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Digital Transformation for Utilities: The Flywheel Effect

Has your organization begun its digital transformation process? Are you just starting out or well on your way? No matter your answer, remember that digital transformation refers to an operational state and not a destination. Even organizations that are fully digitized need to continuously explore new and better operations. Digital transformation, in other words, is an ongoing effort much like research and development. The utilities industry needs to be especially ready to adapt and grow. Customer expectations, new technology, and climate change present challenges—and enormous opportunities—for utility companies. Seem daunting? Let's get motivated. Digital transformation promises a massive potential payoff. Utility companies stand to generate performance gains of 20 to 40 percent by implementing new technologies. Read on for the top benefits to digital transformation in the utilities industry. And remember, once your digital programs have started, these benefits become ongoing characteristics that you can improve and grow. Reduced waste Digital transformation helps identify and eliminate areas of waste, both in terms of finances and productivity. Digital lighthouse projects help kick-start and illuminate these benefits so that everyone in your organization gets on board. Lighthouse projects involve setting up a small team that goes through the various departments of your company and analyzes the various ways they conduct their work. This digital analysis uncovers inefficient practices or problems areas in your business that you can then implement digital solutions toward. Once a lighthouse project succeeds, digital transformation tends to work like a flywheel by gaining momentum with each new project. Improved visibility Digital transformation can also be a remarkable learning experience for utility companies. One you've identified how different departments operate, implementing new technologies can be an empowering experience for both the workers and the management team. For instance, imagine sending a task force to interview a group of engineers and see how they work. In addition to potentially identifying new technologies, it’s a great opportunity for management to check in and find out what actually happens on across the business. This can produce invaluable feedback that can help improve operations. Agility to get the job done Digital disruptors entering the industry put traditional utilities companies at risk. Embracing digital transformation is a great way to stay agile and nimble enough to pivot and capitalize on new opportunities. No-code platforms create flexible, agile, and powerful technological solutions for businesses. Workers, project managers, and IT professionals create applications that provide standardization while allowing immense customization and options. Employees get tools they need to complete jobs quicker and from anywhere. A key factor in job completion is getting the data recorded and then entered into the system. Often, that might involve workers having to transport paper documents to computers or offices. With mobile applications, workers can record and upload data directly to the server from their phone, cutting out a lot of the legwork. Improved customer experience  Utility companies that undergo digital transformation also have the opportunity to become customer experience (CX) leaders — a strong differentiator in a field that typically ranks very low in customer satisfaction reports. Successful utility companies use a combination of data, smart devices, intelligent apps, and more to provide stellar customer service that translates into stronger experiences. Customer experience is often based around response time, ease of use, and transparency. When workers have more freedom and power to complete their jobs efficiently, customers enjoy quicker and more reliable service. Everyone wins.

Create a Safer Manufacturing Environment

Manufacturing can be dangerous. Employees work in fast-paced environments with heavy machinery, dangerous materials, and crowded spaces. Facility managers must conduct due diligence to reduce accidents and maintain operational safety. Let's take a closer look at manufacturing safety. The top injuries in manufacturing are essentially caused by environmental and behavioral factors. Examples include coming into unexpected contact with objects, falling, exerting too much energy, repetitive motion, and touching harmful chemicals or substances, among other things.  All of these injuries can be reduced by using digital workplace apps. With that in mind, here are some examples of how apps can create a safer manufacturing environment.  Optimizing training  Training is critical to ensure worker safety and productivity. It’s also essential from a regulatory and compliance perspective.  To prevent accidents, manufacturing workers should be properly briefed about occupational hazards before conducting operations. Unfortunately, training and policies can often be rushed, disregarded, or lost in the mix of a busy workday. Apps can provide a perfect mechanism for supplementing training. For example, apps can be used to transmit important documentation and ongoing updates. Managers can request sign-offs and even schedule periodic reviews to make sure employees remain up to speed about safety issues.  Maintaining equipment  Communication is critical for avoiding accidents and keeping machinery running as designed. Machine operators and managers need to be diligent about scheduling maintenance and conducting safety checks — especially when working with machinery that’s prone to overheating or malfunctioning. Apps can be used to request maintenance or share notes about the performance of a machine or vehicle. Custom apps can include forms that enable workers to enter notes and data, and they can be used to share pictures or even video files.  Protecting workers  Some processes, such as working in extreme temperatures or reducing noise exposure, require special attention from managers to prevent harmful health effects. For example, some manufacturing companies limit shift hours to reduce worker hearing loss. Manufacturers can avoid these issues by creating apps designed to expedite advanced hazard control. This type of app would enable management to track and monitor risks like sun, cold, or loud noises. The data could then be fed directly into worker schedules to optimize staffing and ensure safety.  Sharing reports  Management needs to remain in the loop about what’s happening across all of work sites and factories. Company administrators need to have a system that enables them to report daily activities and details. They also need to be able to hold managers accountable for what happens during projects. Apps provide an easy way to stay on top of all safety reporting, making it possible for managers to assemble and share accident reports, safety reports, safety-related complaints, or even suggestions for improving worker safety. These reports can be delivered via email or SMS, ensuring administrators receive them in a timely manner.  Responding to emergencies  When manufacturing accidents happen, it’s important that managers know who to contact. Some companies are now building dedicated apps for emergency response. These apps enable workers to indicate family and medical contacts so managers know who to reach out to in the event of an emergency. Further, these apps let workers list common allergies and other health-related issues, making it easier for technicians to provide a medical response when needed. Ready to get started with custom apps? If so, we’ve got you covered. AppSheet offers a sample Inspection App that you can use to streamline equipment checks. You can also try building your own custom app. AppSheet’s no-code app platform works with both Sheets and Excel, as well as a variety of third-party cloud services. So no matter where your data lives, you can build custom apps to transform your manufacturing workflows — building a more efficient and more profitable company because of it.   Start using AppSheet today and find out how you can take your company to the next level by building custom tools designed specifically for your needs.

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