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Nancy Powaga
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October 31, 2019

Digitized Asset Tracking, Dispatch, and More: How Apps Are Changing the Utilities Industry

utilities-truckDigital transformation is now a top priority in the utilities industry, where companies are working to reinvent themselves as digital enterprises. 

It’s not hard to see why utility companies are so interested in digital transformation. For example, according to a recent report by McKinsey, new technologies can reduce utility operating expenses by up to 25 percent while leading to performance gains of between 20 to 40 percent.

Despite this potential, utilities have been struggling to achieve these returns. Companies are finding it difficult to move beyond pilot projects and spread new technologies across the enterprise. As a result, there remains significant potential for digitization at many utilities companies. 

Many utility companies are, however, finding that there’s one technology that’s truly supporting their digital transformation efforts: apps. The emergence of no-code development in recent years has made it possible for companies to rapidly create and deploy apps that are cost-effective, reliable, and capable of streamlining a variety of tasks. Using apps, utility companies can fast-track digitization and produce tools that can generate immediate impact, with measurable returns.

Let’s take a look at five areas of the utilities industry that can be significantly improved through on-the-job applications.

1. Asset tracking

In the world of utilities, managing assets like bucket trucks, transformers, and other equipment is critical for success. For example, a downed pole or a blown transformer can lead to service outages, hazards, and upset customers. However, many companies still lack visibility into their assets, making it hard to track and maintain large numbers of endpoints. 

This is one area where apps can be particularly helpful. In fact, apps are now being used to streamline asset tracking across utilities organizations. Companies are designing mobile solutions that provide field managers with interactive maps that detail the exact real-time locations of their assets and status updates. 

With the right app in place, managers can quickly look at a geographical area, locate points that require maintenance, and assign team members to perform service checks, for example. Once a truck reaches a destination and performs service, they can use the app to communicate important status updates, repairs, photos, and other action items. 

Apps help with asset tracking by:

  • Providing visibility into field assets
  • Making it easy to assign work orders
  • Performing routine service checks

Check our AppSheet's field survey app, which you can copy and customize to track your assets in the field:

Copy the field survey app

2. Inventory management 

Inventory management is a constant struggle for utility companies where mismanaged inventory can eat into margins and lead to project delays. 

The digital approach to inventory management involves automating the process altogether via mobile apps. By using apps, employees can request parts, accessories, and other supplies in a way that is highly organized. It’s a much better approach than requesting items with paper and spreadsheets, or by word of mouth.

Here’s how apps help with inventory management:

  • Managing stock
  • Predicting demand 
  • Placing orders

Check out our blog post, “How to Manage Stock: Three Free Inventory Management Excel Templates”. Then copy and customize the AppSheet inventory management app:

Copy the inventory management app

3. Dispatch 

The utilities industry is becoming increasingly software-defined, as endpoints are  updated with IoT-enabled sensors that can transmit data in real-time. As a result, companies don’t have to dispatch as many trucks as they had in the past. Meters can be checked and recorded automatically, saving money and reducing the number of vehicles on the road. 

Apps are increasingly used to interface with smart meters and other field equipment, alerting team members when service is required.

Apps support dispatch workflows by: 

  • Reducing vehicle wear and tear
  • Saving fuel 
  • Improving sustainability 

Copy and customize our driver dispatch app:

Copy the driver dispatch app

4. Customer experience (CX)

CX remains a major issue for companies in all industries, and utilities are no different. In fact, CX is quickly becoming a key competitive differentiator among brands. While other industries have made major strides in improving the customer experience, utility companies still have a long way to go in building customer trust and loyalty. 

More and more utility companies are finding that they can use apps to improve CX. Apps are being used to share billing and service updates, provide a mechanism for feedback, and share alerts during storms and outages. 

Equally as important, companies are using apps to streamline workflows — boosting productivity and reducing complaints along the way. 

Here are some ways that apps are helping with CX:

  • Sharing information with customers
  • Expediting maintenance
  • Streamlining support

5. Ongoing maintenance 

Utility companies have to manage multiple concurrent projects, with complex systems, tight regulatory requirements, strict timelines, and demanding customers. Daily maintenance requires an amazing attention to detail and constant communication. A communication breakdown can lead to missed deadlines, hazards, and a host of other issues.

Apps can be used to help busy and understaffed field managers triage maintenance and move projects along to completion at a brisker pace. For example, a manager can use an app to see a list of action items in a building — like fire alarm inspections — and assign a worker to oversee these tasks. 

Apps can improve maintenance by: 

  • Preventing missed service appointments
  • Providing project status updates
  • Assigning manage daily workflows 

For some specific examples of how apps are transforming the utilities industry, check out the following stories:

Want to build a maintenance app on your own? Copy and customize ours to get started:

Copy the equipment inspection app

Build your own utilities app suite

Clearly, apps are helping everyone involved in the utilities industry to change with the times. Mobile solutions are essential in utilities offices and in the field, and their importance will only increase. There are many options for how to meet utilities industry needs through technology — from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom apps.

AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, you can create your own unique apps with our platform. If you haven’t already started using mobile application technology on your utilities jobs, don’t worry. AppSheet lets you build a whole suite of applications all under one roof.

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