Introduction to TUCSON ELECTRIC POWER(TEP) “TEP — an electric utility company known for its environmental stewardship, low rates, customer focus and, high reliability.” Electric power came to Tucson in the 1880s and in 1892 when business and community leaders formed a company known as Tucson Electric Power. TEP, sister company UniSource Energy Services and their parent company, UNS Energy Corporation are owned by Fortis, Canada’s largest electric utility holding company. It is responsible for providing the energy behind Tucson’s economy. TEP delivers safe and reliable power to almost 417,000 customers in the Tucson area.
It is more than a utility such that it offers a wide range of programs to help the customers in reducing their energy costs and build a better future. About the Client I. Frank Marino: Project SponsorMr. Frank P.
Marino has been the Chief Financial Officer of Unisource Energy Services, Inc., parent company of TEP, since March 16, 2017. Mr. Marino has been the Chief Financial Officer at Tucson Electric Power Company since January 2, 2017 and has been its Vice President since August 2013. Mr. Marino has been Vice President and Controller at UNS Energy Corporation since August 2, 2013.
Mr. Marino oversees the Payroll, Financial Accounting, Settlements, Plant Accounting, Energy and Tax Services areas at UNS Energy. Apart from his roles and services at UNS, Mr. Marino is passionate about promoting finance literacy in children and has been a part of Junior Achievement, a terrific non-profit organization with a powerful mission and effective programs, for the past 4 years. II. Brandon Sax: Chair of the RPA Center of Excellence and Manager of TREASURY ServicesMr. Sax has been associated with TEP for the past 4 years starting in the Financial Planning and Analysis department and currently serving as a supervisor in the Treasury Services team.
Mr. Sax has achieved great accomplishments as a Financial Analyst. He has undertaken Process Improvement projects that achieved more accurate and timely financial forecasting, improving TEP’s everyday processes. Presently, Mr. Sax is aiming at streamlining the Treasury Process to pick up some capacity and hence focusing on exploiting RPA to achieve significant opportunities.
Introduction to ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION(RPA) Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a cutting-edge technology in the business process automation. It is the technological imitation of a human worker, the goal of which is to tackle structured tasks in a fast and cost-efficient manner. RPA is implemented through a software robot, that mimics human worker using software such as ERP systems or productivity tools. RPA is applied to perform a range of repetitive tasks, trigger responses. Software robots interpret and communicate with other systems just like humans do. The average knowledge worker employed in a process has a lot of routine, repetitive tasks that are difficult and uninteresting. RPA mimics the activities of a human being in performing a task within a process. It can perform redundant tasks more accurately, quickly and tirelessly than humans do, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths like reasoning, judgment, emotional intelligence, and interaction with the customer.
It mainly performs the physical tasks that don’t require knowledge, insight, or understanding—the tasks that can be performed by codifying rules and instructing the computer or the software to act. It is challenging to identify exactly what each of the RPA tools perform, and in which scenarios each tool makes sense in contrast to other software or AI tools. A single RPA tool must not be used to answer all the automation needs of an organization; the potential to achieve strong return on investment (ROI) is entirely dependent on the applicability of RPA in each individual organization. The type of demand for RPA must be accessed, rekeying, collating and/or sorting data, where automation has not previously been cost-effective and applying RPA to the processes that currently require human efforts which can be replaced by bots. ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION in the Utility Industry According to McKinsey and Company:”Making better use of existing technology can deliver serious returns—by increasing production, streamlining the supply chain, or reducing engineering time. The computers in the offices of the average big electric company can find an additional $1 billion in value, if you let them.” Need of RPA in the utility sectorToday’s society depends on gas, water, energy, and waste management on an everyday basis. Embracing RPA can take the utility companies to the next level with such financial gains readily accessible.
For utilities, opportunities lie in focusing the workforce toward more skilled work and leaving the human error-prone and repetitive business processes in the hands of Bots. The first and foremost reason this industry needs RPA is the huge amount of transaction in a day. Whatever the kind of utility, it is guaranteed to have a huge list of customers. And the more transaction handled by humans, the greater the margin for human error.
Utility Service Providers who switch their business processes to RPA experience a significant decrease in the number of errors, usually over 60%. Some of the processes in the Utility Industry which can be robotized: Billing and collections Tariff Reviews Consumption and Billing verification analytics Debt collection Finance & Accounting Human Resources Customer care Utilizing RPA in the Utility Industry will be beneficial in the following ways: Improved customer experience Rapid results Improved management information Reduce security risk with limited human access to sensitive data Better use of staff for higher value work Faster processing Higher levels of regulatory compliance Greater accuracy and improved qualityROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION IN TEPEnabling Robotic Process Automation to handle various repetitive processes in TEP will not only transform and streamline the workflow, it will allow for advanced scalability and flexibility within the company. RPA will prove beneficial in effectively supercharging the technology TEP is deploying in a quick and more affordable way by relieving the company from manual “hands-on” work and streamlining processes. TEP can leverage RPA to automate a wide variety of routine tasks, from billing and debt recovery to meter-readings and even customer service. Additionally, instead of humans having to handle time-consuming duties like trouble-shooting failed readings, robotic process automation can tackle the majority of the work, drastically improving productivity.
I. Past Automation Projects at TEP i. Automated Meters TEP installed an Advanced Metering Infrastructure system to improve the meter reading efficiency while providing information that supports well founded service. The automated meters communicate the data usage automatically, reducing the errors associated with meter reading and allowing more frequent reads to support time-of-use and demand-based pricing plans. Automating the process, helped eliminate human intervention that allowed sending fewer employees to physically read the meters which also helped reducing fuel consumption and pollution, allowing more environmentally friendly efficient operations. ii.
Outage Communication PlanTEP provides the residential customers with an advance notice of service interruptions required for repairs and critical upgrades.Initially, TEP workers would leave door hangers or knock on doors at homes where outages were planned. Under a new automated process focused on improving the communication, two to three days prior a scheduled outage, customers receive an automated call over phone, allowing time for any necessary preparations.
This new automated process has helped expand TEP’s efforts to improve communication about outages.Future Scope: In the future, customers may be provided a to choose their preferred source of communication such as via text or via email. Also, the process may be developed to notify the customers of other important projects or information. iii. PowerClerkOne of the several challenges faced by TEP was the usage of email for Task management.
Work prioritization and ensuring applications are reviewed in a timely way requires coordination and can prove to be a labor-intensive process. TEP dealt with this problem with PowerClerk, which took interconnection administration online. This platform provides a specific location to track project status, reassign tasks and to set deadlines.
PowerClerk has reduced the need for back-and-forth communication with other departments. The benefits leveraged by TEP by using PowerClerk extend beyond improved inter-department communication and coordination. Customers have an easier time submitting the applications and tracking the progress of a project under review, improving Customer satisfaction and customer service. TEP has been successfully able to reduce the reporting time, with reports that took weeks to compile through different spreadsheets can now be completed in about an hour.Future Scope:Investigate ways to bring metering and engineering deeper into the interconnection workflow using PowerClerk.
Possible ways to integrate geographical interface system (GIS) with PowerClerk, and feasible solutions to integrate with the customer database to make the process of application easier for the customers II. Feasible Future Automation Projects i. Finance and AccountingMajor business process areas where RPA can be effective include payment processing, invoice processing, reporting, process receipts, accounting and customer maintenance. These are one of the most commonly exploited processes which meet the automation suitability characteristics. Automating these processes would prove successful in reducing the number of employees required to manage these processes, resulting in considerable cost savings.ii. Streamlining collaboration between UNS and UniSourceThe platforms and systems used by UniSource Energy Services and UNS Energy Corporation are incompatible.
Maintaining different applications can be time consuming and costly. RPA can be used to bridge different platforms from TEP, UniSource and UNS to streamline the collaboration between accounting processes, inventory systems and customer database. iii. RemindersA process to send payment reminders to the customers can be implemented using RPA. Reminders can be sent through emails/texts/calls if the customer has not paid the bill after a fixed number of days.
An extension to this could be to send reminders along with the late fee associated incase the customers hit the due date. PERSONAL GOALS I. As a Project Participant/team member i. Requirement Gathering & Analysis: · Research about existing RPA implementations in utility sector and understanding the what, how and why aspects· Identify the list of applications suitable for RPA in TEP· Understand the different enterprise processes in utility sector (TEP)· Perform exhaustive assessment of the automation compatibility for the processes· Highlight the types of risks associated with different processes with respect to RPA· Understand the business benefits for RPA for different processes· Formulate a Risk vs Benefit matrix for different business processes ii. Testing & Recommendation: · Evaluate different processes with respect to different evaluation metrics such as ease of implementation and Return on Investment.· Create a prioritized list of processes best suited for RPA adoption iii.
Implementation: · Design a business case and an implementation strategy for the recommended RPA compatible processes based on business needs, current IT architecture and the value addition from those processes 1) As a Team Lead · Encourage open communication, promote healthy discussions, and aim to achieve team consensus· Provide equal learning opportunities to each team members and in turn, keep them motivated· Ensure successful completion of project deliverables· Meet client’s expectations in terms of effective communication, regular updates and project outcomes