A "go paperless" key on a keyboard.

When searching for factors that are limiting your utility’s workflows and making your organization less efficient, paperwork may not spring immediately to mind. After all, tasks such as filing reports and issuing work orders are simply parts of more complex processes. By eliminating the paper-based aspects of your operations, however, you can make significant overall improvements to the way work gets done, both in the office and in the field.

Tasks that require attention from personnel at headquarters and teams of linemen are especially good test cases for the advantages of adopting streamlined, paperless workflows. Digitizing the process of restoring service by adding a new outage management system (OMS) may have a positive impact on efficiency, accuracy of records and even safety. Add that to the fact that this is merely one effect of using a modern OMS, and the value becomes clear.

Improve your workflows by cutting paperwork out

The process of issuing a work order or service ticket is much smoother when the entire workflow is managed digitally via an OMS. When there is paperwork involved with these tasks, the effects on field crews’ efficiency are negative. Requiring personnel to come back to the office and fill out a form after completing repair work in the field has always been time-consuming. This process entails more driving, which not only wastes time but may force crews to travel in unsafe conditions if the work they have been performing was caused by dangerous weather.

Furthermore, in the era of social distancing and remote work, requiring personnel to come into the office in person and complete paperwork requires extra logistics. Additionally, enabling linemen to check off work orders and service tickets from the field, connecting to the OMS from their mobile devices, not only prevents the inconvenience of an office visit, it can also help with the accuracy of the information those personnel are recording, because they are making their report directly after finishing the work.

The simplified reporting workflows that come with an OMS have other functional benefits as well. When linemen note that they have performed repair work, personnel in the office can use the OMS interface to send an electronic ping to the piece of infrastructure that was maintained. If the problem has been resolved, they will know it immediately. If not, they can ask the crew to try another solution, saving time by sending that message while the linemen are still in the field.

Perhaps the most direct reason to use a paperless workflow is that when the steps are easy to complete, employees are more likely to follow them to the letter. Filing physical copies of reports represents the kind of speed bump in a process that may cause workers to put it off or to leave some steps incomplete.

Capitalize on all the benefits of an OMS

A modern OMS would be a good value if all it did was make the workflows around service restoration more efficient, but that is merely one of the benefits of using such a tool. The same smart grid integration that allows office staff to ping the status of the grid remotely also lets them pinpoint the exact location of potential problems. Connecting the OMS to a geographic information system (GIS) enables stakeholders to tell crews where to go, plotting the destination directly on a digital map.

OMS tools that integrate with interactive voice response (IVR) components also serve the important purpose of informing the public of planned outages or ongoing problems with the grid. Automating tasks that would normally be handled by office staff serves one of the same purposes as eliminating physical paperwork from the outage management workflow: Team members get time back that they can use for value-adding activities, allowing them to speed up the overall process of resolving the issue. A utility organization’s operations simply work more smoothly with an OMS.

To find out how utilities around the country have streamlined their workflows, check out our customer success stories.

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