This article appears in the May 2012 issue of Public Power Magazine.
By Susan Ryba
Through investments in utility software applications provided by a single vendor, the Clinton Utilities Board in Tennessee has taken a step-by-step approach to reaching a maximum level of customer support and operational efficiency.
About a dozen years ago, with their legacy vendor going out of business, CUB searched for a new engineering analysis software solution with superior modeling capabilities. CUB selected Milsoft Utility Solutions as offering the best distribution system modeling package on the market. Then, about seven years ago, because CUB’s AutoCAD system lacked adequate mapping capabilities, the utility purchased Milsoft’s geospacial information management (GIS) platform to capture, manage, apply and display their electric distribution network data. With mapping able to tie each customer from the substation to transformer levels, CUB had the pieces in place to integrate Milsoft’s outage management and interactive voice response products to maximize the utility’s ability to give customers fast and accurate information. CUB has also added Milsoft’s “Unplugged” mobile solution to view detailed engineering and customer billing data across its corporate network and into the field on a laptop.
According to Todd Loggins, Technical Operations Supervisor, CUB’s system operators cannot imagine doing their jobs without the Milsoft software solutions. “We are nothing but thrilled with the Milsoft packages for a utility of our size. With about 30,000 customers, in the old days, we could bring in about 3 to 4 extra people to do our best to answer the phones during an outage. Today, with the ‘Milsoft Communications’ IVR tied into the DisSpatch OMS system with integrated mapping and EA data, we can answer 46 calls at one time while accessing detailed system data, assuring customers we know their service is out and providing estimated restoration times when available.”
Loggins added, “The old cliché is true. The whole is definitely better than the sum of its parts.” Islands of utility data will not work for CUB because the utility does not have the time or manpower to develop custom interfaces between its AMI, SCADA, OMS and other systems. Loggins said, “With our resources, we require that products be ‘plug and play’ and work together, which is what Milsoft provides, thanks largely to its commitment to the MultiSpeak interface standard. In addition, the staff at Milsoft sets the standard for service and support.”
At Georgetown Utility Systems in Texas, the Electric Department was growing more than ten per cent a year. This influx of customers created concerns about switching, feeder loading, and outage restoration. GUS established a 24/7 Control Center to address these concerns. However, inadequate mapping was still creating a problem, along with the inability to address customer outage calls. “We evaluated multiple vendors offering IVR and OMS solutions,” said Jimmy L. Sikes, T&D Services Manager. “We selected Milsoft because our consulting firms were using the WindMil engineering analysis package, and we decided that the integrated package of software provided by Milsoft would best fit our future needs. The reputation of Milsoft and its customer-orientated service after the sale made the decision even easier.”
According to Sikes, “the Milsoft OMS automates outage grouping, provides faster and more accurate outage entry, verifies connectivity, increases accuracy of system maps, and provides up to date maps to field personnel through notebooks. Furthermore, the Milsoft team is very friendly, eager to help, goes the extra mile, believes in and take ownership of their products, and is willing to work with vendors with competing product lines.”
In 2012, Milsoft will launch its new Core E&O System, which is currently in beta testing at several utilities. Designed to enhance interoperability and data management among software applications, Core E&O in an information-driven system that incorporates the utility’s actual electric distribution network through a circuit model server.
Within Core E&O, all of Milsoft’s software applications share the detailed, as-built, as-energized electric utility distribution system network information through a circuit model server:
- Geographic Information System (GIS),
- Engineering Analysis (EA),
- Outage Management System (OMS),
- Field Engineering (FE), and
- Communications (IVR)
Core E&O integrates data from third-party applications (e.g., CIS, AMR, SCADA, AVL) and makes it available through a server able to handle industry standard data exchange formats like MultiSpeak. An applications programming interface enables the third-party applications to integrate directly into the Core E&O system. Milsoft Communications (formerly known as Milsoft IVR) operates on a separate server which is integrated into the Core E&O system. Project management tools enable all team members throughout the utility to create and use their own versions of the network and associated data as necessary for their job responsibilities. Milsoft will present live demonstrations of Core E&O at APPA’s 2012 National Conference, June 16-20, in Seattle, Wash.
Susan Ryba is a marketing consultant for Hometown Connections.