Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op is a rural electric cooperative serving approximately 3500 consumers in northeast South Dakota. In addition to providing utility power to their members, they have a member services department that attends to miscellaneous needs such as electrician or heating services.
Prior to adopting a digital solution, Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op heavily relied on entering data on a computer in the office at the end of each day after returning from a job. This process introduced countless opportunities for miscommunication, slower response rates, and delays in processing, all of which resulted in wasted time. “The biggest problem we were having was it was getting lost in the transition from one hand to another,” Alex Pauli, Technician and Material Clerk for Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op explained. They quickly recognized the need to find a digital form solution that was user-friendly, required minimal changes to their current forms, and was easily accessible for use on the go.
The Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op team didn’t encounter a major obstacle in moving away from their original paper-based process, but there were some minor challenges to overcome. “Obviously change is hard for a lot of people. The biggest thing was getting people adjusted to what we were transitioning to,” Pauli continued. “I would say the biggest challenge was teaching people how to search because we originally had an excel file that basically pulled everything up each day. We kind of knew where everything was, so the hardest part was learning how to search by description [in GoFormz].” After getting accustomed to the platform, the team was up and running.
Data collection and communication have become effortless with the incorporation of Conditional Logic, Hidden Fields, Template Events, Groups, Barcode Scanning, and Location fields.
The Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op team utilizes Template Events to automatically send forms to the appropriate recipient via email, guaranteeing that the correct person receives them. “The form is automatically routed to our representative and then she will take that form and input it into an order that will be processed into an invoice,” explained Pauli. By combining Conditional Logic with Hidden Fields, the form can automatically be sent to the selected team member on the form, streamlining collaboration.
Using Groups to organize their form Templates has significantly helped the rest of the team to promptly locate specific information in a timely fashion. “It does help because some forms are specifically for each crew. Our job report is only used by our member services department,” Pauli continued. “So, it does help that you can make a folder and go, ‘Hey, look in this folder’, and it'll be there.”
Barcodes are also used in the field to improve collaboration and processing times. “Our water heaters have a serial number,” Pauli noted. “They scan the barcode on the water heater and once they complete the form, it automatically goes to me,” he continued. “Then I register it for the lifetime warranty, and from there it goes to the billing department.” This process has greatly improved productivity in the field and streamlined collaboration between the field and office team.
Lastly, the Location field is used to pull the exact coordinates of meter inspections. “We also have a meter inspection form that I use personally for whenever somebody installs a meter,” explained Pauli. “I go in and inspect the wiring and then I have the coordinates added to our form.” This feature is beneficial for teams working in the field as it enables them to gather comprehensive information on particular assets that require attention, further elevating data capture.
As a Technician and Material Clerk, Pauli has already noticed the substantial advantages gained in material inventory management. “GoFormz has definitely helped on the material inventory side of things. We’ve definitely been able to help get that loss down by being able to report on-site.” Through the use of Datasources within Table fields, the Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op team is able to auto-populate pricing and additional asset information when a form user is filling out a job report, resulting in an accurate collection of information that continuously updates their internal records of inventory management – saving their team a considerable amount of time.
Pauli also observed that the capability to record data in the field has considerably helped their data collection accuracy. “Obviously, fewer things are missed if you're right there and you're not waiting to fill something out,” he continued. “And then not having to worry about handing it to the right person, instead relying on automation to send or email it to the right person is nice too.”
In nearly seven years of time, Whetstone Valley Electric Co-Op has had a successful partnership with GoFormz and remains committed to their current processes. Although they may explore some integrations in the future, they acknowledged that the biggest challenge they face is implementing change. “I could see us having a few integrations, but obviously, change is hard for some people and it might just take some time.”