Psion Teklogix has supplied a major order of 350 Ikôn rugged PDAs to E.ON Central Networks that will help to enhance the company's field service activities.
E.ON Central Networks is a distribution company within the utility market place for electricity, covering an area from the Peak District in the north to parts of Bristol in the south, and from the Welsh Borders to the Lincolnshire Coast. The organisation provides services and maintains the network used by power companies to supply electricity to 5 million end customers. This network includes 133,000 km of underground and overhead cables and 94,000 substations.
“We are all about keeping the lights on,” says Michael Keay Business Analyst of E.ON. “If there's a fault, E.ON is the company that goes out to dig up and repair the cable.” Ensuring a quick response to faults and quality preventative maintenance checks is vital for E.ON, as it is penalised for the amount of time customers go 'off-supply' and for the number of faults reported.
The 350 Ikôn rugged PDAs, supplied through IT service company ComputerLand, will play an important role in this as part of E.ON Central Network's mobile strategy, which includes a new application to replace its previous inspection and maintenance system.
Field service staff inspect all equipment E.ON uses to supply electricity including substations, wood poles and towers. There are in fact approximately 300 different types of equipment inspected and maintained. The staff answers a series of questions about the condition of these assets as they go. E.ON had previously been using a checklist system combined with small, non-rugged PDAs and had to drive back to the office to download the data collected on these devices.
With its GPRS technology the rugged Ikôn gives E.ON real-time wireless communications to send the data to and from the field to an application E.ON has written which interfaces to its asset register SAP. “We can use this data for a variety of things such as predicting the end of an asset's life or assessing what needs refurbishing,” says Michael.
E.ON trialed several rugged mobile devices and the Ikôn came out on top.
“We like the large screen that can be read in sunlight, the layout and quality of the keyboard, Ikôn's high specification and its fast processor – plus we liked the look of it,” commented Michael. “The warranty along with the service and support were other important factors for choosing the Ikôn and a further thing that stood out was that the accessories are far cheaper than those of any competitor. In fact, we like the complete Ikôn package and it was the most cost effective.”
Michael added: “The big advantage is thanks to the Ikôn's GPRS for real-time connectivity our field staff will no longer have to drive back to the office in the service vehicle and dock the device to get the data. This provides a significant saving of both time and fuel.”
Psion Teklogix' Ikôn also offers E.ON Central Networks a future proof solution. “The Ikôn has more tools and technology than we will use initially but at some point in the future we will be looking at utilising more of its technology, using features such as the camera, GPS and ultimately carrying out trials using RFID.”
E.ON's business analyst Nick Willmott has already spent time using the Ikôn carrying out risk assessments along with six field service staff: fitters, overhead line and substation inspectors. He commented: “Our inspectors liked the look and feel of the Ikôn compared to our old much smaller non-rugged PDAs that were easy to lose and drop. You knew where it was and that you weren't going to drop it – and even if you did you knew it will take a knock. They also enjoyed the fast response times and the visibility offered by the Ikôn's screen.”
Gareth Davies Strategic Accounts Manager at Psion Teklogix said: “This big order demonstrates the ability of the Ikôn to deliver Return on Mobility – not just by making E.ON's current tasks more efficient but by providing a solution that can easily adapt to E.On's future plans. The Ikôn is a fit for purpose device – its ruggedness ensures connectivity whether it is being used in rain, climbing over fences or in the dust and dirt in substations.”
E.ON will commence rolling out the Ikôn to its field staff in June and this will be complete by September.