Roanoke Electric

In-Vehicle Network Connectivity Anywhere & Always-On Access for Servicemen in Rural Locations

SUMMARY

Today many organizations have employees who work remotely in the field, but they struggle to maintain connectivity when they travel to rural locations. Downtime prevents these employees from effectively doing their jobs, which slows down productivity for the organization.

To ensure reliable connectivity everywhere, Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC), an electric utility, deployed Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service for mobile — delivered through ruggedized in-vehicle routers with embedded LTE — in its truck fleet, with some trucks using dual-modem functionality for SD-WAN capabilities.

Now, with constant WAN access, REC has made great strides in employee communication and customer service, and has improved productivity.

COMPANY PROFILE

REC is a private electric utility cooperative, owned by the people it serves. REC energized its first 56 miles of line for 317 member-owners in 1939 and was initially organized to provide light and power to farms. Today, with over 2,000 miles of line serving more than 14,500 member-owners, REC provides safe, reliable, and affordable electricity for a wide base of industries. 

BUSINESS NEEDS

REC’s member-owners — many of whom live in remote locations — rely on the cooperative’s servicemen to provide maintenance to their electric systems. These servicemen remain in the field and must stay connected to the network to receive work orders. If connectivity is lost, they must call or travel back to the office, losing valuable time while the member-owner waits for assistance. Depending on the area and conditions, there could be up to 20 work orders issued per serviceman every day.

REC needed a reliable, secure network connection for access to emails, work orders, mapping systems, and GPS in remote locations.

Unfortunately, because some of the areas are so rural, the USB hotspots they were initially using offered very limited Internet service, causing inadequate communication and lost service orders. 

“Often the work order would never reach the servicemen, or data would be lost, causing them to call or return to the office. This becomes difficult because a few of our servicemen have to travel about an hour to get to the office,” said Robin Hoggard-Harrell, manager of technical services for REC.

SOLUTION

To meet the utility’s connectivity and performance needs in some of the most remote locations where its servicemen venture, REC deployed Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service for mobile networking.

This service includes routing, GPS and telematics integration, WiFi-as-WAN, and cloud configuration and troubleshooting, all delivered via a ruggedized in-vehicle LTE router with 24x7 support and a limited lifetime warranty.

In some trucks, REC also installed Cradlepoint’s dualmodem dock, enabling wireless-to-wireless failover and SDWAN services to intelligently and automatically steer traffic between carriers for increased availability and additional bandwidth.

BENEFITS

IMPROVED COMMUNICATION

With Cradlepoint’s SD-WAN capabilities, the servicemen stay securely and constantly connected to the network, accessing online applications as if they were at the office. Reports can be recorded and saved from the vehicles to the office network and viewed by co-workers in the office instantly, saving time and money. 

“The Cradlepoints have really enhanced our communications. The servicemen know they will receive their emails and work orders, and they feel more connected to what’s going on in the office,” Hoggard-Harrell said.

Reliable connectivity also is used to enable GP monitoring, which helps track and ensure the safety of the servicemen while they are out in the field.

BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE

With fast and robust network connectivity, the servicemen can deliver quick assistance to each member-owner’s electrical issues, creating better customer care.

“If a serviceman is at a member-owner’s remote location, and the serviceman needs assistance from the office, they can just log into the system from where they are,” Hoggard-Harrell said.

Also, with Cradlepoint routers in place, REC plans to use its mapping system to assign work orders to the serviceman who is located closest to the member-owner

TIME SAVINGS

The servicemen have saved a significant amount of time because there is very little troubleshooting, and they don’t need to travel to the office for repairs. Cradlepoint’s cloudmanaged solution can be deployed and managed with “zero-touch” configuration, all through a single pane of glass.

With the Cradlepoint solution, servicemen stay securely connected to the network; have steady communication to the office; and can get to their scheduled work orders faster, streamlining operations. 

ABILITY TO WITHSTAND CONDITIONS

Cradlepoint’s in-vehicle routers were were build to thrive even in the harshest environments. These networking devices are ruggedized to stand up against dust, water, humidity, vibration, and even severe temperatures.