People’s Electric Cooperative was recently honored for its innovative use of technology to enhance service to its members. The co-op received a Cooperative Innovators Award at the Connect 2006 Conference, an annual event sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and Touchstone Energy®.

PEC’s Operating Services Unit Manager Kevin Wood accepted the award at the conference for the development of the co-op’s paperless Electronic Work Management System. Wood developed the software for the system which utilizes the wireless IP network at the co-op’s operations facility to exchange data with the co-op’s service trucks. Each time a service order request is entered into the co-op’s customer information system (CIS), the data is sent to the Electronic Work Management System. The work is then reviewed and assigned by the dispatching supervisor and downloaded to the service trucks before they leave for the day. Field personnel have complete access to all service orders assigned that day. The paperless flow of data allows the co-op to resolve meter issues very efficiently and has also aided in interdepartmental communications at the utility. Office personnel can, at a glance, view the assigned work as well as completed work information.

What impressed judges about the system was the creativity the co-op and Wood used in looking for a customized solution without breaking the bank. The judges remarked, "This is a really innovative use of laptop computers in service trucks in that it allows servicemen to operate in a paperless environment, and thanks to the wireless network, they do not even have to plug their computers into the system to do it!" By relying on internal staff the co-op was able to design a solution tailor made to their needs and equipment.

The Cooperative Innovator Awards Contest, now in its second year, recognizes co-op leadership in adopting new technologies, products or services that improve customer service and satisfaction. This year’s contest was extremely successful, with a variety of entries that each demonstrated the type of technological sophistication that customers have come to expect from their co-ops. With recent increases in fuel prices and higher rates expected as a result, increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs at co-op are the best ways to provide enhanced value and service to members.

One contest judge said of the overall event: “The entries that we received demonstrated that co-ops are ready and willing to embrace technology and use it in remarkably innovative and creative ways to improve service to their members.

The Cooperative Innovators Award Program is sponsored by the Cooperative Research Network (CRN) of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. CRN provides the information and business tools to help electric co-ops deliver superior service and products to their member owners. CRN meets this mission through collaborative research into a wide range of technologies and services.

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