When the city fathers of Independence, Missouri, fired up their first power plant in 1901, electrical power was considered leading-edge technology. More than 115 years later, Independence Power and Light (IPL) repeated the tradition of embracing new technology when they chose Cityworks to replace its homegrown work management program.

The municipal electric utility’s primary challenge was to integrate the diverse software landscape that supported material assemblies, material reservation, and workflow data and scheduling. Though the existing system was working, it was inefficient and had some catching up to do with technologies on the horizon.

But before Cityworks could modernize IPL, the utility needed to integrate an AS400 green screen material management solution and a JD Edwards customized labor solution—both old enough to vote—with an evolving Automated Utility Design (AUD) program awaiting installation.

Spanning the Gaps

The initial challenge was to move materials into Cityworks so they could be used in the AUD engineering design program. Because this was just one of the technology gaps IPL would need to bridge to develop a successful solution, they chose POWER Engineers as a partner for their specialized utility development experience. POWER’s experts seamlessly integrated the inflexible AS400 program to provide Cityworks with constantly updated materials while Cityworks pushed back the estimated materials needed for construction projects so proper inventory levels could be maintained.

The next gap to address: opening the Cityworks-created material assemblies to the AUD design program. POWER’s consultants partnered with the AUD development team at Spatial Business Systems to integrate the two systems to share data effortlessly. Now integrated, designers can create new designs in their electric design program, link to a Cityworks work order, create a bill of materials including estimated labor and construction design drawings, and load these into the Cityworks work order for use by construction crews. Cityworks tasks then trigger calls to the AS400 and JD Edwards programs to pull back the actual materials and labor hours and populate the Cityworks work order. This allows the comparison of estimated labor and materials costs against actual costs, allowing IPL to adjust the design process for more accurate estimates.

“As a former utility engineer, it was gratifying to see the seamless integration between the three systems and the potential for improving the estimating process,” said Mark Rytilahti, senior consultant and project technical lead at POWER Engineers.

Read: Streamlining Warehouse Operations with Automated Data Collection.

Pioneering Cost Containment

Although this is just a small part of the first phase of development for IPL, the increased efficiency is substantial. Now the utility can track estimated and actual costs all within one solution. The integrations allow users to work with materials entered in its native program, build assemblies in Cityworks, and then consume these materials and assemblies in another solution. IPL employees have responded very positively to the transition.

“The success of our deployment has been the outstanding end-user acceptance,” said Janna Weir, systems program supervisor at IPL. “In the first five months of being in production, the staff have created over 5,700 work orders that accurately capture all work activity on our field assets. The ability to provide the true history of an asset through its lifecycle is a first for our utility and will offer a wealth of benefits in future planning.”

For the customers served by IPL, this means continued rate stabilization, faster response time to outages, and more comprehensive customer service. From new subdivision builds to monthly statements, IPL customers may not experience Cityworks’ elegance like employees do, but this new asset management system makes Independence a better place to live. The data gathered and shared through Cityworks allows IPL to ensure reliability as infrastructure ages, stay ahead of the curves of growth and demand for electrical power, develop better business plans for capital projects, and reduce waste through paperless communication and documentation.

Customer satisfaction with Cityworks is also high among IPL leadership.

“Finding a solution that integrates all electric utility business systems, let alone the other disparate municipal business systems, has been one of those career-long challenges throughout my 35 years in public power,” said IPL Acting Director Andrew Boatright. “Cityworks is the tool that brings it all together. Gone are the days of possibly losing track of a paper service or work order. Now everyone has access to a system that provides real-time status of workflows and processes. This is great for our organization and amazing for our customers.”

Webinar: POWER Your Electric Utility Workflow

Tablets, Barcodes and More

Even more exciting is what lies ahead in future phases. POWER Engineers is currently working with IPL to bring electric generation facilities into Cityworks. With an upgrade to the latest version of Cityworks and a Storeroom implementation, IPL will move their main generation and communication warehouse functions into Storeroom and include an improved barcoding solution to further streamline operations. Also, IPL’s user group will expand to include more than 20 linemen for field reporting.

Other Cityworks integrations on the horizon include IPL’s outage management software, a new customer billing system, a new financial solution, and a fiber management solution—all which keep the future bright for their citizens.

By Janna Weir, systems program supervisor, City of Independence Power and Light


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