Salisbury-Rowan Utilities in Salisbury, N.C., prides itself on providing excellent customer service. While its commercial and industrial customers comprise just 15 percent of total customer accounts, they generate 65 percent of the utility’s monthly billed volume.
That’s why, when it came time to select a new meter reading solution, the ability to receive data-driven analytics to better understand, monitor and manage its operations was a top priority for the utility’s leadership team.
“We used to manually read 22,000 meters each month, were facing an aging infrastructure and looking at a meter change-out,” explained Jason Wilson, engineering manager for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. “We went beyond just the meters and evaluated metering solutions that could provide additional benefits such as proactive customer service, operational efficiencies, reduced meter-reading costs, and rolling fewer trucks to get those monthly reads.”
The utility chose the BEACON® Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) solution and ORION® Cellular endpoints from Badger Meter. BEACON AMA’s cloud-based software analytics platform provides the actionable information Salisbury-Rowan managers need and has saved both time and money for the utility’s largest customers.
“A nearby town is a wholesale purchase customer, and we also operate its system. As the contract operator, we are required to produce and file reports with the state for monthly water usage. We used to go there every day to read the master meter and record the usage,” said Jeff Jones, senior engineer for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. “Now, with BEACON AMA, we get the daily readings in the office. We can also see when there is excessive usage that indicates a potential leak, and then we go out and find it.”
One of the utility’s largest customers is its schools. “We installed an endpoint at one of the elementary schools at the end of May. When school was out in June, we noticed there was still continuous usage, which indicated a leak in the plumbing system. We identified where the leaks were, repaired them, and by the end of the month, the usage patterns dropped to what they should be. If they had gone undetected, the leaks would have added about $140 each month to the school’s water bill,” said Jones.
Salisbury-Rowan managers chose cellular meter reading technology because it allowed them to target customers that had a need for more data without the need for a fixed-based infrastructure to collect the information. It allowed the utility to do shotgun deployments throughout the system, without a data collector in place.
“We were surprised at how easy it is to deploy the cellular endpoints. You plug them in, activate them, provision them through the software and you start getting the reads,” added Jones.
The utility was also able to leverage its investment in its existing ORION Fixed Network (SE) endpoints and infrastructure by integrating them into BEACON AMA.
A big benefit of data analytics for Salisbury-Rowan customers is timeliness. The utility can let customers know within days if they may have an issue, such as a leak. Before BEACON AMA, it could have been six weeks or more before the customer would let the utility know they had a potential problem or question their water usage.
“We are actually generating increased revenues through more accurate meter reading,” said Wilson. “We can give our large customers access to the data we are seeing on a daily basis to help them monitor their water usage and see potential problems. The big one for us is the abundance of data that we can evaluate and analyze in order to make better decisions and better forecasts for our utility.”
Badger Meter is exhibiting at AWWA’s ACE17 expo in Booth 2801.