United Utilities keeping roads a ‘hole-lot’ safer with mobile app

United Utilities is using a mobile app for emergency road and sewer water works in the North West to improve safety and customer satisfaction.

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United Utilities is using a mobile app for emergency road and sewer water works in the North West to improve safety and customer satisfaction. 

The app, developed by its maintenance provider Amey, minimises human error by reporting information back from areas where road works to maintain United Utilities underground system, or to fix an emergency burst pipe are taking place. 

As United Utilities deals with 100,000 excavations a year alone, it would have been impossible for Amey to have sent out an inspector to each site. Now its field workers, who are all given Samsung Galaxy Note phones due to its larger screen, can work quickly and safely by reporting back to head-office experts in real-time. 

Each road works site has a reference number stored in a central system which holds details of the job including location information, for example, whether it is an A-road or B-road. 

The location information determines the necessary signage – rules that are quite complex, said Amey, and change frequently to keep up with health and safety regulations. 

Field-workers now take pictures of the site and they are sent back to the central office, logged against the reference number. Experts can quickly advise on what signs, lighting and barriers to put up and remotely check the site complies with regulations, saving time and costs. 

Amey’s innovation manager Adam Stephenson said: “It sounds straight forward, but every street and site is unique and interpreting the raft of rules and regulations can sometimes be difficult for street teams who can be managing a number of different jobs at once.

“United Utilities is one of our biggest clients and they wanted us to think differently about how to make improvements. The result was the new app. It lets engineers get real-time feedback and advice from experts by submitting details and photographs straight from site.

“Our compliance has leapt to 95% on United Utilities street works alone and we’ve gone from 14th to seventh in our customer satisfaction league tables.”

Over 100 teams across the North West region are using the phone app after it was developed by the water utility’s repair and maintenance provider Amey in July 2013.

United Utilities street works technical manager Tony Hemingway said he was delighted at the results.

“Customer service is at the heart of what we do and we don’t want to spoil people’s day by making their street a mess or delaying their trip home when there’s no need. With 174,000 water pipes and sewers to maintain from Carlisle to Crewe, mending bursts and breaks is going to be a fact of life if we are going to keep the taps flowing and toilets flushing for our seven million customers.

“The new app has already made a massive difference and we’ve had great feedback from highways officials.”

Amey hope that it will tie in with its WorkManager applications in the future and using it across the wider Amey business.

The app data is held on third party developer Acumen’s servers and is archived intermittently due to volume.

The UK’s largest water utility is ready for a “large strategic leap forward” and is considering moving their full Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) onto HANA in the cloud, ComputerworldUK reported in June.

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