Revamp Utility Vegetation Management with Robotic Process Automation and Business Intelligence

This is Big Rock 2.

For Big Rock 1 click HERE.


Of all the enterprise-acceleration approaches traditionally pursued by utilities, one is persistently overlooked: Standardization. Standardized work is easier to digitize, automate, and analyze. And it’s a prerequisite for cutting costs, recouping lost capacity, and improving the customer experience or CX.

Better yet, it’s a surprisingly accessible opportunity, for utilities of virtually any size. And it can yield transformational business improvements in as little as six months.

Standardization also paves the way for advanced analytics and automation; see the “Power Trio” inset.

Let’s see how this power can slash costs and turbocharge effectiveness in the “big-rock opportunity” of vegetation management.

Reduce risk and outages—and recoup 15% of the savings benefit!

From nor’easters to Santa Ana winds, from hurricanes and ice storms to red-flag conditions, Mother Nature forces utilities to manage vegetation in the off-season… in order to prevent wildfires and outages in-season.

A typical utility may have thousands of miles of power lines to protect, and millions of trees on the verge of impacting them at any given moment. Limbs can be whipped off by wind. Trees can topple under the weight of ice. And wood burns.

The sheer scope of the challenge is heightened by the pressure to report progress to the state utility commission, and avoid audits, sanctions, fines, litigation exposure, and reputational damage.

For most utilities, it’s a constant game of catch-up.

But what if you could get ahead of the curve? What if you could predict where outages might happen, before they happen? It would be a dream come true for virtually any utility.

No, we’re not saying that The Lab can help you predict the future. But what we can do—and what we’ve helped other leading utilities to do—is to standardize and operationalize essential data, from numerous sources, to give you “X-ray vision” for vegetation management.

Combine Multiple Sources and monitor Live With Business Intelligence Dashboards

Your utility possesses lots of data: You’ve got information on every historical vegetation-related outage. And there’s great external data out there, too: things like maps from satellite agencies.

But your internal data is buried in spreadsheets and utility-commission reports. The external data is, well, outside your organization. But wouldn’t it be great if you could combine the internal and external data? Better yet, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could combine them visually?

You can. This is where The Lab employs business intelligence or BI. Also known as advanced analytics, it’s a technology that allows for the combination, crunching, and manipulation of multiple, disparate sources of data, and serve them up in a single visual presentation that looks like a little website.


That’s real outage data, superimposed over a real map. It’s totally intuitive.


Better yet, this little “website”—which you can easily (and securely) view from any computer, tablet, or phone—is interactive. You can adjust sliders to set the date-range of your choice. And you can filter for factors such as district, incident type, voltage, circuit, and cause.

And all of this information gets overlaid on top of a real map. So you can see historical hot spots and ignitions. When The Lab creates BI visualizations like these, we’ll even color-code them: red dots are ignitions; blue dots are outages. Mouse over any one of them, and get specific event details.


Think you can “see” this in a spreadsheet?


This is like super-power vision for preventative vegetation management. You can focus on historical hot (or cold) spots, and direct your field crews and drone surveys accordingly, maximizing the effectiveness of limited resources and time.

Standardization = Effectiveness

“Big Rock 2” of vegetation management overlaps “Big Rock 1” of scheduling and dispatch. (If you’d like our Big Rock 1 document, simply contact us for a complimentary copy.) Put it this way:

  • How can you trim tree limbs on a city street if you haven’t filed for a temporary no-parking zone first?
  • How effective can you be when your bucket trucks aren’t current on their preventative maintenance, leading to downtime and safety issues?
  • How can you manage vegetation if you’re having trouble tracking basic tools like saws, chippers, ladders, and climbing harnesses?
  • How efficient is your vegetation management when contract labor still needs to come to the office for physical paperwork—and then return, with the completed physical paperwork, when the job is done?

The Lab routinely helps utilities to promulgate best practices across the organization, reducing the unnecessary rework and redundancy that we call Virtuous Waste®.

Automation opportunities for Utility Operations with Robotic Process Automation

If you’re new to robotic process automation or RPA, think of it like a programmable “person” that can sit at a computer and perform the types of mundane, detailed, repetitive, and error-prone activities that humans hate doing: logging into different systems; copying, pasting, and scraping data; and manipulating it in Excel, for example.

This makes bots well-suited for vegetation-management activities. Let bots process those invoices from contract labor. Let them populate your quarterly reports for the state regulators. You can even have bots “read” your BI dashboards, and provide reminders to crews (and updates to management), regarding the specific historical hot-spots that are coming due for service. You’ll never fall behind again. And your human workers will love to offload these tedious chores, too.

How To Reduce Vegetation Management Costs And Maximize Operational Effectiveness

If you’re looking to crush vegetation-management costs while reducing outages, improving service, and ensuring safer infrastructure, contact The Lab to schedule your no-obligation 30-minute screen-sharing demo. We’ll show you how we deliver all this power—remotely, from our U.S. offices in Houston—and answer any questions you may have, too.

Simply contact The Lab at (201) 526-1200 or today!

Robotic Process Automation for your business, from start to finish.

Contact us now to speed up your RPA analysis, use case development, and implementation.