Eastern Power Distribution Company of Andhra Pradesh Limited (APEPDCL) has been a pioneer in delivering technology-centric customer care services. The discom, set up in March 2000, serves a consumer base of over 5.2 million spread across five districts in the eastern part of Andhra Pradesh. While most discoms in India continue to struggle with high distribution losses, APEPDCL has managed to reduce its aggregate technical and commercial losses from 15.17 per cent in 2004-05 to 6.88 per cent in 2014-15. Similarly, the transmission and distribution losses of the utility have declined from 15.17 per cent to 4.83 per cent during this period, while metered sales have increased from 67 per cent to 82 per cent. The investments made by the utility in the deployment of information technology (IT) systems have been instrumental in improving its operational efficiency.
Critical IT applications
APEPDCL has put in place different IT applications to manage critical day-to-day operations across various departments. This includes E-office, an office process automation system, installed with the help of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) in a record time of one and a half months. As per NIC records, APEPDCL is the first discom in India to implement such a system.
E-office enables paperless operations at the workplace with the entire communication system being digitised. It provides a dashboard view to the top management, and helps them review and monitor the status of a file at any time. It facilitates real-time data processing of various reports such as the management information system (MIS), pendency, status and delay reports. This type of a system provides flexibility to workers to operate from any location at anytime. The digital system provides multiple benefits as it increases transparency and efficiency in the working environment, increases productivity, saves space and minimises process delays.
For the digitisation of the major activities undertaken by the operations and revenue generation teams, APEPDCL has developed and deployed the eastern power customer care and billing (EPCCB) system. The different modules under EPCCB (Operations) include service connection, customer support, estimates, work order management, meter management, transformer management, exception management, meter data management, inspections management and reports. Further, the various modules under EPCCB (Revenue) include metering, billing, collection, revenue accounting, consumer analysis tools, sales reporting tools, reports, MIS reports and dashboards.
The system has significantly improved the efficiency of new connection management, disconnection and dismantlement, metering, billing, collections, accounting, customer service, meter data management system, and MIS/business intelligence (BI). Dashboards help executives in continuously monitoring the performance of various processes across all levels of the organisation inclduing the section office. Videoconferences are held with field teams on a weekly basis to communicate the findings. The utility is currently working towards covering the commercial processes on a centralised architecture for the entire consumer base, including low tension, high tension and agricultural consumers.
While the field operations are primarily taken care of under the EPCCB, the systems applications and products (SAP) – Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions have been deployed to manage the operations of several departments within the organisation. The various modules implemented under SAP include plant maintenance, project system, human resource, finance and controlling, material management, enterprise portal, BI, Basis, and advanced business application programming.
Various IT systems have been deployed by APEPDCL under the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) launched by the Ministry of Power. Under Part A of the programme, Rs 3,880.4 million was sanctioned for the four discoms of Andhra Pradesh, of which APEPDCL was sanctioned Rs 614.5 million for covering 29 towns.
The various modules being implemented under the R-APDRP include centralised electricity call centre (CECC), geographic information system (GIS)-based consumer indexing, GIS-based network analysis, meter data acquisition system (MDAS), meter data management and energy audit.
The CECC, established in Visakhapatnam in 2011, handles all power supply-related complaints including distribution transformer (DTR) failure information across the five districts of APEPDCL. The centre receives, dispatches and escalates all consumer complaints to the concerned offices, as well as monitors these complaints till resolution. Feedback on the process is obtained from the consumers.
Meanwhile, the company’s website has become a major interface through which communication is carried out with vendors and consumers. Intranet has also been developed and deployed for internal users. The entire web-based application is designed, developed and maintained in-house.
Peripheral IT applications
APEPDCL has introduced various peripheral applications to support critical activities. These applications, primarily aimed at monitoring and streamlining processes, include mobile applications, DTR replacement modules, eastern power project monitoring system, vehicle tracking, MDAS and disaster management software.
APEPDCL is engaged in the development of four types of mobile applications – consumer mobile application, load monitoring system application, operational efficiency application, and internal process or employee application. The consumer mobile application was launched recently and the different modules available on it include register service, pay bill, customer care, supply position, energy calculator, reminder, connect, payment history and provisional bill. The application has received a positive response from consumers.
The utility has also launched a programme called MAIN with the objective of implementing mobile-based IT applications in carrying out and monitoring field inspections from a central location with the help of a global positioning system (GPS). Initially, MAIN has been implemented in three wings of APEPDCL – detection of pilferage of energy, quality control and quality assurance.
Meanwhile, the DTR replacement module has been built in-house by the utility to address the concerns of consumers owing to the replacement of the DTR. As per the standard of performance (SoP) norms set by the Andhra Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission, a failed DTR must be replaced by the licensee within 24 hours in urban areas and within 48 hours in rural areas. The DTR replacement module has been introduced to streamline the DTR replacement process as per the SoP norms. The module helps capture various events in the replacement process, maintain and monitor DTR stock at various locations, increase accountability across the staff, and improve customer service.
APEPDCL has also established a web-based project monitoring system called ePMS, which has been integrated to the existing SAP. The system has been installed to ensure that the projects and schemes are executed efficiently and within specified timelines. It helps track and provide information during various stages of execution, avoid schedule slippages and provide MIS reports to the top management for better decision-making.
The utility has also deployed a GPS-based vehicle tracking system for the monitoring of vehicles involved in the replacement of DTRs. This also includes an automatic SMS monitoring system for vehicles. The system tracks vehicles (running movement) online on Google Maps and sends event-based auto messages to the concerned engineers and management while the complaint is active. The system also enables real-time integration and validation of information with other applications such as EPCCB. Field inspection officers can view online exception reports on their mobiles or tablet devices while they are on the move. The system was put in place on a pilot basis in Visakhapatnam in July 2014, and is planned to be rolled out in all five districts soon.
Going forward, APEPDCL plans to continue its investments in IT applications and systems. In order to improve the organisation’s operational efficiency, the company is planning to launch a mobile application for employees soon. The strategy for launching the application has already been defined. IT systems are also being implemented to streamline metering, billing and payment operations.
Further, APEPDCL is planning an ERP upgrade to leverage additional SAP functionalities such as Business Objects Business Intelligence and customer relationship management. The utility is currently working closely with a Swedish company in the area of smart metering to design additional equipment that can be integrated with the existing meters to enable communications.
A major challenge being faced by APEPDCL at present is with respect to the mapping of all assets on GIS due to the massive area to be covered and the high degree of dependency on vendors. The utility is currently working with a Hyderabad-based technology company that has developed a mobile application. Under this, the asset data base can be taken up from the mobile application and directly pushed onto the utility’s GIS server.
APEPDCL is also working towards deploying an online system through the internet and mobile application for new service registration. In addition, the utility is developing executive dashboards, disaster recovery centres as well as deploying smart grid technologies such as a supervisory control and data acquisition system, outage management system and distribution management system as a part of the R-APDRP.
Based on a presentation by M. Suman, General Manager, IT, APEPDCL