  • The top 5 obstacles companies face when implementing technologies meant to promote digital ways of working
  • How to overcome these challenges with a phased, achievable roadmap to digitization

Download the White Paper

A Checklist for Field Operation Digitization

Utilities and telecommunications companies have been under pressure to digitize in order to remain competitive and support the mobile workforce for many years. For too long, the norm for field operations has revolved around paper-based processes, physical maps, and duplicate data views. Of course, the pandemic has forced many companies to re-evaluate their technology landscape and re-examine the impact of technology-driven solutions on a remote workforce.  But the years following COVID-19 have proven that nearly anything can be streamlined and digitized with the proper technologies in place. 

The efficiency gains and cost savings to be had from digitization are too great to ignore. This is especially true for field operations. In order to overcome barriers – both internal and external – it’s critical that organizations have a comprehensive project plan that addresses the varied elements needed for successful digitization. Preparing for digital transition of field operations is a process and one that should have a set of measurable milestones and results from the outset. Executives also need to engage with their teams to understand the challenges fieldworkers face and work with them to find solutions that make sense for both sides.   

If you’re looking to transform your field operations into the next phase of digital execution, here’s a checklist your team can use to ensure the transition to digital management is smooth and results in more effective, efficient operations: 

  • Understand the business case for upgrading to digital tools. Lay out the short-and long-term goals and align digitization plans to them to ensure priority work is transformed first.
  • Assess your current state and identify areas of improvement. Conduct a thorough audit to identify the most pressing challenges that digitization will address and develop a roadmap to the ideal operational state.
  • Develop a plan to implement digitization in a way that makes sense for your organization. Form a task force for the transition and include team staff members who will be working directly within the digital systems; comprehensive involvement gets everyone engaged and focused on the same goals from the start.
  • Train and equip your field workers with the tools they need to be successful. Identifying early adopters to champion training, celebrating learning steps, and acknowledging change management wins will help keep teams motivated.
  • Monitor and optimize your digitization efforts over time. Schedule regular evaluations aligned to planning, implementation, and execution milestones to course-correct or leverage successes throughout the system.
  • Work with an implementation partner that can help you assess your organization’s needs and ensure the best roadmap with the least interruption. Make sure your partner offers configurable solutions that solve the unique challenges your teams face every day, from the back office to the frontline. Also, ensure you’re getting increased visibility and productivity in every part of the process.

Each of these steps is important in achieving success with digitization in field operations, but it’s also important to keep in mind that every organization is different and will have its own unique challenges and needs.  

You know it’s time to update your process, but where do you start? Learn more about how to get your operations ready – download our latest guide: Digitization in Mobile Workforce Management: Overcoming 5 Barriers in Field Operations now. 

Schedule a Free Workforce Management Assessment

Integrating Smallworld Data into an Esri Environment At Puget Sound Energy

Project Summary

Project Type:

Data Conversion

Locations: 

Western United States

Number of Customers: 

1.1 Million +

Applications:

To convert Smallworld Data into
an Esri environment

Solutions Implemented:

EpochSync

Customer Benefits

Converting legacy data

Enhanced geospatial data

Use of Esri products

The Challenge

Puget Sound Energy, a gas and electric utility company serving 1.1 million customers in the Pacific Northwest, has continued to supply their customers with natural gas and electricity since 1997. With their customers continuing to grow, PSE needed to have a better way to visualize their geospatial data across the enterprise. Esri was chosen for its web and portal technology and being able to disseminate the geospatial asset data. In order to complete this, PSE needed a way to efficiently extract the data from their legacy Smallworld system.

The Solution

Users throughout the PSE Organization can now access GIS Data any time they are connected to the web on the PSE Network. In the future, PSE may decide to expand this to public-facing servers that would allow access to users using any device connected to the internet.

Epoch Solutions Group recommended the use of EpochSync, an application to seamlessly migrate Smallworld data into an Esri enterprise geodatabase hosted in SQL Server. This involved an initial full synchronization of the data and, afterwards, ongoing periodic synchronization of incremental changes from Smallworld. Once this data was available on the Esri Server, the web architecture was leveraged to provide applications to end users that allowed them to log in through a single portal and access several different geographic datasets, whether or not that data originated in Smallworld.

PSE also had a need for several custom tools to be provided to their users, including an electric and gas distribution network tracing tool and a web markup tool allowing users to submit change requests to the electric distribution data administrators. Epoch Solutions Group built these tools into applications.

The Results

Users throughout the PSE organization can now access GIS data any time they are connected to the web on the PSE Network. In the future, PSE may decide to expand this to public-facing servers that would allow access to users using any device connected to the internet.