In 2010, PG&E experienced a serious pipeline accident near the city of San Bruno, CA. In the aftermath of the incident, Khaled Fustok was appointed to lead the company’s gas technology planning team. Mr. Fustok sought to learn from the previous incident, evaluate the current state of health and safety at the company, and develop innovative solutions to modernize the company's health and safety processes in order to prevent future accidents.
“The lesson learned from the San Bruno incident involved both the availability of our records and the quality of our data," said Mr. Fustok. "We needed to identify and leverage quality data to drive risk-informed asset management, as we want to be able to provide our employees and contractors with the right information at the right time, to ensure the work is being executed according to our standards and procedures.”
Most of PG&E’s data collection processes at the time were paper-based, with records housed in various offices across the company’s 70,000 square-mile service territory. This meant that procedures and processes were inconsistent across districts. Mr. Fustok’s team made significant investments to eliminate disparate and redundant databases, leverage enterprise work management systems, and provide the company's field workers with the ability to capture safety-related data using mobile technology. “Mobility became a cornerstone of our strategy going forward.”
He decided to work with a SaaS (software as a service) company to develop a proof-of-concept mobile solution for two areas: quality control/quality assurance forms and atmospheric corrosion inspections for 1.2 million gas meters. It took about a month to design the forms, upload the data to the cloud, configure, test, and deploy the devices (check out 10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Safety Software Solution).
“We were able to complete all of the inspections ahead of schedule," said Mr. Fustok. "We’ve also made the data – including images, geospatial information, and corrosion ratings – available for our management team, who go through the data to determine which meters, based on the inspections, are to be replaced, and which meters can be maintained for the next inspection cycle. So, all in all, the proof-of-concept, although it’s not really a proof-of- concept when you talk about 1.2 million meters, was very successful.”
Several PG&E contractors were wary of the new platform at first, but they came around pretty quickly once they were able to use it first-hand, and they appreciated using smartphone and tablet applications instead of having to handle paper versions of the forms (consider the Top 3 EHS Software Objections and Solutions). Company leadership expressed confidence in the solution once they received a business intelligence report that provided clear visibility into the condition of the gas meters. The IT division expressed significant concerns about data security due to data being housed in the cloud, but a collaborative effort involving PG&E’s enterprise risk management team ensured that business continuity standards were followed and this allayed any concerns. The Apple Device Enrollment program also helped the IT department deploy and manage iPads and iPhones more efficiently and securely.
Going mobile has helped PG&E improve their safety inspection processes, but it has also helped reduce costs.“When you look at it holistically – adding up atmospheric corrosion inspection costs, ongoing support costs, as well as the productivity rate of our contractors and employees, along with the downtime of the prior systems – going mobile helped us save about $1.5 million in the first year,” concluded Mr. Fustok.