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MANAGEMENT CONTROLS BLOG

Optimizing Smart Grid Technology for Utilities Transmission and Distribution

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The first electrical grid can be traced back to the late 1800s, shortly after Thomas Edison created the light bulb. The system as we know it today was established in the 1930s and has since been updated with new technologies. 

In 2007, the term "smart grid" was defined and passed into law. Since then, significant progress has been made to implement the necessary technology for a smart grid in the U.S. and abroad, although much work remains. The grid is crucial, so maintaining and modernizing it is essential. Contract labor makes up much of the workforce. Ensuring contract requirements are met helps fulfill the enormous task of grid transmission and distribution. 

Utilities are facing many challenges, such as aging infrastructure, increasing demand, integration of renewable energy, regulatory compliance, labor shortages, contractor management, real-time monitoring, cost control, cybersecurity threats, environmental pressures, and high customer expectations. As a result, utilities must modernize and optimize their transmission and distribution operations to ensure reliability and efficiency. 

Specialized Labor Needed for Smart Grid 

Utilities are often taken for granted; people only notice them when a problem arises. The public expects the grid to function as intended and that power will be available when needed. 

However, electricity demands have been growing exponentially – 4.7 % over the next five years, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the U.S., with developed nations worldwide also expecting increased demand. The same report noted that the grid is unprepared to handle the load growth. The smart grid market size (worldwide) is projected to go from $50 billion in 2022 to $130 billion in 2028. 

Forecasts are not always accurate, but the need to implement smart grid technology is not solely about increased electricity demand. Governments are enacting laws that require the integration of alternative energy sources. Smart grids facilitate the incorporation of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. They manage the variability and intermittency of renewable energy efficiently, helping to balance and maintain grid stability. 

Implementing smart grid technology also addresses reliability. As stated above, the current system in the U.S. is nearly 100 years old. The wear and tear and enhanced demand are reducing reliability. “The U.S. electrical system is becoming less dependable. The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better,” according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Smart grids improve reliability by identifying and resolving faults automatically, often before consumers are aware of the problem. This self-healing capability minimizes downtime and leads to service continuity. 

Each reason related to the importance of implementing smart grid technology makes reliable labor pools more necessary. The specialized nature of the work and extensive infrastructure need to be managed and maintained. Contractors build new lines, substations, and networks and handle routine maintenance, emergency repairs, and upgrades. Plus, contractors provide specialized services. 

Utility_Transmission_WorkerContract Compliance Challenges in the Field

Ensuring the workforce is on task is challenging when each employee is stationary under one roof. As the number of locations and employees grows, the challenge increases. How can you ensure your contract labor works according to the contract when they’re out in the field and on the move? 

Developing contracts is a lengthy and tedious process. The effort is for naught if the contact isn’t followed. Contract non-compliance is costly in terms of dollars and productivity. But how can field teams ensure contract compliance when they’re usually unaware of the details?   

Typically, field management accepts the terms that the contractor follows. The contractors at the remote work site are also likely unaware of the contract details that their back office negotiated. They work on field operations as instructed by their boss, without consideration of the contract. 

So, both field teams are flying blind regarding contract awareness.  

The field management team is not involved with contract negotiations and is not informed about the contract details. Instead of thinking about contract minutia, the field team is focusing on completing their work, maintaining electrical reliability, and keeping the crew safe. This demanding task requires their focus and skill. 

With the great expectations utility companies are trying to meet, they need the right people with the right skills at the right location working the proper schedule. Tracking employee activity on paper timesheets is unreliable. They don’t provide real-time workforce and cost visibility to ensure optimal progress, making effective management challenging. 

Gain Real-Time Visibility at Remote Worksites 

The demand is great, and the opportunities are available, but budgets are tight. Sound about right? Oversight is necessary to stay within the budget and meet projected labor costs. This is where Track Anywhere can help.  

With Track Anywhere, you can validate contractor location at remote work sites in real time. TRACK Anywhere Virtual Gate is a mobile solution that captures contractor in/out events in remote work locations. We use innovative technology, making it easy to ensure all contractor activity is tracked and recorded. This is validated by custom geo-boundaries. 

The mobile application, which can be downloaded on Android or iOS, records worker activity and provides convenient badge-in/badge-out functionality for individuals identified by their personal RFID tag, QR code, or unique access code. The technology also records the geo-location of each activity, ensuring worker proof of presence and safety.  

Track Anywhere is designed for high-volume remote worksites. So, multiple contractors can be at the site, and they can move between multiple sites. It also has remote mustering capabilities. This is helpful since the new lines, substations, and networks are not necessarily in a populated area. 

Field management and others can view who is on the remote work site, the skills, schedules, and the exact locations by individual, company, or work location in real-time. Knowing precisely who is on-site can help field management and emergency personnel make timely decisions that could prevent serious injuries or even worse. 

With Track Anywhere, you can say goodbye to paper timesheets and reliance on the contractor to supply work hours. Your company can capture accurate hours and costs no matter where the worksite is or if the workforce is remote. You know when workers check in to the work site and when they leave. Costs are automatically calculated based on the individual craftsman skill, hourly rate, work schedule, per diem, and other contractually obligated terms.  

The information gained from Track Anywhere enables companies to proactively manage remote work sites. Real-time information empowers owners to make data-driven, proactive decisions. Because the grid is so important, the decisions made can have a dramatic impact. 

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Take the Next Step with Track Anywhere 

Elevate your contractor management process with Track Anywhere, the ultimate solution for cost control and contract compliance. Our automated system guarantees you pay only the exact amounts stipulated in your contracts. On average, our customers save 10%-15% annually on contractor costs. 

From constructing new power lines, substations, and networks to installing advanced electric grid technology, performing routine maintenance, handling emergency repairs, and implementing crucial upgrades, the stakes are high. Effective contractor management is essential. Track Anywhere enables you to monitor labor accurately and ensure strict contract compliance, safeguarding your operations and optimizing your budget. 

Learn more about Track Anywhere now. 

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