MGE’s manual process for managing 811 tickets was labor-intensive, time-consuming and technically deficient. Implementing 811spotter’s automated ticket management solution has resulted in significant cost savings and productivity gains.
“811spotter is the first 811 ticket management solution that’s specifically built for contractors and the way we work. It’s been a MASSIVE time saver for MGE.”
Lead Project Manager, MGE Underground
Daniel Martin, lead project manager for MGE Underground, takes nothing tor granted when it comes to safety. Sitting in his San Jose, California office, he reflects on a recent job that nearly put the lives of his crew in jeopardy and threatened MGE’s bottom line.
On a remote upstate site, the utility failed to mark an underground pressurized line, which was thought to be abandoned. The crew inadvertently hit the pipe, severely denting it.
“Had we dug in further, it could have meant lost limbs and lost lives,” recalls Martin.
Even though MGE was not at fault, the company paid over $4000 in damages and required the emergency deployment of the utility, fire department and law enforcement personnel to the site.
Events like this – far too common – mean idle equipment and crews sent home, and they raise the prospect of liquidated damages for contractors like MGE.
To protect their business, contractors need robust documentation to prove they’re not at fault. But this important task is undermined by the administrative burden of high 811 ticket volumes; manual ticket management is prone to human error, and crucial details get lost in the shuffle.
Before breaking ground, contractors must call 811 or go to their state’s 811 web notification center to receive a valid 811 ticket demarcating any underground utilities. In California, an 811 ticket must be renewed after 28 days or else it expires, in which case work on a site is halted.
Given the importance of communications with utilities and the notification center, MGE had a team of full-time employees devoted to sifting through thousands of emails a day. The 811 ticket responses associated with the company’s eighty active work crews swamped communication channels.
“For instance, we had 2,000 active tickets managed from a single office – all of which sent a constant barrage of robocalls and emails to our team,” says Martin.
Tracking inbound communications from the utilities, waiting for the green-light to proceed, managing renewals and documenting the process with spreadsheets from beginning to end resulted in long hours, extra stress and compromised productivity. Any missed messages or incorrectly documented email confirmations had a direct impact on MGE’s bottom line.
“Our full-time people updating the spreadsheet and calling in for renewals just couldn’t keep up,” recalls Martin. “We had down days nearly every month where tickets expired because they missed the renewal date – putting our crew on standby and costing us thousands of dollars to keep them paid until work resumed.”
MGE sought emerging technology that could streamline their day-to-day workflows and trim administrative costs. But they were losing faith that their 811 ticketing process could be fixed.
“We ended up ignoring a lot of product pitches simply because they didn’t fit our specialized needs,” says Martin.
Martin knew of several ticket management systems focused on utilities, contract locators and notification centers, but solutions for contractors didn’t exist.
When he came across 811spotter, he saw how it would fill a critical void as a hands-off digital system combining organization, automation and push notifications. Whats more, the platform provides instant visibility into ticket information, utility member responses and documentation.
“811spotter is the first 811 ticket management solution I’ve seen that’s specifically built for contractors and the way we work,” explains Martin.
But because managing 811 tickets is such a business-critical process, Martin was hesitant to upend existing workflows without a trial evaluation.
During the trial period, Martin assessed 811spotter’s technology on a practical level and evaluated the results in coordination with all impacted parties at MGE.
Based on the successful results of the trial, Martin was convinced to go with 811spotter.
One year and 12,000 dig tickets later, Martin hasn’t looked back, crediting 811spotter for supporting MGE through a period of rapid growth.
“811spotter freed up significant resources that were previously needed to manage 811 tickets. Now those employees can focus on other areas of the business that are mission-critical.”
On average, 811spotter manages 2,500 monthly tickets for MGE. The automated system does the equivalent work of three full-time employees.
The repurposing of administrative staff previously dedicated to 811 tickets has yielded over $200,000 yearly in operational savings. This is in addition to the unquantified productivity gains throughout the organization.
“We see ourselves as partners with 811spotter as they build on their existing platform with new features and capabilities,” concludes Martin. “The closer we can get to being fully digital by integrating systems like 811spotter with our other project management systems, the better life gets! Now our teams don’t have to babysit their tickets. 811spotter is a MASSIVE time saver for us.”
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