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Spatial insights for electrical inspections

September 21, 2023

Field inspections are central to an electrical utility’s network, safeguarding infrastructure by identifying wear and potential hazards to prevent service disruption. Successful electrical inspections require collecting and analyzing accurate and reliable data to identify inefficiencies and risks and prioritize timely remediation.

However, the use of imprecise tools by inspection teams can compromise operational efficiency by failing to collect reliable location data. And for leaders like emergency operations or transmission and distribution managers, the stakes are exceptionally high.

Fortunately, advanced GIS technology offers precise location data, providing essential spatial insights for informed decision-making. Join us as we explore how GIS spatial insights can help utility leaders like emergency services directors guarantee the operational efficiency of their electrical inspections and services.

But first, where does bad location data come from?

The roots of bad location data

Managing utility field inspections is challenging due to the potential for inaccurate or incomplete location data. Understanding these issues can be the first step in mitigating them:

  • Limited Network Connectivity: Field inspections often occur in remote areas without stable internet connections. Intermittent connectivity means data might not sync immediately or could be entered incorrectly, skewing results.
  • Diverse Inspection Teams: When different teams or contractors handle electrical inspections, data collection methods and standards can vary. Some units may not follow SOPs or be less diligent in data logging than others, leading to discrepancies.
  • Ambiguous Location Markers: Utilities often rely on existing physical markers or outdated maps, which could result in major inspection errors. For example, if a pole relocation isn’t properly logged, crews could be inspecting the wrong location entirely.
  • “Check-the-Box” Mentality: Routine electrical inspections are vulnerable to a casual attitude towards data collection. Inspectors rushing through SOPs may fail to check components or overlook steps, leading to data discrepancies.
  • Manual Data Entry: Human error is inevitable, especially in a paper or spreadsheet data entry system. A crew member might enter incorrect coordinates or asset information, or even forget to log an inspection altogether.
  • Lack of Real-time Two-way Communication: Without instant communication, teams can’t immediately verify or confirm data on the spot. Communication lags equal delayed updates, which could mean teams duplicate efforts or overlook critical tasks.
  • Inadequate Training or Equipment: Teams with the latest training, equipment, or SOPs can misinterpret or fail to capture essential spatial data.

By addressing these pitfalls and emphasizing the importance of accurate and reliable location data collection methods, utilities can pave the way for more efficient and effective field operations.

Electricity engineer checking the condition of the Electrical Power Pole components showing Spatial Insights for Electrical InspectionsThe far-reaching impacts of bad location data

Accurate location data is vital for electrical inspections, enabling informed decision-making. Inaccurate data hampers operational efficiency and poses significant challenges, including:

  • Operational Delays: Imprecise data can lead to multiple teams inspecting the same location or missing critical areas entirely. For example, crews dispatched to a substation based on outdated location data risk working on the wrong site.
  • Increased Costs: Redundant efforts or revisits due to incorrect data means higher operational costs. For instance, missing a critical issue when inspecting a transmission line might later result in costlier repairs if left unchecked.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Risks: Utilities operate under strict regulations. This means inconsistent inspection data that results in non-compliance can lead to costly fines and a tarnished reputation.
  • Inefficient Resource Allocation: Bad data redirects scarce and critical resources away from high-priority tasks. Imagine a crew dispatched to address equipment maintenance based on outdated data, delaying more urgent repairs.
  • Strategic Missteps in Utility Planning: Accurate and reliable data is paramount for longer-term utility planning, from infrastructure upgrades to vegetation management. Bad data leads to bad strategies, like failing to allocate the necessary budget for fleet upgrades because of incorrectly logged maintenance data.
  • Emergency Response Inefficiencies: Inaccurate location data can hamper emergency responses to pinpoint, prioritize, and remediate the most affected areas. This can lead to longer outages, increased public dissatisfaction, and even escalating safety concerns.

Maintaining accurate location data is crucial for smooth utility services, especially for operations managers overseeing inspection teams. This accuracy facilitates the delivery of consistent, top-notch services while upholding safety standards and compliance.

Harnessing advanced spatial insights for utility management

Utilizing advanced spatial insights from robust GIS technology transforms utility managers’ approach to field inspections, enhancing efficiency and decision-making. Here are ways these insights dramatically refine the process:

  • Enhanced Data Accuracy: Advanced GIS features ensure real-time, accurate location data, mitigating the risks associated with outdated or conflicting information. Field teams will always be dispatched to the right location the first time around, avoiding costly duplication and dangerous mistakes.
  • Real-time Data Exchange: Managers can update inspection SOPs and tasks that field teams can access in real time. Instant notifications enable swift action and reduce delays.
  • Integrated Work Processes: Advanced location data and spatial insights can seamlessly integrate with other operational processes. For instance, instantly merging pole inspection data with inventory management systems enhances longer-term planning efforts.
  • Efficient Resource Deployment: Real-time location data and insights allow utilities to deploy resources more strategically. For example, managers can bundle different tasks together so dispatched crews are more productive, increasing efficiency.
  • Proactive Maintenance and Upgrades: Advanced GIS allows utilities to forecast and prioritize maintenance, based on precise location data and historical trends. For example, spatial data consistently revealing equipment degradation in a specific geographical area helps managers proactively plan inspections.
  • Enhanced Stakeholder Reporting: Precise, real-time location data yields actionable insights to share with stakeholders, informing decision-making and increasing transparency.
  • Streamlined Regulatory Compliance: With consistently accurate location data, utilities can quickly access and circulate detailed inspection, remediation, and safety data to prove compliance.
  • Effective Emergency Response: During emergencies, spatial insights help quickly identify affected areas, streamline repair efforts, and efficiently restore power to impacted communities.
  • Cost Savings: By minimizing errors and redundancies – like multiple teams unintentionally inspecting the same pole due to poor location data – advanced GIS solutions prioritize resources to boost operational efficiency and produce tangible cost savings.

GIS powers the future of electrical inspections

The future of electrical utility planning hinges on effectively harnessing spatial insights.

With precise GIS location data at their fingertips, emergency operations or transmission and distribution leaders can navigate the many challenges of the complex inspection environment.

By investing in tools that prioritize data accuracy, all utilities stand to optimize operational efficiency and ensure the safety and trust of the communities they serve.

Are you ready to revolutionize your electrical utility management with unparalleled spatial insights? Discover how Fulcrum can elevate your operations to new heights – contact us today for a free, no-obligation demo!