In a city with a population of nearly 50,000 where the municipality is also the utilities provider, cell phone GPS tracking was not going to cut it. Just a few towns north of Austin, Texas, the City of Georgetown is home to a liberal arts college and the largest retirement community in Texas. Providing quick and accurate customer service for the entire city and surrounding rural areas can be challenging.
DRIVER-BASED TRACKING LIMITS FLEET VISIBILITY AND EFFICIENT CUSTOMER SERVICE
The City of Georgetown provides electric, water, sewer and trash for the municipality, which covers roughly 220 square miles. With more than 80 miles of underground electric and nearly 200 miles of overhead, the utility crews are often spread thin. Though the City of Georgetown had been using GPS tracking solutions in public safety vehicles for a while, they were monitoring the locations of utility crews based on the cell phones the workers carried. Cell phone tracking became unreliable as dispatchers and managers realized workers were forgetting their phones at work and turning them off in the utility vehicles. There were various problems. Facilities departments didn’t know where their crews were, who was in what part of town, if crews had arrived when they had been scheduled to. During outages and emergencies, it was hard to find the closest utility vehicle to the site that had the equipment to fix the problem. “It just wasn’t a good solution,” said Mike Peters, information technology director for the City of Georgetown. “We really needed to come up with tracking that is tied to the vehicle and not to the driver,” he explained. “That seemed to be a smarter solution for us.”
VEHICLE-BASED TRACKING FROM CALAMP INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY AND CUSTOMER SERVICE
Feedback from executives and mid-level managers revealed that they wanted to have greater visibility into the fleet. In order to be most productive and increase customer service, being able to get real-time updates and locations of vehicles was necessary. The City of Georgetown began searching for a solution. They tested many GPS solutions but found that many of the devices were “bulky” and had “miserable interfaces,” said Peters. The decision makers sat through various presentations and a handful of demos. They were unhappy with solution functionality, and concluded that most solutions were expensive. After a while, they found CalAmp’s award-winning iOn<sup>®</sup> and equipped 65 vehicles with the GPS solution. “I thought the price point was very competitive for this type of product. But also it was the first user interface, just the web at that time, which gave you some good insight into what was going on. It is easy to use. We could hand it over to a supervisor over in utilities, not exactly a great IT guy, and he could relate to it pretty well,” Peters said. But there was initial hesitation that the crews would feel like the GPS was “Big Brother.” “We were very careful to be upfront with them…you need to be sure that this doesn’t come across as Big Brother. That this comes across as we are trying to improve our service delivery to our customers by using this information to make good decisions,” Peters reasoned.
GREATER FLEET VISIBILITY ALLOWS FOR MORE EFFICIENT SERVICE TO THE ENTIRE MUNICIPALITY AND SURROUNDING AREAS
Improving customer service was the biggest need and since implementing iOn, managers and dispatchers have increased visibility into their fleet and have been able to be more productive. “The real discussion behind this was, ‘Can we respond more quickly to a service event by knowing which vehicle is capable of doing the job and is close by,’” said Peters. “iOn is a product that has given us a lot of information and the potential for more. We were able to get it delivered in a couple different platforms, particularly mobile,” said Peters. But what really got the field supervisors and dispatchers excited about iOn was Mobile Supervisor. “What we were finding was, ‘Yes this is interesting,’ but the problem is they would have to go back to the desk to see what was going on. Some of the guys who needed this information are field supervisors who aren’t at their desks all that much. Once it became mobile the light kind of clicked. Everybody said this is great. I can take a phone call out in the field, take a second, look the information up on their phone, and be able to deal with whatever the question is right there on the spot regardless of where they are,” said Peters. Fleet visibility throughout their 220 square mile service area, no matter where the manager, field supervisor or dispatcher is at any given time, allows the City of Georgetown to answer calls and increase customer service much faster and more efficiently than before.
In the future, the City of Georgetown intends to work with their fleet managers to better understand what types of data is being collected and see how that information can improve their vehicle maintenance activity. They also anticipate that the use of iOn will spread to other departments, such as Parks and Recreation.