Introduction to TUCSON ELECTRIC
POWER(TEP)

 

“TEP — an electric utility company known for its environmental
stewardship, low rates, customer focus and, high reliability.”

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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
Sponsor

Mr. 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 Services

Mr. 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 sector

Today’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 quality

ROBOTIC
PROCESS AUTOMATION IN TEP

Enabling 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 Plan

TEP 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.        
PowerClerk

One 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

 

 

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