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Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative Deploys Rugged Toughbook® Computers To Field Crews

Panasonic, an industry leader in rugged, reliable mobile computers, today published a new case study highlighting Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s successful deployment of Toughbook® 31 fully-rugged laptops, which has greatly improved the efficiency and productivity of field crews, especially in times of power outages. Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) is a utility power provider responsible for providing electric service to roughly 150,000 customers in Southern Maryland.

Before moving to a mobile computing solution, SMECO depended on radio dispatches and hand-written notes to communicate and direct mobile crews. SMECO recognized an improved dispatch system was needed in order to efficiently track and manage work orders within the company’s outage management solution.

Ultimately, SMECO selected Panasonic’s fully-rugged Toughbook 30, with integrated mobile broadband and GPS, for its durability and functionality in and out of vehicles. After attempting to use standard VPN software, SMECO knew it needed to consider a more reliable solution as VPN connections were dropping frequently in the field. SMECO selected NetMotion Wireless Mobility XE® mobile VPN software.

The Panasonic Toughbook and Mobility XE solution allows SMECO’s field crews to be more productive by reducing lost VPN connections and maintaining continuous connectivity. In addition, the integrated GPS in the 125 fully-rugged Toughbook computers allows SMECO to assign jobs to field crews in real time, based on their current locations.

“We’ve seen improvements in field morale, as well as the efficiency of the crews themselves, which has solidified management’s decision to mobilize its crews,” said David Timmerman, Network Administrator, SMECO. “We’ve stuck with Panasonic and refreshed with the Toughbook 31, next-generation fully-rugged laptop, because of our experience with the Toughbook 30. Its ruggedness and ability to be used in the field on a regular basis and in extreme weather conditions, such as Hurricane Irene, has been invaluable.”

Efficiency has improved greatly for day-to-day meter readings and credit card collections, as well as providing service in disaster situations. Crews can now address outages much faster, as one manager can click a button and send 20 jobs to one crew instead of one-off jobs. It has also reduced the oral communication, because field workers are no longer constantly calling into headquarters, which allows orders to be received faster with less room for error.

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