UKPN

United Kingdom Power Networks (UKPN) is a distribution network operator for electricity covering East and South East England, as well as the country’s capital, London. It manages three licensed distribution networks which together cover an area of 30,000 square kilometres.

As an electric utility company in the United Kingdom providing electricity to over 8 million homes, businesses, schools and hospitals, United Kingdom Power Networks (UKPN) depends on its field workforce to keep the lights on throughout these regions.

Its customers include highprofile public and private sector businesses such as London’s five main airports, the London Underground transport system and the financial district of Canary Wharf.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International Issue 3-2020. Read the full digimag  or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

The company provides its mobile workforce with thousands of rugged devices so they can work efficiently and communicate effectively in the field and at its headquarters. These devices are business critical. UKPN workers rely heavily on the devices to ensure that any new electrical installs and troubleshooting of power outages can be reported. The devices run a variety of applications and are required to be both robust and highly functional.

The trouble-tickets

The IT Support team reported that they were being continually inundated with troubletickets daily, ranging from true device issues to software performance problems, along with the more generic and anecdotal “my device is working poorly” familiar to those involved in mobile support and operations.

Some of the reported issues included:

• Reboot times on field devices were excessive, and existing mobile device management (MDM) and other tools were not capable of determining root causes.

• Excessive battery life complaints were difficult to troubleshoot and determine when/if batteries truly needed to be replaced.

• End-user trouble ticket volumes were excessive and lacked an easy way to determine the root causes of problems and speedy resolution.

• Underutilised/unused devices were suspected, but MDM tools did not provide easy answers.

• Real-time visibility into SIM-card related issues were lacking, resulting in devices that could not communicate with the network, and/or devices with higher-than-normal expenditures on mobile data.

• Visibility into desired end-user behaviours related to reboots of mobile devices and/or usage of devices was lacking.

For UKPN the devices are mission critical to its operations and to add to this, if their electrical distribution service is down for more than a specified period of time, the UK government can penalise the company for the outage.

Therefore, any field worker dispatched on a callout must be able to work efficiently to resolve the issue at hand quickly. Mobile devices and apps are key tools for field workers and, therefore, the mobility platform must be stable and operational at all times. Further, any inquiry from the field related to failures with their mobile devices must be dealt with quickly, and problems need to be identified, isolated, and fixed.

UKPN mobility support and operations teams recognised their MDM solutions were not providing the depth and real-time views needed to ensure that their field issues were being properly categorised and resolved quickly.

Furthermore, many of their business challenges and questions related to mobility were simply not answerable at all using the mobile management and support tools available to them.

Moving beyond MDM

It was clear to UKPN that they needed to move beyond MDM and look for a solution that would enable them to pre-empt any device issues. They incorporated Elemez into their mobile operations toolkit provided by Panasonic’s Smart Essentials offerings.

This provides unprecedented real-time proactive, preventive and predictive management of mobility which will enable UKPN to alleviate much of the costly and unmanageable operations of enterprise mobility.

• The platform now alerts the utility of any potential problems and support teams don’t have to deal with a huge volume of calls and trouble tickets after the fact.

• Devices can be managed, regardless of the manufacturer, from a single screen and system instead of monitoring multiple vendor-specific solutions.

• The toolkit provides regular reports on device health which will enable the support team to quickly find the root cause of the issue, leading to quicker resolution times. With a lower volume of calls to deal with, the technology now spots and flags problems before they can turn into a crisis.

• The solution can fix problems before users even know they exist to keep workers and their mobile device functioning and productive.

• It has been possible to develop 7×24 operational metrics that measure uptime and other metrics traditionally reserved for mission-critical technology operations centres.

• UKPN is able to deliver Mission-Critical Mobility by focusing on uptime and availability of mobile resources.

• Integration with other operation’s functions around MDM administration, change management and even application development is now possible, and provides the operational insights and expertise critical to successfully delivering and maintaining mobility.

The truth serum

UKPN is now able to easily identify usage across all mobile devices, and spot underutilised devices which could be redeployed where needed.

It is now benefitting from a variety of economic advantages.

The utility is anticipating an:

• Improvement in worker productivity by eliminating worker downtime and thus lost productivity costs, as wages are paid based on output.

• Resolving challenging end-user issues by providing better tools to proactively isolate root causes and provide speedy resolutions to issues related to SIM cards, network connections, application bugs, and more.

• Recovering and redeploying underutilised mobile devices, thereby eliminating the need to purchase replacements.

The utility’s field workers have adopted new procedures for using the platform daily to proactively spot issues with mobile devices in order to prevent any outages by workers. The project has helped identify and resolve the excessive reboot times end users were experiencing and eliminated most of the regularly-occurring battery issues by shifting to proactively predicting issues. UKPN also saw a 140% increase in its mobile device’s battery life within the first six months.

By moving beyond MDM, UKPN is transforming its mobile operations to better serve the mission-critical needs of its mobile workers, and ensure devices are always on and operational when needed.

“We saw our internal customer satisfaction ratings rise from 7 to 9 within the first six months and our internal stakeholders saw a dramatic improvement in the service quality we provided them with. This has helped us build new trust with our executives and our employees to deliver the level of mobile reliability they deserve, “said Nick WillisBarrett, UK Power Networks. SEI

About Gary Lee

Gary Lee is the Chief Revenue Officer, at B2M Solutions. He is an accomplished business leader with more than 30 years of leadership success. Gary has a proven track record in hightech serving as C-level executive in both public companies and global venture-backed startups in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He has repeatedly assembled executive teams to successfully take ideas to market, gain market share around the globe, and attract investors needed for rapid growth.