Customer Story

How Simple Automations Are Saving My Utility $110K

The business world is quickly evolving, and the way organizations handle and process information has become challenging. Employers want answers quicker; customers want instant gratification; and employees want new systems to function better than the one being replaced. These were all challenges I faced when researching and implementing an asset management system to help my organization, Clay County Utility Authority in Northern Florida, better service our 200,000 residents and 53,000 customers.

I was comfortable with the features and components of Cartegraph’s Operations Management System (OMS), but received a pleasant surprise a quarter of the way through our implementation when I heard of the new Automation Manager functionality. I did some research on its features and became intrigued. Our implementation team moved us over to the new release, so I could begin testing.

I followed tips and suggestions, and steps outlined on Cartegraph Campus to create some simple automations. I continued testing and studying each of the different step types to see what each trigger could do (trial-and-error), and I was able to pick up on it quickly. After I understood the capabilities, I started analyzing our business processes to see where it could be used.

"Staff completed over 3,500 fire hydrant inspections in 4 months, saving the utility $110,000 in costs."

First, we tackled our utility work management notifications. Managers and supervisors wanted to be notified when certain task activities were created, or if there was no cost entered. Second, I used triggers to manually update departments, staff IDs, and more. Next, I began to look at key operational needs.

Staff had an issue arise with rusted fire hydrant bolts that needed to be addressed. The make and model of the hydrant was identified, and tasks were generated in Cartegraph. I knew no additional tasks related to flushing, exercising, or inspecting could occur until the bolts were replaced. If any of those tasks were generated and completed by staff, the fire hydrant could potentially fail or blow off the base. To prevent this from happening, I created automations to prevent tasks from being created against the impacted fire hydrants.

"The first automation doesn't have to be a big game changer, look for the low-hanging fruit."

Management guided and trained utility staff to only monitor tasks through Cartegraph and not to randomly work on fire hydrants without first checking the system. I set up a response message to prompt staff, “Unable to create Task; Water Hydrant has an outstanding safety issue that needs to be addressed.” The same concept could also be applied to system valves that should not be operated, or other types of assets in Cartegraph.

Also, by integrating with Esri's ArcGIS platform, we’re able to map and disable features based off tasks in Cartegraph. If a fire hydrant is out-of-service, we’re using Automation Manager to disable the GIS status for that asset. The feature then appears as out-of-service on our public GIS mapping application, and we use this to notify both the residents and fire departments.

Daniel's Top Automation Tips:
  1. Start simple: identify the low-hanging fruit.
  2. Browse through automation triggers and help documentation.
  3. Identify organizational processes that could be more efficient.
  4. Write processes down to identify workflows.
  5. Use a clear naming convention for your automations.
  6. Remember to set permissions.
  7. Don’t be afraid to connect with and learn from other users.

In February 2018, I participated in a webinar for Cartegraph. I discussed and demonstrated how our organization was using OMS and Automation Manager. At that time, I was projecting savings of at least $63,000 in labor cost for the 2018 annual hydrant inspections by processing the tasks through OMS and automating portions of the process. The workflow was evaluated step-by-step to obtain the amount of time it would take to complete tasks with and without Automation Manager. In 4 months and 7 days, staff completed over 3,500 fire hydrant inspections. Annual inspections using the previous legacy system averaged around 9 months to complete. After the inspections were completed for 2018, the organization ended up saving about $110,000 by using Automation Manager!

To-date we have 191 automations in Cartegraph. I’m personally all about making things easier; if you’ve ever spoken to me, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it at least once. The first automation doesn't have to be a big game changer: look for the low-hanging fruit. It could be as simple as automatically assigning tasks when created or sending emails when certain activities are created and completed. Begin engaging in conversation with the end-users of Cartegraph. Ask the questions, “How do you currently do it?” and “What are the pros and cons?” Analyzing the answers will shine light on where improvement can occur.

Automation Manager webinar

Ready to stop wasting time on repetitive actions and start creating more of an impact? Check out Daniel's on-demand webinar Working Smarter with Automation Manager for more tips and best practices.

Daniel Johns
About Daniel Johns, GISP:

Leveraging 15 years of  water, wastewater, and reclaimed water industry experience, He is a Certified GIS Professional, and earned his BS in Computing and Information Sciences from University of North Florida and his MBA from Florida International University. You can connect with Daniel on Twitter, and LinkedIn.