UPPCO PROJECT PROFILE Service Smart meter deployment project Service Area 4,460 square miles Meters Installed 49,909 Installers 12 field technicians Total Man-hours 19,132 Project Timeframe 12 months Project Completed October 2020 For more than 135 years, UPPCO and its predecessors have provided clean, reliable energy to customers located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. UPPCO’s service territory is one of the most rural, weather-challenged in America, and much of it is heavily forested. In 2018, UPPCO began installation of Itron’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology and new smart meter devices. As part of this project, they planned to exchange roughly 50,000 meters through 10 of the Upper Peninsula’s counties. Having worked with Chapman Metering in the past, UPPCO recommended our team to Itron as an installation partner to help manage their smart meter deployment rollout. THE SOLUTION While turnkey meter deployment projects are nothing new for Chapman Metering, the UPPCO project required approximately 50,000 meters to be installed in one year. The project’s activities were vast and included new hires, training, project and warehouse management, scheduling, reporting and, most importantly, successful field deployment completed on time. Smart meter deployment kicked off in September 2019, and the following challenges were successfully managed: Recruiting and Training Upon contract award, Chapman Metering hit the ground running, recruiting local hires for field deployment. Within 30 days, 12 technicians were hired and trained. Their in-class training included safety procedures, how to exchange the meter and inspect the meter socket and seals for faults, hazards and tampering. Different meter forms were reviewed regarding placement and identification. All technicians also completed field training where they worked with an experienced technician until they competently performed the job independently. Chapman Metering was ready, and the field deployment commenced on schedule. Program Management and Warehousing Chapman Metering assigned a dedicated Program Manager (PM) to this project who was responsible for coordinating and communicating with Itron and UPPCO to ensure all aspects of the project were handled properly and on schedule. The PM mapped routes for technician daily deployment, reviewed incoming field data and generated reports per UPPCO’s requirements. Maintaining UPPCO’s satisfaction meant ensuring end-user satisfaction, and the PM’s priorities included helping to schedule appointments to the customer’s satisfaction and swiftly resolving field issues. Due to the size of UPPCO’s territory, multiple UPPCO warehousing locations were used. The Chapman Metering PM’s warehousing responsibilities included managing outgoing and incoming meters, inventory counts and material handling. The PM also managed the handheld setup for each location for the technicians. Being vigilant and ensuring the day-to-day work was completed successfully kept Chapman Metering on track for timely project completion. Terrain and Weather UPPCO’s service territory presented certain challenges — it is sparsely populated, heavily wooded and receives significant snowfall during the winter months. The rugged terrain and adverse weather conditions created challenges that were successfully managed by the Chapman Metering team. At times, Chapman Metering’s technicians had to dig into five-foot snow drifts to access existing meters to perform the meter exchange. Hiring local technicians who were familiar with the region’s weather patterns helped to keep the project on schedule. COVID-19 In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic caused a work stoppage after completing seven months of highly productive work utilizing 12 trained technicians. With work halted, Chapman Metering had to lay off the technicians until work could resume. When the project recommenced in the summer of 2020, all but two installers returned to complete the project. UPPCO observed that Chapman Metering’s ability to recall a large percentage of its workforce after the work stoppage was a testament to its culture, training and dedication to service excellence. This is exemplified by the fact that Chapman Metering has never missed a deadline throughout its 60-plus years of service. THE RESULTS UPPCO considers the deployment of their new AMI system to be one of its many achievements. They embarked on a mass deployment that was met with many challenges requiring UPPCO, Itron and Chapman Metering to work together in true partnership. Although this project was unique for Chapman Metering, the team proved to be resourceful and resilient, successfully managing the challenges of COVID-19 and inclement weather. “I consider this mass deployment effort to be one of UPPCO’s notable achievements,” said Jason Brynick, PM. “While there were various challenges throughout the project — COVID-19 being the largest — Chapman Metering exceeded our expectations while enduring certain, unforeseen challenges.” By partnering with Chapman Metering to quickly deploy AMI smart meters, UPPCO more quickly realized the benefits of smart metering, providing an accelerated return on investment.