By Kate Stone for AppSheet
Living off the grid is rarely an option these days. As people become more connected to digital technology, they require more power to fuel their lives.
Kentucky Power knows this better than most. They celebrated their 100th anniversary this week, so they know how electricity has grown and shaped America. They're also a subsidiary for American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electric utility providers in the U.S. The eastern Kentucky-based company is responsible for getting more than 166,000 customers the connections and power they need in the world of modern technology. That's no small feat.
Members of a "Lean Team" at Kentucky Power have been thinking about ways to simplify workflows and reduce waste since 2015. They started moving away from paper and digitizing their processes, but they wanted more. They aimed for a digital transformation of the company, where anything from inspection and incident reports to employee communications could be automated. To meet that goal, the team decided to start building apps to manage different aspects of company operations.
To build these apps, there were a few must-haves: a built-in barcode scanner to track the serial numbers of different parts, an app that could create new forms and work orders rather than just updating existing ones, and one with advanced security protocols. And most importantly, they needed it fast. The apps had to be both easy to build and easy to use.
Paula Bell, one of the "Lean Team" members and the main app creator, had no coding experience. Yet she was able to create 10 apps for the company in just 9 months, without writing a single line of code. Some of these apps track failed or damaged poles, transformers, and circuits. Employees know when one is being taken in to be replaced, automating a process that used to be done on paper. When you've got 10,000 miles of power lines and 210,000 poles in mostly mountainous terrain, having that kind of information instantly can be crucial.
Kentucky Power's inspection and repair workflows have been substantially improved since they switched to apps. There are fewer errors in reports, and information can be updated in real time. Perhaps best of all: no more paper. Companies like Kentucky Power know the value of conserving energy and reducing waste, and digital apps are a surefire answer for both.
An added bonus: the employees are happier. Having everything they need to do their job in one place has upped the company morale. Plus, the apps are easy to use. Filling out an electronic form rather than a paper one saves both time and physical energy, helping workmen get jobs done faster and leaving fewer people in the dark.
In my mind, it's inspiring to see energy companies like this one become pioneers in digitally transforming their industry. The company was able to adapt long-held practices into a more efficient process, providing better service to their customers. After 100 years of business, a company that participated in changing the American landscape is able to push forward change once again.
If you want to read more about Kentucky Power's journey, you can find the entire case study here.