Checking tree orders on tablet

With novel mobile technology, Tucson Electric Power has streamlined its process for tree trimming, which is important both for safety and service reliability.

Working with mobile computing firm DataSplice, TEP designed a program that uses a map-based database to interface with the company’s work management system so inspectors can create work orders while they’re in the field.

“We have our whole service area on the program,” said Larry Robinson, TEP’s Director of Contractor Services. “You can plot an active work site on the map, list the number of trees and species, and leave notes for the crew about access restrictions or traffic control issues.”

The largest power outage in U.S. history, the major Northeast blackout in 2003 that affected 55 million people in eight U.S. states and Canada, had its origin in a single tree coming into contact with a transmission line in Ohio.

TEP’s goal is to keep 10 feet between trees and electrical equipment.

“When trees or branches grow into lines, they can knock the power out. We need to keep the trees out of the lines,” said Jim Bennett, TEP Maintenance Planner.

In some cases, trees have to be removed. The City of Tucson works with TEP to plant two replacement trees for each tree lost, keeping our community green.

TEP crews have adapted quickly to the user-friendly mobile reporting program, which saves them time and makes their work more efficient.

At the end of each day, the program syncs with the crews’ mobile tablets, uploading information about completed work and downloading the next day’s work orders. TEP and DataSlice are working to add real-time reporting capabilities to the system.

Anyone who sees tree branches interfering with electrical lines should call TEP’s Customer Care line at 520-623-7711 to report them.

“We’re responsible for providing safe, reliable electricity for our community,” Robinson said. “Trimming vegetation is an integral part of that.”

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