–By Chuck Lane, Solution Engineer, Webtech Wireless
Chuck Lane is a solution engineer with Webtech Wireless who lives in central Florida. He contributes blog posts focusing on technical solutions in the field. Below he describes one solution we’ve developed to help Tampa Electric improve its safety and efficiency of work crews.
Co-Location Report – Where Are Our Supervisors?
When we approached Tampa Electric in 2011 about the need for a GPS fleet tracking system, we found the words “safety” and “efficiency” were of utmost importance. Tampa Electric was interested in how the system would help them to operate more safely and increase overall efficiency of their vehicle fleet relating to customer service. As the two companies sorted through the business requirements and what possible Webtech Wireless features may be of interest to Tampa Electric, the issue of the need for a Co-Location report came up.
A Co-Location report shows how much time a supervisor spends supervising a service crew. Tampa Electric was convinced that a supervisor’s time should be spent in the field supervising work crews rather than in the office. Tampa Electric maintains that this will increase the safety of the crew as well as efficiency.
How does the Co-Location report improve safety and efficiency?
Safety – Much of the work Tampa Electric crews do is dangerous work. There is the persistent risk of workers getting injured or kill through falls from hydro poles or electrocution. Having the supervisor on site reduces these risks. Tampa Electric wanted to know where its supervisors were. As with GPS-based speeding data, behavior changes if people know they’re “being watched”. Visibility increases compliance.
Efficiency – Tampa Electric uses its fleet GPS tracking in a number of ways to improve efficiency. For example, knowing when vehicles enter and exit geofence areas ensures drivers and supervisors are working together towards a common goal.
A number of issues needed to be overcome in order to get the report to work properly. The situation where a vehicle is parked on or near a parking lot boundary (night time off duty area) had to be compensated for due to the fact that GPS “jump” readings sometimes occur. The fact that the lead and supervisor vehicles could move at any time creating the need for the creation of new geofence boundaries and calculations was also a concern that must be accommodated.
Several design sessions were held and Tampa Electric input was captured. A rollout of GPS/AVL units to the Tampa Electric fleet was started with the expectation that the Co-Location report would be available in the near future. A report release was made available several months later. The design and functioning of the report went through several changes, particularly overcoming the challenge of parking lot boundaries mentioned above as well as remedying GPS data, which required some trial and error adjustments. When these were addressed by Webtech Wireless engineers, the new report was released.
At this point it is probably good to point out how the report works and some of the challenges that had to be overcome in order to get the report to produce good information:
How it works…
A worksite is defined by the location of a “lead vehicle”. The lead vehicle must be stopped (ignition off or idle) for more than five minutes before a worksite is created (configurable). Worksites extend a configurable radius from the lead vehicle (default: 200 feet).
Special Geofences can be created to ensure that the lead vehicles do not create worksites when parked in company depots or other common locations. The worksite is a dynamic landmark, meaning it does not appear on the map, is not visible in Landmark reports, and is deleted when the lead vehicle moves on.
Although there were challenges, Tampa Electric stood by the solution as report modifications were made to produce a report that was reliable and could be distributed to Tampa Electric supervisors with confidence of accurate results.
Currently, Tampa Electric is using this report and distributing among supervisors for review. The original goals of increased safety and efficiency have been met. The Tampa Electric supervisors are aware that their actual time in contact with their work crews is now being measured.