Racine Uses Trial to Probe for Problems


AMRA Proper

Even if you make a list of potential problems, you’re likely to have situations come up during a trial that weren’t anticipated and planned out. That’s why the City of Racine, Wisconsin, went into its water meter AMR trial with discovery in mind. “The primary reason for our trial was to find out what problems would come up,” says Racine’s meter supervisor, Ron Christensen. “We wanted to smooth out the wrinkles before our full-scale implementation.”

While testing Badger Meter’s technology with Racine’s biggest industrial customers, Christensen found the meters trouble free. “As far as changing the meters out, we had no troubles at all,” he says. “What problems came up mostly involved phone lines and paperwork.”

According to Christensen, the Racine team’s trial drove home the need for:

  • Installer training: “We had to train people to check the phone and module numbers on their paperwork so the correct information could be entered into the calling program,” he says.
  • Phone connections: “For this system, we found we needed a dedicated phone line. We tried coupling things with fax or data lines, and that didn’t work well.”
  • Continuous connections: “When a customer vacates an industrial site, that customer has to leave the meter’s phone line active. Without it, we don’t get a read.”
  • Reliable vendors: “I saved a lot of time and money using outsiders to handle the phone line installations and programming. They knew the equipment better than we did.”
  • Customer communication: “I had a mixed bill of goods to sell my customers,”

Christensen adds. “Many had to change the water pipes in their facilities, plus they had to pick up the cost for the phone line that connects the meters. We went into every facility, determined what had to be done and then told the customer when the plumbing had to change. We also covered the benefits of monthly billing and how it would help the customer’s cash flow. It took a lot of explaining. The educational process was one of our biggest challenges.”

Now that Racine’s industrial customer base has new meters, the water utility is ready to tackle AMR for its 37,000 residential customer meters. “Badger Meter has come out with other AMR products I want,” says Christensen. “In the next couple of years, I’ll be testing a residential system.”