“From Bluebonnet’s perspective, ROW inspection has been a great tool, the program is configurable, easy to use, and has proven results in efficiency and savings.”
-Brandi Lowe, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Every Utility has a need for discovering the most effective way to clear and maintain the vegetation inhabiting their service territory. Managing the administrative side of this process by bringing the results of this work into a digitized, map-based environment is one way to gain efficiencies. Brandi Lowe has been with Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc. for 10 years, starting as a GIS analyst, and has risen to Supervisor of Mapping and GIS. After implementing Partner’s Distribution Inspection module and with the success of that program, the GIS department recommended the Partner ROW Vegetation Management application. This would go on to not only provide an elevated degree of efficiency, but also results that exceeded expectations for Bluebonnet.
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Inc. was founded in 1939 and manages all or part of 14 Central Texas Counties, covering approximately 3,800 square miles. With more than 11,000 miles of line, 86,000+ meters, and 65,000 members, they have found Partner’s Right Of Way, Distribution Inspection, and Staking software to be invaluable. “Bluebonnet is a progressive cooperative that strives to be a leader in the electric utility industry. We are always looking to gain efficiencies and improve processes using software. When evaluating new GIS software, top priorities were ease of use, increased efficiencies and software that would work for everyone, not just the GIS department,” Brandi says. When it came to ROW management, Bluebonnet was looking for a system that included organized and accessible data. With Partner’s products, they found what they were looking for including efficient planning, scheduling, reporting, and auditing methods.
Previous to using Partner ROW, the administrative process was less efficient and tended to be more expensive. A feeder was selected and GIS would print one original map. The Arborist would get the paper map and specify work to be done by the span and parcel per feeder, using highlighters to mark up areas needing work. The Arborist would then bring the marked up map to GIS to make additional copies. The ROW Supervisor would then give copies to contractors for bidding and then award the winning bid. The Inspector for that area would provide the General Foreman with copies of the Arborist’s map, and meet with them periodically to mark progress on an original clean map. Invoices were provided weekly by the contractor, and were then approved and paid until the work was completed. The arborist would then take the map back out for inspection. If additional work was needed, he would provide the information to the inspector, who would contact the General Foreman to perform the corrections. Once fixed, Accounting would close the ROW order. This lengthy process demanded the use of paper maps, and the information on tracking, reporting and historical information was less precise.
Once Bluebonnet implemented the Partner ROW Application, immediate benefits were noticed. The Partner ROW Application provided an accurate digital representation of work to be done, including tracking and reporting on routine trimming, spraying and mowing, as well as specific tree removals, yard trims, and member concerns. This enabled Bluebonnet to assign work to companies, crews, and individuals based on work locations, and the additional data provided resulted in a more efficient process. Also added were the abilities to analyze and report on costs and audit completed work while archiving work for the next cycle. The process for prescribing and bidding work changed as well, with a reduction in printing.
With Partner ROW, the feeder is planned by the Arborist in the software, the inspections are imported into ArcMap and bid maps (PDFs) are produced and digitally sent to contractors for bidding. The bid is then awarded to the contractor and assigned via the ROW Application. The contractor is then supplied with a synced laptop showing all work to be completed, including any member refusals and special requests.
Bluebonnet has seen numerous benefits with moving to the Partner ROW application. The most immediate benefit was the reduction in amount of paper being printed. Other benefits include the ability to track progress of work and hold contractors accountable based on real-time synchronization and updates. This has provided additional efficiencies for Bluebonnet and their contractors by displaying where work is completed and ready to be audited. The greatest benefit of this is that typically the contractor is still in the area with their equipment in the case where they may need to go back to a site or inspection. Finally, the ability to compare expense versus capital work being done is useful from a quick glance from a budgeting perspective as the year progresses.
With Partner ROW, archiving work becomes a breeze. An accurate historical record of work performed is produced, and scheduling/repeating work based on time/cycle is a few clicks away. Reporting is made easier due to the fact that data is now available for any employee who is provided access to view or pull. Member and Parcel information is available and with the use of the Partner Map Viewer, completed/non completed work is made visible geographically. Bluebonnet is able to filter data and then represent it in the Viewer based on specific data criteria. Frequently used data filters are saved at both a local and organizational level, making the filters easy to share for those less familiar with the Partner platform.
Bluebonnet was able to easily put to use the one touch exports available out of the box, and with a bit of planning, was able to create their own custom reports as well.
Brandi states, “From Bluebonnet’s perspective, ROW inspection has been a great tool. The program is configurable, easy to use, and has proven results in efficiency and savings.” With these outstanding results, Bluebonnet plans to continue to use Partner ROW Inspection Application for continued efficiencies, reduction in ROW related outages and finally the savings on truck rolls and trip charges.