Lansing Board of Water and Light

Increasing the Value of a Municipal Utility

For over 100 years, the citizens of Lansing, Michigan, have been powered by the publicly owned Board of Water & Light (BWL). Now the largest municipally owned utility in the state, Lansing BWL provides its customer-owners with reliable, high-quality utility services at the lowest possible cost, averaging 20 percent or more below the average rate of other utilities in Michigan. Sustaining that mission means controlling costs without sacrificing service, value or employee safety.

The Challenge


As a publicly owned municipal utility, Lansing Board of Water & Light was faced with multiple challenges in providing high quality, high value service. Realizing the maximum level of productivity out of its vehicle fleet was a key to maximizing its operational budget. But greater productivity couldn’t be achieved at the expense of operator safety or the satisfaction of the utility’s customer-owners. To accomplish more, the company needed greater insight into its operations. Lansing BWL determined that a fleet tracking solution for its service vehicle fleet could deliver the results it needed without sacrificing the qualities that had kept it in business for over a century. More precise vehicle dispatching and updated work order information in the field were keys to reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency. Said Bill Brown, Business Systems Analyst for Lansing BWL, “When employees are able to facilitate their data out in the field, instead of having to come back to the office all the time, it really cuts down on the expense of managing that particular resource.” Increasing safety awareness was also a key concern for Lansing BWL. Automated alert technology that could notify dispatchers of operational situations that caused safety concerns was also desirable in a MRM solution.

The Solution


Seeking the means to increase productivity while managing both costs and customer service expectations, Lansing BWL turned to CalAmp as part of its fleet tracking solution. The proposed solution included implementing CalAmp’s FleetOutlook solution for Lansing BWL’s fleet. Support for vehicle GPS location, VPN access and e-mail, wireless data communications and vehicle alerts provided a foundation for enhanced safety and security, as well as cost savings. The fleet tracking solution was deployed on an initial 76 vehicles serving Lansing BWL’s delivery process and customer account representatives in customer service. An additional 37 AVL deployments raised the total to 113 Lansing BWL-owned vehicles. The solution gives schedulers the ability to plan, schedule, dispatch and report on the progress of field work and other activities. It provides data communications and location information from crews in the field. It also enables future ability for Lansing BWL to deploy its own wireless network.

The Result


Lansing BWL’s initial estimate of field worker productivity projects that the implementation of the system could result in gains of 2+ percent through the automation of work assignments, outage management, time reporting and other factors. This gain of approximately 10 minutes per technician per day translates into a projected potential cost savings of over $750,000 in the first year of service, increasing to $2.5 million in the third year. This is one value the solution is projected to provide Lansing BWL, with additional possible positive impacts to other areas of its business:

  • Increased insight into vehicle operations including driver alerts ensures greater safety for human assets and greater security for vehicles and equipment.
  • Greater customer service and reliability through the predictable completion of planned and unplanned work, with a projected 12 percent improvement in effective scheduling and dispatching of work crews.
  • Estimated fuel cost reductions up to 30 percent, or $12,000/month – an annual savings of $144,000 – through increased scheduling and routing efficiency.