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The Future of Mobile Computing for Utility Field Workforces. Steven A. Radice, Director, Utility Consulting. MDSI . Employees: 325 Founded: 1993 2003 Rev: $47M Public Co: NASDAQ: MDSI TSX: MMD. Vancouver, Canada. Reading, UK. Copenhagen, DK. Chicago, USA. Paris, FR. Denver.

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the future of mobile computing for utility field workforces

The Future of Mobile Computing for Utility Field Workforces

Steven A. Radice, Director, Utility Consulting

  • Employees: 325
  • Founded: 1993
  • 2003 Rev: $47M
  • Public Co: NASDAQ: MDSI


Vancouver, Canada

Reading, UK

Copenhagen, DK

Chicago, USA

Paris, FR





Pretoria, SA

Sydney, AU


Mobile Workforce Management (WFM)

  • An enterprise-wide business function
  • Manages the creation, dispatch, and completion of work (scheduled or not) assigned to field personnel
  • Workforce operates hardware that typically communicates over wireless networks (either public or private)



Inspection &


Work Orders

Enterprise Apps.








Inspection and Maintenance

Customer Service

Call Center

  • Functions
  • Dispatching/job monitoring
  • Work load assignment/leveling
  • Appointment commitments
  • Status and completion reporting
  • Field resource management
  • Real-time information flow
  • Benefits
  • Improved customer service
  • Increased labor productivity
  • Reduced drive time
  • Eliminated paperwork
  • Reduced voice radio
  • Reduced overtime
  • Reduced data entry

Distribution Management System

Distribution Planning System


Geographic Information System

Work Management System

Work Design



Mobile Data/Mobile Workforce Management

key benefits and measures
Key Benefits and Measures
  • Complete more jobs 10 - 20% more
  • Drive shorter distances 10 - 15% less
  • Meet more appointments 20 - 30% more
  • Employ fewer dispatchers 50 - 80% reduction
  • Fewer dispatch centers 50 - 90% reduction
  • Fewer data entry clerks 50 - 80% reduction
  • Reduce overtime 40 - 60% decrease
key benefits and measures1
Key Benefits and Measures
  • Lower customer churn 35 - 50% better
  • Shorten time to provision service 20 - 40% reduction
  • Increase service availability 20 - 40% increase
  • Increase up selling 10 - 25% increase
  • Improve customer data quality 95% fewer errors
  • Increase employee satisfaction 25 - 50% increase
mobile workforce management solution today
Mobile Workforce Management Solution Today
  • Established and accepted
  • Over 300 utilities worldwide
  • In-place wireless communications networks including private, public, RF, CDPD, satellite
  • 2-way interfaces to multiple source systems
  • Achieving return on investment
  • Mobile terminals from 4-6 vendors
What’s Next? A Client Excerpt: Mission of Project
  • 1. Confirm & prioritize the business requirements
    • Define business requirements for the selected processes to inform subsequent sourcing activities
  • 2. Process flow optimization
    • Gain experience to optimize and verify the ‘To Be’ processes.
  • 3. Evaluate application capability
    • Understand the capabilities of the applications available to understand how closely they meet with
    • Our requirements and to finalize specification.
  • 4. Identify business benefits of mobile workforce management – tangible & intangible - Explore new ways of working in the field, and assess the impact on both field, office and support staff
  • 5. Identify “softer” benefits to individual users
    • Explore ways in which the solution can improve a user’s personal job and performance
  • 6. Develop Implementation approach
    • Inform approach for rollout sequence, training, communications
  • 7. Simulate business interest and involvement
    • Present the opportunities to the business
Core Business Work Types

Capital Construction

Planned Outage

Tree –


  • Planned Work
  • Large crews
  • Significant Field based
  • Complex data
  • Designed & Planned

Inspection, Testing,

Survey, Gas Leak survey

Maintenance Repair ,

Switching, Unplanned Outage


Customer Services, Gas Leak, Tree Trimming, Outdoor Lighting

  • Un Planned Work
  • Small crews
  • Simple Data
  • Real Time update
  • Short Cycle
  • Multiple Jobs per day
  • Reactive planning
  • Long Cycle
  • Multiple days per job
  • Highly planned
a utility mobile workforce management scenario
A Utility Mobile Workforce Management Scenario
  • Merger of Blue Gas Company and Sky Electric Company formed Blue Sky Gas and Electric
  • Joe Turner; Senior Field Technician
  • Has had in-depth cross training in:

-Field operations

-End-use of technology tools

-CRM techniques

  • Considerable investment in Joe
  • Focus on customer service/efficiency
a utility mobile workforce management scenario1
A Utility Mobile Workforce Management Scenario
  • Joe leaves from home; loaded MDT at 7am with work received via Internet or dial-up/cable modem/DSL line
  • Variety of service and AM work; some filler, some appointments
  • Assigned to a bounded territory with backup areas
  • Work is already logically routed but he can change it as needed
  • Clicks icon to see his first order, its GIS map and asset attributes, and needed materials for order
a utility mobile workforce management scenario2
A Utility Mobile Workforce Management Scenario
  • First call in new subdivision is a firm appointment; clicks land-based map on the MDT to see location and best route
  • Meets owner at 8am to turn-on power
  • Safety check of house and appliances before turn-on; turns power on; does inventory of all load-bearing devices
  • Washer but no dryer
  • Owner says she bought from Blue Sky but doesn’t know ship date
a utility mobile workforce management scenario3
A Utility Mobile Workforce Management Scenario
  • Returns to truck and uses his MDT to access (via wireless) Blue Sky Intranet site
  • Pages through appliance offerings, clicks hot links for order status
  • Downloads info to CE device; brings it into house for owner review
  • Completes install appointment on PDA/MDT
  • Also completes turn-on order details
a utility mobile workforce management scenario4
A Utility Mobile Workforce Management Scenario
  • Leaves house; has just received an AM order due today that another tech could not get to because of emergency
  • Joe arrives; clicks for GIS representation of asset location and attributes
  • Clicks for the inspection and safety procedure for that equipment
  • Conducts inspection; enters results and a minor deficiency; creates work order for follow-up
  • Photographs with digital camera; attaches to order
a utility mobile workforce management scenario5
A Utility Mobile Workforce Management Scenario
  • Next order nearby: install short length of pipe in ditch previously dug
  • Consults GIS drawing of site design
  • Does work; reflects as-built to update GIS; also notes redline correction of location
  • Use of parts is reflected in order completion for materials replenishment
  • His order status is communicated real-time
  • His timesheet is automatically completed as he goes
  • Next order just came in, from OMS
  • And so on …
Joe Turner’s EWFM Scheduling Results A-J; Actual
  • # Type Source Location Comments
  • 1 Service CIS A Closest to barn
  • Meter Replace AM A Order Aggregation
  • Service CRM B Next closest
  • Appointment CIS/ABS C 1-hour window
  • WMS Task WMS D Task/Complex
  • Outage (local) OMS J Re-routed from here
  • Service CIS I Re-read
  • Lunch KFC H Unavailable status
  • Service CIS G Turn-off
  • Meter Insp. AM F Filler job
  • Substation Maint AM E Filler job
  • Return Barn or home
ewfm scope
EWFM Scope

Network Outage/Fault


Plan Future


to Network






Outage / Repair

Work to Field

Create and Schedule

Future Work




Billing System


Call Taking

Update Enterprise Applications




Track Consumable Parts on the

Vehicle Scheduling checks for parts

Update Asset Database with Information from

the Field

Schedule Maintenance

of Assets

Update Systems

with Information

from the Field






ewfm progression
EWFM Progression
  • 3 Generations
    • Discovery: 1988 -1992
    • Expansion: 1993 - 2002
    • Evolution to Enterprise-level Integrated Field Resource Management: 2003 - ?
  • Movement from a single purpose “siloized” system to an enterprise wide foundation solution
thank you

Thank You!

Steven A. Radice, Director, Utility Consulting