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Top Tips for Ensuring a Smooth Smart Meter Rollout

Christian Giroux
By Christian Giroux - 31 May 2019, 15:43:48

Fotolia_213059620_XXLSmart meter rollouts are unique projects that present utilities with a different set of challenges and complexities, compared with day-to-day operations. One that is well-planned and well-executed can save on time, cost and resources. 

A smart meter rollout requires replacing thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of existing meters with smart meters within a specific timeframe, so the importance of a smooth, efficient installation cannot be underestimated. Typically, teams of installers are tasked with installing high volumes of meters in a day, over the course of weeks and months. Procedures and processes need to be clear, especially in terms of correct set-up to avoid wasting time, and additional site revisits.

Landis+Gyr’s Field Operations Manager (FOM) software supports the efficient management of the rollout, by digitalizing and formalizing the installation process. FOM provides advanced tools both for installation planning as well as job flows for actual work in the field.

Drawing on our vast experience of working with different utilities throughout Europe, we have been able to organize and integrate key learnings into FOM to help ensure your smart meter installation rollout proceeds smoothly.

Any size of a rollout requires careful planning

Even over a smaller service area smart meter rollout campaigns require careful planning to ensure installations can proceed with ease and efficiency. The overall schedule and installation phases are defined as part of the deployment strategy and project planning. With FOM, the high-level rollout plan is transferred into detailed work orders for installers.

Ultimately, the key precondition for a successful site visit is meter access. Good, proactive communications with end consumers and property managers cannot be overestimated, to ensure they can provide access on the appointed date and time of the meter swap. It starts with communicating well ahead of the installation to provide customers with information on the benefits of the new smart meter technology being installed and continues until there is a date in calendars for the meter change. FOM allows flexible online management of the site visit schedule, ensuring the installer has always the latest updated timetable available.

Landis+Gyr’s FOM allows project planners to schedule the rollout phases, each day. It assists in planning geographical installation areas so no extra time is spent driving around. Installers are provided with all the important information, such as timings, addresses, GPS coordinates and stock they need to be carrying in their vehicle for the day’s jobs ahead.

Furthermore, planners have online visibility of an installation’s progress and can respond promptly to any deviations or problems without delay.

Formalize the installation process

An efficient and smooth smart meter rollout can only occur when each process and step of an installation job is clearly defined. There is no room for improvisation or doing things ‘on the fly’.

With FOM, the utility can guide the work processes in the field, minimising issues and errors. By providing installers with step-by-step job procedures for carrying out the meter installation a smooth change of each device is assured. Using FOM utilities can design work orders according to their own processes and define different workflows for various types of jobs.

The installer interacts with FOM via their mobile device, following the instructions presented. Only when a mandatory step is complete can they move onto the next one, ensuring that each critical stage has been completed and reducing the risk of revisits due to incorrect installation or set up.

As each installation proceeds in the field, the back office is kept informed. On site the installer can easily record key information about the meter point and its location, recording values collected by the meter, scanning barcodes or photographing the finished job, for example.

Digitalise data gathering

During a smart meter installation, data is gathered from the job itself in addition to retrieval of the data from the old device and its transfer to the new system. Manual data collection is prone to human error and requires verification in the back office that everything has been correctly communicated.

FOM digitalises data gathering, ensuring that information generated by each job is systematically and consistently recorded and added to central databases, ensuring all the data is correct and that each installation follows the right procedure. This is particularly important for consumption values collected by the meter, so that customers receive accurate bills after the new installation.

The information is recorded and downloaded more quickly, compared with the installer filling out pages before delivering these to the back office for personnel to manually upload the information.

Securing installer health and safety

When dispatching workers in the field, whether they are own employees or contractors, utilities are concerned with their health and safety. FOM enables installers to report any incident which could potentially cause bodily harm, so that appropriate measures can be taken to ensure a safe environment for the job to be completed.

Picture1FOM’s Mobile Application also features a “lone worker protection” function, which can immediately alert someone in the back office should the installer find themselves in a situation that is risky.

FOM can also be set up to trigger different types of audit, for example about Personal Protection Equipment, and to prepare reports for the authorities.

Statistical data at your fingertips – track progress to keep to the project plan

However well thought out the process may be, nobody can foresee all the different issues that may happen during a smart meter deployment. Statistics help to improve on the processes, planning and job instructions. Using a dashboard and comprehensive reporting tools, deployment managers can gain a clear overview of the rollout’s progress against cost targets and deadlines. Diving into the data, they can identify causes of inefficiencies and take corrective action, such as modifying job templates or assigning and scheduling tasks in a different way.

Conclusion

Smart meter rollout projects require careful planning to ensure they are carried out efficiently and avoid costly rework. Landis+Gyr can assist utilities of any size with their rollout strategies. FOM has been designed specifically to support smooth and cost-effective execution of smart meter rollouts.

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