Field Services Spotlight: How Holy Cross Energy Tackles Offline Data Collection

Written by Lindsay McGuire on September 5, 2019

Posted in Case Studies, Form Optimization, Mobile Forms, Workflow Automation

When the linemen of Holy Cross Energy go into work, they usually find themselves out in the field in a variety of locations, with zero internet access. In the past, this has caused huge issues for the team of nearly 50 linemen, who provide services to more than 55,000 members throughout Colorado. 

Holy Cross relied on paper forms, which created a lot of inefficiencies. Linemen would have to spend a lot of time filling out paper forms by hand, keeping track of them on work sites, and transferring them back to the office. From there, employees would have to go through the hassle of manually entering the data and storing the physical documents. 

These paper-based processes were slow, inefficient, and cumbersome. But the company’s problems went beyond a reliance on paperwork—the other mobile data collection tools and form products they used were causing issues as well. 

Holy Cross knew it needed an offline data collection tool that was easy to use, flexible, and simple to scale. The energy provider tasked software and system specialist Lori Welch with finding a solution to their field data collection problems. She went on a mission to find a tool that would make Holy Cross more efficient through workflows and improved business processes. After performing thorough research, Welch found Formstack and the Formstack Go app to solve Holy Cross’s offline data collection issues. 

Here are just a few problems Holy Cross was able to solve thanks to the power of Formstack’s mobile data collection tool. 

Problem: A lack of internet forced linemen to use inefficient paper forms. 

Solution: Provide linemen with a mobile data collection tool that works offline through the use of iPads and the Formstack Go app.

One of the first hurdles Holy Cross wanted to clear was the usage of paper forms. Many of their processes were paper-heavy, causing everyday functions to be tedious, time-consuming, and complicated to complete. Several projects involved multiple departments, spanning from field services to billing and IT. Information would get lost in the shuffle, and communication was suffering across teams. 

Once paper processes were changed into digital workflows using Formstack’s data collection forms and the offline capabilities of the Formstack Go app, everything changed. Information began to quickly and automatically flow across departments, thanks to the forms Welch and her team crafted for the linemen. 

“I’ve developed about 20 different forms on the iPad for them, from a transformer replacement to switchboard replacements, major expensive hardware that gets replaced on powerlines,” Welch said.

“Formstack Go aids communication between our linemen and back office. Now communication is almost instant, and it helps everyone all around.”

Although Welch is part of a small team, they’ve been able to develop more than 200 forms for Holy Cross, thanks to the ease of use of Formstack’s form builder

“It’s a great interface for the non-computer-savvy person,” Welch stated. “It was easy for the linemen to use and start developing.”

Now, linemen never go out in the field without their iPad and the Formstack Go app. All their job forms are easy to access from within the app, and they never need to worry about whether they have internet access while on the job. 

Problem: It was hard to keep track of meter numbers when installing upwards of 100 meters at a time with no internet access. 

Solution: Use a responsive offline form that adapts to the number of meters and imports meter data using a barcode scanner. 

When new meters get installed in an office or residential building, it’s crucial that they are quickly and correctly tracked in the Holy Cross system to ensure accurate billing. Many of these meter stacks are located in areas that have zero internet connection, making it hard to easily and efficiently collect data. 

Because of these factors, Welch created a responsive meter stack form that adapts to the needs of the linemen and works offline with the Formstack Go app. The form uses Conditional Logic to ask for the number of rows and columns in the meter stack to add the correct number of meter fields on the form. To avoid typing in hundreds of meter codes, linemen use a barcode scanner to easily upload meter numbers into the form fields. 

Here’s what the full meter installation workflow looks like:

Meter installment workflow for Holy Cross Energy.

With this process in place, linemen are able to install meters quicker and provide accurate data back to the GIS department. 

Read On: How Holy Cross Energy Boosts Linemen Productivity

Problem: Documentation of field service projects needed to include photos. 

Solution: Upload photos into Formstack forms and integrate with WebMerge to automatically insert photos into PDF documentation. 

There are a lot of photos the Holy Cross linemen need to capture when documenting a finished job. From meters to transformers, many large jobs need to have photo documentation of newly installed equipment to ensure correct tracking. 

Paper forms made it pretty much impossible to easily accomplish adding photos to documentation. But other form tools didn’t make it any easier. Photos wouldn’t easily embed in PDFs, forms wouldn’t save, and images would come in much larger than necessary. 

Welch now uses the File Upload feature with her Formstack forms to give linemen a simple and quick way to upload images while on a worksite. They’ve taken their workflows even further by integrating their field data collection forms with WebMerge by Formstack, a tool that makes it easy to automatically generate professional looking PDFs. 

“When a lineman fills a form out, they can take a picture, and then it sends everything through WebMerge,” Welch said. “With our old forms, the pictures would not be embedded in the PDF. With WebMerge, we are able to create an entire PDF that can then be put into long-term storage.” 

Learn More: How to Update Documents with Images

Boost Your Field Service Team’s Productivity with Formstack 

Your team can accomplish more in their day while out in the field with Formstack. You don’t have to let a lack of internet or a spotty Wi-Fi connection impact projects and productivity. 

Give your team the power to work from anywhere, even if they don’t have an internet connection. Ditch paperwork for good and give your technicians a field service app that will help them work smarter, just like the Holy Cross team. 

Sick of inefficient processes ruining your productivity? Discover how you can transform the way you collect data and put it to work by grabbing your copy of our 2019 Workplace Productivity Report now!