Customer Stories
February 10, 2022

A Day in the Life of a Lineworker

Having the right tools every day

Founded in 1988, Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative runs smart. All 40 of its field personnel use Futura’s flexible GIS tools to help ensure reliable and efficient work processes.

Travis Smart has been an OTEC lineworker for more than ten years and began using an iPad with Futura GIS solutions in 2016. Ever since, whether he is inspecting one of the co-ops 31,000 smart meters, performing routine service orders, or emergency restoration work, he reports his days have consistently been going a lot easier.

Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative Lineworker Travis Smart inspects a member’s smart meter.
Photo credit: Lisa Jacoby

Better mapping is just the beginning

“I just click on the map and see the next place where I need to go, which is incredibly handy. The dot on the map shows where I need to do my next inspection, or where I need to go for the next service order.”

That little dot is a big deal, as Smart explains, “Instead of trying to figure out addresses or trying to start traveling down the road without being sure about the next address, now I don’t have to worry about it.”

Real safety and efficiency, in real-time

Map layers in Futura GIS are searchable in many ways, including based on specific assets on the distribution system. Linemen also use the same tools, which show vehicle locations, to coordinate activities with fellow crew members—a real-time efficiency and safety booster.

But beyond great mapping, asset visualization, and automatic vehicle location tools on their iPads, there is also the convenience Smart enjoys with FieldPro, Indigo, Futura OMS, and other tools and integrations from Futura, which support his daily work in many other ways.

Travel smart—Travel light—Travel with GIS tools

Smart says, “My iPad replaces a file cabinet full worth of papers. For inspections, I no longer have to carry around a bunch of binders for all the different forms. It is also great being able to look up clearances and anything else I need, and having it all in one place. Really, it is very handy. Everything is all at your fingertips.”

Travis Smart clears tree branches encroaching on a power line.
Photo credit: Lisa Jacoby

Another day in GIS paradise

Smart takes service calls and works with a handful of other linemen at OTEC’s district office in La Grande, Oregon.

La Grande is OTEC’s largest district, covering 14,000 of the co-ops more than 31,000 members. Six of Smart’ fellow linemen typically work in two separate 3-person crews.

Smart starts out at the district office in La Grande, scrolling through a list of service calls in FieldPro on his iPad, or using a PC or desktop to access Indigo and other Futura solutions at the office.

Smart then goes in his truck with his iPad to his first service call location of the day, in this case one involving an OTEC consumer-member who wanted something done about tree branches near power lines close to his home.

When Smart assesses the member’s tree situation, he decides he does not need extra help from a tree-trimming crew, but instead can handle it by himself, with his bucket truck.

Smart actuates his truck’s lower stabilizers, then gets into the bucket and straps on the safety harness and buckles in, using the controls to get up to the right position to do the corrective trimming work.

Better job close-out, better reporting, better teamwork

At the end of each service order or inspection or other task, Smart finds that the subsequent reporting work and related steps required to close out a job go much faster now, with the Futura solutions he and his co-workers use, compared to prior methods.

He also points out that his GIS tools help to better coordinate activities with other groups and help him in keeping everything organized in general. Smart says, “Now, no papers ever get lost—that is for sure. And you don’t have to spend any time keeping the papers organized or worrying about keeping them clean.”

“I know that linemen in particular fight change. We don’t like change of any kind—but Futura’s GIS tools have definitely helped me be more efficient and have made my work easier.”

–Travis Smart, Lineworker at Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative

While OTEC has a total staff of 84 employees, including Smart’ group of 40 field personnel who are full-time OTEC employees, the co-op currently contracts out ten people from local tree-trimming companies, and equips them with iPads with the needed tools from Futura. This helps ensure the contractor’s field activities are well-coordinated with Smart and the other full-time field staff.

The forms Smart often uses include Outage report forms, and forms for reporting if someone has voltage issues, or if, at some location for a service order, an electrician needs to have the power cut. Having all the needed forms makes it easy to capture valuable information efficiently and continue on to the next job in a timely fashion.

Better service work includes better handling of outages

When he is responding to single locations’ service calls, Smart explains, the problem is often simple to solve at the location of the home that put in the call. But when a single area in the distribution system is the source of multiple outage calls, Smart and his fellow linemen take the data and the outage location identification from the Outage Management System (OMS) and use it to coordinate their activities.

Futura OMS, along with crew members’ other Futura GIS tools, enables field personnel to investigate situations together and restore power safely and efficiently.

Smart safely operates a disconnect switch with a hot stick.
Photo credit: Lisa Jacoby

As Smart explains, “You have to patrol the line until you find the problem.” Throughout his workday, Smart will typically proceed, job by job, making his way down the list of service calls, but any outage emergencies that the Futura Outage Management System (OMS) reports immediately go to the top of his priority list.

Futura OMS captures all the needed outage-related details. OTEC’s strong Futura GIS foundation makes the reporting go very smoothly and provides such a finer granularity of detail, it has helped set in motion processes of continual improvement.

Tanzey says, “We’re easily documenting everything detail about each outage–it all goes into the iPad and then gets instantaneously updated into our OMS database. It is all tracked very well, and we are very happy with everything about the OMS, and we are also very happy with the integration with our GIS to our OMS.”

The most important thing Smart wants other linemen to know is how worthwhile it was, changing over to these GIS-based solutions from Futura. Smart concludes: “I know that linemen in particular fight change. We don’t like change of any kind—but Futura’s GIS tools have definitely helped me be more efficient and have made my work easier.”

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