Horizon Utilities

A Top 10 Employer in Hamilton-Niagara and with $487 million in assets, Horizon Utilities provide electricity and related utility services to 240,000 residential and commercial customers.

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At a glance

  • Electricity Distributor with 240,000 customers and 400 employees
  • Automated service order system
  • Integrated FieldWorker smart meter implementation
  • Flexibility and ease of adding multiple job and user types in one application
  • More efficient installation process

Background

Horizon Utilities Corporation is one of the largest municipally owned electricity distribution companies in Ontario with $487 million in assets. A Top 10 Employer in Hamilton-Niagara, they provide electricity and related utility services to 240,000 residential and commercial customers in the cities of Hamilton and St. Catharines.

Challenge

Horizon Utilities launched a pilot project to replace 5,000 of its customers’ traditional electricity meters with smart meters as part of the organization’s commitment to energy conservation and the environment. A smart meter contains a chip that records the per-hour use of electricity, allowing customers to save money by using electricity during off-peak hours. Knowing the hourly energy consumption can also change consumer behaviour, encouraging to turn off appliances, lights and other gadgets when not in use. Smart meters also promote more efficient energy distribution by preventing overload on grids, especially in the summer, when air conditioners add to the power needs of households and businesses alike.

horizon utilities signing screen

Solution

Horizon equipped each of the meter installers with an Intermec 760, a handheld device where FieldWorker’s flexible user interface software was configured to accommodate a camera and a barcode scanner. 

At the start of each day, installers checked their individual handheld devices for a list of customers they were assigned to visit. At each location, the installer took a picture of the last meter reading and scanned the barcode of the new smart meter before installing it. Enabled by FieldWorker’s Enterprise platform technology, the photo and barcode data were then relayed to Horizon’s Customer Information System (CIS), the company’s billing engine.

"Configuring the software’s business logic to capture bar codes and pictures was the tricky part of this job."

- Craig Tyndall , Director of Business Development at FieldWorker

“We’ve had a lot of customers who needed barcode readers, and a lot who needed photos, but Horizon was the first company that required both on the same device.” Adds Peter Neve, FieldWorker’s president, “It was probably also the first time that Intermec’s device was asked to do both things at once. We talked to the people who write their software, and together we figured out how to do it.”

Benefits

Integrating the scanning of barcodes and pictures in the replacement process ensured that there were no keying errors. In addition, the use of pictures reduced discrepancies in the meter’s last reading.

Other information gathered by the handheld devices helps Horizon monitor the contractor’s performance, which will, in turn, help them standardize the replacement of the remaining 215,000 meters. “The business logic we’ve built into FieldWorker and our billing engine will help us track the work very well. The time-logging and the number of visits will tell us how many trips an installer made to a house before finding someone at home and the total amount of time it took. We’re on a learning curve here, and during the mass replacement, knowing the average time it takes to install a smart meter will tell us if we’re getting a fair value for our dollar.”

"The smaller companies might think they don’t need to invest the money or believe they can do it themselves, and the bigger ones are so used to shelling out tons of money for mediocre solutions, they might think our low costs are a measure of our strengths. But the ROI is there for small and large companies alike. We’ve provided Horizon with a very cost-effective and extremely powerful solution."

- Craig Tyndall , Director of Business Development at FieldWorker

The overriding value of FieldWorker’s Enterprise system is not only that it can facilitate and track the work of any number of hand-held devices for one specific job, but also the fact that it provides flexibility for the company to add as many multiple types of jobs and users as desired in one application. This allowed Horizon to implement many in-house applications into FieldWorker that significantly optimized their new processes.

Fleet Complete Awards

  • Branham 300.
  • Profit Hot 50.
  • Profit 500.
  • Profit 200.
  • Profit 100.
  • Deloitte Technology Fast 50.