Ergon Energy Automates Field Crews with Panasonic Toughpad Tablets

From the saltwater coastline to the dirt and dust of the countryside in Queensland, Australia, Ergon Energy field crews travel rough terrain to keep the lights on for 700,000 homes and businesses. The state-owned corporation sends electricity across 97 percent of the state of Queensland, covering 150,000 kilometers (approximately 93,000 miles) of power lines ranging from coastal locations to urban cities and remote mining towns.

Ergon Energy automates its field based operations with Panasonic Toughpad tablets by Panasonic Australia

“We work in some harsh conditions up here in our territory whether it be the rain, the sun or the dust,” says Shaun Hales of Ergon Energy in Townsville. 

Ergon Energy establishes and maintains the network across this vast area, and restores power after disasters, cyclones and floods. But until 2015, the company conducted its field operations through hand-written paper and pen. That’s when 500 Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets were rolled out and enabled field crews to work inside a vehicle or on the work site. 

“Previously we used to get issued paper copies of our service orders and they were getting lost in field and damaged due to weather conditions,” explains Shaun Hales, of Ergon Energy in Townsville. “Now it’s a lot more efficient. We are able to get the jobs directly from the Toughpad, capture the data and send it directly back to dispatch.”

Using the devices’ 4G mobile connectivity module, the field crews can now access information that was previously only available in the office or through a library of paper manuals held in their vehicles. The introduction of the Toughpad saves on printing and fuel costs. The tablet also gives workers access to live data, emails, intranet and internet – improving both the flow of information to and from the field and response time to customer requests.

Jason Lee, Product Marketing Manager for Toughbook, Panasonic Australia: “This is the largest single roll-out of Panasonic Toughpad devices to date in Australia. Over the years, Panasonic has supported a number of Australian energy providers with rugged solutions…that ensure organizations don’t lose productivity due to downtime from damaged equipment.”

Jason Ledbury, Program Director for Field Force Automation, Ergon Energy said that the new Toughpad FZ-G1s are already saving Ergon workers up to as much as 45 minutes on the job per day.

“Ergon Energy operates in some of the toughest environments in extremely hot, wet and dusty areas with workers having to drive very long distances. It can be easily mounted on the vehicles and is light enough to be carried in the field. Overall, it was the device that came out on top in most of the criteria we had set,” said Ledbury.

In some remote areas, Ergon Energy has also adopted the Toughpad’s extended battery which provides up to 20 hours of battery life, making it a reliable tablet computer when charging is not available, ensuring vital data is accessible anytime, anywhere. The fully-rugged Toughpad FZ-G1 tablet sets a new benchmark for outdoor viewable tablets making it ideal for field workforces exposed to the environment.

“The Toughpad is easy to read and enter data with the anti-glare screen,” says Hale. “The long battery life definitely helps when you’re on long journeys.”

Ergon Energy plans to issue more field work aligned with its Mobility Roadmap over the next five years, and expand its Toughpad fleet accordingly.