EV Charging Stations: Developing Strong Infrastructure

When asked to name barriers that would stop them from proceeding with the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV), participants of McKinsey & Company’s 2016 EV survey had a clear top three: Purchase price, driving range and charging availability. Years later, as McKinsey pointed out in an updated piece, vehicle prices had declined and range increased. Access to charging stations became the new number one obstacle for consumers considering EVs.

There needs to be considerable investments and commitments into the infrastructure that supports EVs to make this technology more accessible. The most prominent area of focus is the charging station. But as with most things related to utilities—particularly those that involve power—creating a framework can be complex. Read on to learn more about developing a strong EV charging station infrastructure. (more…)

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Project Management: Keeping it Simple

A project without a project manager is a lot like a runaway train without a conductor. The most successful endeavors have someone at the helm to keep critical players moving in the right direction. They know when to start and stop as needed and ensure employees are completing tasks on time. Despite this, one study of more than 10,000 projects across various industries found that only 2.5% of companies completed 100% of their projects successfully. That stat alone shows the importance of project management — and that there is room for improvement.

As is the case with most things, the simplest project management strategies tend to be the most effective. While every industry has its own nuances, there are some common threads in project management that apply across them all. If you’re looking for a few new ideas to implement, you’re in luck. Below, you’ll find three simple project management strategies to deploy that can keep your projects running smoothly. (more…)

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Keep Workers Safe with Traffic Incident Management Systems

The average number of car accidents in the U.S. each year is about 6 million. From fender benders to more serious crashes, many of these incidents result in considerable damage to cars,  property, and adjacent vegetation. They also pose a serious threat to the utilities that enable our society to function. Think about how many times you’ve driven by an accident and noticed that a car had damaged a utility pole. Now think about how emergency and traffic personnel must work with the utility company on that repair.

The answer comes in the form of a traffic incident management system, also known as TIMS. The system relates to the process needed to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents. The goal is to restore the flow of traffic as quickly as possible. This ensures the safety of motorists and those impacted by the crash and any workers or emergency personnel who play a role in the aftermath. (more…)

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Improving Grid Coverage in Rural Areas

America’s heartland is best characterized by the peaceful and serene landscapes that envelope it. It has hospitality for miles and feed stores that serve as gathering spots for the locals. Unfortunately, there’s another characteristic of America’s heartland that’s not so heartwarming. Aging and ill-equipped electric infrastructure that can lead to spotty coverage. However, good things could be on the horizon for these rural and underserved areas through new or revamped methods. (more…)

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Top Tips for Running a Virtual Tailgate Meeting

There’s been some debate over the transmission of COVID-19 and the likelihood of someone contracting the virus from surface exposure. We also know that close person-to-person contact is the most likely way it spreads. Official documentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “close contact” as being within about six feet of another person.

Abiding by these guidelines is certainly possible. For field technicians who work alone or on large infrastructure components allow for that kind of separation.  Unfortunately, not all facets of the job will support social distancing as seamlessly. As a result, utility companies have gotten creative. They’ve turned to technology for essential activities like meetings that require employees to gather together. Here’s a quick how-to on holding productive virtual tailgate meetings.  Along with tips on getting the most out of your employees’ time. (more…)

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Utility Customer Satisfaction Improves With Tech

Company executives have historically viewed data analytics and consumer intelligence giant, J.D. Power, as an all-knowing source when it comes to what customers want. Among other studies, the firm has conducted customer satisfaction surveys for decades. They routinely publish research on which industries (and companies) are making customers the happiest. There are also the times when analysis probes even deeper, searching for the way that customers feel about specific functions or operations. (more…)

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Vet Third-Party Inspections Vendors

In an ideal scenario, the installation of transformers, poles, fire hydrants, and gas utility lines that make up our utility infrastructure would go on without a hitch. Everything would operate as intended forever. While it’s true that equipment can run flawlessly, the odds of that actually happening are rare. Fragile parts that funnel electricity, pressure-packed water, and gas to our homes, businesses, and communities break down over time, and because of that reality, that utility companies should aim to inspect their assets regularly.

For many of these companies, the problem isn’t necessarily the willingness to accept that inspections are critical for longevity. It’s that they’re usually strapped for resources. Short on either time, trained professionals, or both, utility companies will turn to third-party vendors for help. If your company is one that’s struggling to meet the demands of inspection schedules and you’re considering outsourcing the work, here are some questions to ask yourself when vetting your future third-party inspections vendor. (more…)

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Locating Underground Utilities Prior to Digging: Three Reasons Why

Once utility lines moved from overhead to underground, service reliability improved markedly. While moving underground helped to ensure continuity, it also ushered in additional layers of complexity and challenges. No longer do homeowners, landscapers, construction companies and the utility companies themselves have a line of sight on these critical lines, which means one unlucky nudge of a shovel could result in a severed line and interrupted service.

The only way to safely and smartly proceed with a project that involves digging is to locate all underground utilities in the area before breaking any ground. Here are the top reasons underscoring the importance of properly locating utilities before digging. (more…)

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UPA Opens New Customer Service Center to Support Large U.S. Utility

After expanding a current partnership with a large United States-based utility provider, Utility Partners of America (UPA) has opened an additional customer service center near the UPA headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. The new office has 75 employees who UPA hired and trained in support of the partner’s customer service needs, but company leaders expect that number to grow to more than 120.

The opening of the new customer service center on June, 1 2020 illustrates UPA’s growth and momentum in its quest to be a reliable ally to utility-focused businesses, a mission the company has upheld for more than two decades. With its headquarters at full capacity, the new center was needed as part of the recent expansion. The terms of the agreement between UPA and their partner are for three years.

While the work performed in the new center will be mainly focused on work order management,  UPA employees will be responsible for data management, investigations and customer service. The utility company involved approached UPA hoping to expand their current staffing resources in order to fully service their valued customers. (more…)

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Minimizing Damage When You Spring a Leak

Leaky infrastructure causes a loss of about 6 billion gallons of treated water in the United States each day. If it’s hard for you to fathom what 6 billion gallons of water looks like, here’s some real-world context: That amount of water could fill more than 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average water loss in systems is 16%. But the EPA also says that 75% of the loss is recoverable. It’s possible to reclaim a huge chunk of those 6 billion gallons. Good news for both the environment and utility companies’ bottom lines since they would generate more revenue. (more…)

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