Overcoming Manual Systems with Digital Mobile Work Order Management in Utilities

Gainesville Regional Utilities is the fifth-largest utility in the state of Florida, responsible for the electric, natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications services across the city. Like many utility companies looking to take advantage of new digital technology, GRU needed to overhaul its paper-based documentation to transition to a fully mobile work order management platform. So how does a large utility company pull this off to maximize efficiency, improve customer service and collect intelligent data?

Making Moves from Paper to Digital

For years, GRU relied on paper-based work management system, with workers writing handwritten reports in the field. They then brought paperwork back to the office for manual entry into the computer system where it could be organized and recorded for the rest of the organization to reference. But handwritten reporting brought a multitude of issues. The validity of reports was often compromised by illegible handwriting, lost paperwork and human error. Delays in transcription sometimes led to a reporting backlog of up to three months, in which time reports couldn’t be referenced if an issue arose or proof of work was required. GRU needed a new process for documentation and mobile work order management that could support its operations serving a city of 132,000 people.

CF-20 waste management employee fills out work order on mobile tablet

In addition to its need for a fully digitized work order system, GRU wanted to standardize the technologies used across crews to optimize training, collaboration and repairs, while still meeting the diverse needs of individual workers. But this was no small task – with such a wide variety of work done, each crew was presented with its own set of challenges on a daily basis and GRU needed mobile devices that could be customized to fit these unique requirements in the field.

In-Field Demos for a Personalized Trial

To give GRU an opportunity to try TOUGHBOOK devices in the field, Panasonic offered a personalized demo experience, sending over a number of laptop and handheld devices for use on the actual jobsite. Each device was equipped with a variety of different software that GRU uses each day. This allowed the teams to get a feel for each device as they would actually be using it on the job. With input from a user group made up of crew supervisors, operators, managers and technical analysts, GRU felt they had enough information to make a decision.

Rugged Laptops and Tablets for Efficient Recordkeeping and Mobile Work Order Management

Ultimately, with such a wide variety of devices that could fit workers’ varied needs, Panasonic was the right fit for GRU. They trusted the durability and reliability of the devices, and came to learn that the inner workings of TOUGHBOOK devices were just as powerful as their rugged exterior. Connectivity, CPU power and ProServices support provided each team with the technology they needed to get their jobs done, and provided the boost in efficiency that the organization needed, as a result of digital recordkeeping and reporting.

Now, all GRU crew leaders rely on TOUGHBOOK devices to submit daily work orders and reports on site in in real time, with the ability to complement these reports with photo and video evidence, which proves helpful should any liability disputes arise over time. Three years after transitioning to Panasonic TOUGHBOOK devices, GRU deploys multiple models across teams.  As the industry changes, GRU works with Panasonic to ensure their technology investments continue to support the way they work.

To read more about their success implementing mobile work order management, download the case study.