Innovation Highlight: Mobile App Enhances Grid Safety
It’s a big job to stay on top of inspections and maintenance for 225,000 power poles, 10,500 miles of underground systems, 5,600 miles of overhead systems, and 1,000 distribution circuits – spread out over 4,100 square miles.
Fortunately, there is an app for that.
Our field crews are equipped with a mobile mapping app that allows them to efficiently manage and document inspections of electrical equipment, and flag anything that needs repair.
Accurate and timely inspections are crucial to ensuring the safe operation of our region’s grid, which powers the lives of 3.6 million people. We take that responsibility very seriously and patrol each of our structures annually to look for safety and reliability issues.
Mobile App Takes Efficiency to the Next Level
Our field crews access the app directly on their mobile data terminals – rugged computers that are mounted inside their vehicles. The tool gives them the freedom to conduct patrols efficiently and accurately whenever they are near one of our facilities that requires an inspection.
For example, say a troubleshooter just finished responding to an outage call in Mission Valley and has spare time before his next assignment. He can pop open the app and see what nearby facilities need inspection. The map has color-coded icons that show the user which facilities have already been inspected, when the inspections need to be completed for the outstanding sites. Once an inspection is completed, the app user can update our power grid map in real-time.
The inspection tool was layered on top of a state-of-the-art geographic information system (GIS) developed by a vendor. The integration between the GIS and the inspection tool’s features is seamless. If the patroller spots a problem with an electrical facility, there is a drop-down menu for him to categorize the problem. He is then prompted to generate a work order/repair request through the app. Depending on the issue identified, the patroller maybe also be prompted to take pictures of the site.
This seamless process ultimately benefits our customers because the sooner we can spot safety hazards, the sooner we can address them.
Developed with extensive input from our front-line employees, the inspection tool was launched in April and has become an instant success by eliminating paper maps and manual data entry.
To date, our crews have finished inspecting 76,000 structures using the app and have saved 4,000 hours in office support because data entry now occurs in real time.