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Why Asset Tracking Is Essential for Water Utility Providers

by | Sep 30, 2022

Managing water utilities can seem like a never-ending game of catch-up. Between outdated infrastructure and limited funds for improvements, utility managers have their hands full. According to the American Water Works Association, renewal and replacement of aging infrastructure is the number one challenge facing water utility professionals. And that challenge is compounded by other serious issues. Limited financial capital, an aging workforce, and emergency preparedness also rank highly. 

With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, funding relief is on the way. But with high materials costs and labor challenges to deal with, it’s critical to use that funding wisely to meet short-term needs and prepare for future demands. Asset tracking technology, which incorporates GPS, equipment monitoring data, and software into a single solution, can help improve efficiency, plan more effectively, and meet the needs of the community. 

Manage repair and renewal projects efficiently with real-time fleet tracking and an open API

Complex repair and renewal projects require you to allocate vehicles and equipment efficiently, while still having them available for regular maintenance and emergency repairs. Without efficient management, some assets may sit idle when they could be in use. That’s why it’s important to maximize the use of your vehicles, heavy equipment, generators, portable lights, and trailers.  

With asset tracking technology, you can monitor the location of your assets in real-time to deploy the right equipment to the right place. See how many of your assets are dedicated to repair and renewal projects at a glance, and move them between jobs using the shortest routes possible. 

Through application programming interfaces (APIs), you can connect trackers to the other systems you use to manage projects more effectively. For example, you can integrate your tracking solution with your construction project management software, making it easier for you to centralize task tracking without having to move between multiple tools.

Use custom geofencing to track assets within the borders you set

Being able to see your assets on a map is only useful if the map aligns with how you manage your service area. An asset tracking solution with custom geofencing allows you to view city borders, districts, wards, zones, county lines, and any other parameters you set. It allows you to import maps from existing tools or create them within the system. You can run queries to see how many assets are located in a particular area. You can also receive notifications when an asset leaves a designated area to prevent theft on job sites or misallocation of resources. So, if you’re trying to keep a certain number of generators within a particular zone, you can be notified when a generator is taken out of that area. 

Geofencing is especially helpful for utility providers to track widespread assets like water meters. Because of the high cost of metal, thieves are stealing water meters to sell for scrap metal. Not only do you have to replace the meter, but your customers may be using water that you can’t track or bill them for. With geofencing, you can receive updates when a meter is removed from where it should be.

Combat extreme weather with faster dispatching and work order management

Extreme weather events are on the rise, meaning that outages, contamination issues, and flood events are increasing in frequency.  An asset tracking system that incorporates dispatching and work order management tools allows you to respond quickly. When an emergency occurs, you can locate the nearest equipment needed to repair it, and push work orders directly to workers via their smartphone. The process takes just a couple of minutes, allowing you to dispatch multiple workers and pieces of equipment in the same time period that it can take to dispatch a single asset using traditional methods. 

When workers arrive at the site they can take photos of the damaged asset and log any relevant notes in a central location.  You can also track how long it takes for your employees to complete tasks, which allows you to plan labor more effectively in the future. 

Meet customer expectations with live outage repair updates

The average consumer can access customer service information at their fingertips, and they expect the same from their water utility providers. Younger generations in particular are digital natives who are used to interacting with their other service providers (such as their bank or phone company) via apps and interactive web tools. 

Asset tracking enables water utility providers to enhance customer service and transparency. Because you have accurate, up-to-date information on the location of your vehicles and equipment, you can provide live outage repair updates to your customers. You can integrate the repair map with customer communication tools and send estimated arrival times to your customers via text or email. You can also create a public-facing outage map that can be accessed via the web or your app so customers can track the status of repairs on their own.

Overcome the challenges of an aging workforce 

As highly experienced workers retire, many agencies are facing knowledge loss. Since many agencies rely on paper-based tools and spreadsheets to monitor assets, it’s difficult to pass down their knowledge to the next generation in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand. Asset tracking technology can close the gap. It can be incorporated into new employee training to help them understand how you manage your assets in your service area. And because asset tracking systems are more dynamic than paper and spreadsheets, you can provide younger employees with more context than they would get from reading static maps and asset logs. 

You can also use fleet tracking devices to provide employees with incentives and rewards. With vehicle tracking you can monitor driver habits and reward drivers who practice safe driving (e.g., staying under the speed limit and not braking too hard). These incentives can help you attract and retain qualified personnel as older workers retire. 

Better water utility management starts here

Water utility managers have a lot of challenges—and a lot of opportunities ahead. Asset tracking technology enables you to operate more efficiently, improve service quality, and plan capital spending more effectively.

HoloTrak provides a robust asset tracking solution that can integrate with your technology ecosystem seamlessly. We help you identify the best configuration for your needs, and our easy-to-use software allows you to start reaping the benefits of asset tracking quickly. Ready  to get started? Contact us today.

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