Technology Will Keep Our Employees and Consumers Safe

Since mid-March, my living room has become my office where I start work as early as 4:30 due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine  (ECQ) imposed by the government. I join millions of others around the world who had to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a paper published by McKinsey Digital, the demand for digital products and services has hit record levels as governments worldwide instituted lockdowns. The paper entitled “Driving digital change during a crisis: The Chief Digital Officer and COVID-19” also noted that hundreds of remote employees are now depending on collaboration tools and online processes to get work done.

I can fully appreciate the above-points as I have my tools—laptop, iPad, and smartphone— spread out in my living room. I also spend my days meeting online with colleagues who are in different areas.  Despite many of us working from home, during the ECQ, our team at Albay Power and Energy Corporation or APEC were still able to mobilize resources and distribute necessities like rice, flour, and alcohol, and protective personal equipment (PPEs) in the area. This is our company’s small way of helping Albay and its communities

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photo c/o APEC FB page

Experts predict that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to last between 18 to 24 months, which means businesses are now preparing to make remote work easier and more accessible, APEC included.

In our offices, the health and safety of our employees will be a priority. Our workspaces will be reconfigured to comply with the new social distance standards and APEC field workers will be provided with PPEs, among others.

Fortunately for us at APEC, we have already made plans for greater use of technology in our jobs since it has always been our goal to be a customer-centric organization.

Aside from the reconfiguration of our offices, our employees will be working in shifts and some of them will be working for home. They will be provided with the proper internet tools to increase their productivity. Plus, we have been preparing for the roll-out of a facial recognition software in logging in all employees for convenience purposes. Now, this technology will serve a different purpose of eliminating the need for individuals to put their fingers on the biometric machines. Soon, we will also be using a new employee app that will also do some contact tracing to ensure our employees’ safety at all times.

These measures are for our employees, but we remain steadfast in our commitment to offering excellent services to APEC customers. Our goal of improving services for APEC consumers has enabled us to lower the 22% system loss to 18% since we took over last January. The collection rate, which is integral for better service delivery has improved as well.

Improving the lives of those we serve at APEC has led us to rely on technology and data-driven solutions across all functions including accounting, collections, warehousing, procurement, finance, and engineering.

According to the paper by McKinsey, companies must re-craft digital strategies and develop a perspective of the business’ longer-term future given that “the best-performing companies have a digital strategy that’s tightly aligned with the business’s overall strategy”. The paper recommends that companies serve customers in a manner that safeguards their health, digitize interactions that used to be handled in person, and help transition customers from offline to online channels.

I am proud to say and as I mentioned, that at APEC, we meet all of the recommendations above as we have long planned for such digital transformations.

We already launched XenPay, a mechanism that allows customers to pay their electric bills in sari sari stores. We are currently reviewing our processes in payment centers as we aim to reduce the amount it takes to pay to 15 seconds per customer as we will only accommodate six people at a time.

 Soon, we will be launching an app allowing our customers to apply for meters online or via their smartphones. This will reduce the need to come to our offices. Plus, we hope to lessen the approval time from four weeks to one week for new power applications.

We are now developing a new technology that allows our personnel to read, connect, disconnect, and reconnect power remotely. We already are creating the prototype as we intend to have the technology ready by year-end.

Another app is in the works, which is intended for our customers to report outages via Facebook and other social media. Our linemen have been equipped with GPS-enabled radios that let the control center identify their location, allowing our linemen to respond to outages faster.

We have drones, too for monitoring, reducing the need for personnel to go out. The use of Artificial Intelligence in monitoring vegetation that causes outages is currently being explored with the help of our IT partner. Plus, we are working with different technology providers to enable APEC to implement more remote payment mechanisms and remote dispatch of embedded solar power.

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photo c/o APEC FB page

The novel coronavirus is forcing businesses to re-think their ways to adapt to the new normal. Thankfully, we have invested in programs that meet the demands of better power service delivery to consumers long before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and even before lockdowns happened. Little did we know, that these which were designed to bring APEC to the 21st century are the very same technological tools that will help keep both our employees and customers safe during these uncertain times.