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Tucked into an office in the back of Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative’s Kaufman operations building, the mapping department may be about as behind-the-scenes as you can get. But when it comes to everyday work and productivity, mapping plays a key role in almost every aspect of what the co-op does.
“We are a support mechanism, really, to help everyone here support the members,” said Gary Nix, TVEC’s mapping supervisor. “Our goal is to provide accurate information that gets our people out to the right location to take care of whatever needs to be done, and current technology is really making that better than ever before.”
As late as 1999, the co-op was still dependent on paper maps, which meant updates were slow and field employees did not always have the latest information. Over the last two decades, the entire system has been updated to modern technology.
“It is saving a lot of time and making the work more efficient,” Nix said. “We take pride in knowing that what we do helps provide great service. In an outage situation, of course, but also in getting lines and equipment inspected and replaced to take care of problems to prevent outages. The next step is to move towards web interfaces, allowing us to receive input back from the field and giving us the ability to collaborate directly with crews as they go along.”
Mapping also provides graphics and digital maps to keep members informed about upcoming work and outage updates. During the 2017 tornado outbreak from Eustace to Fruitvale, TVEC’s mapping department was able to use National Weather Service map data and TVEC location data to speed up the restoration process while keeping members up to date.
While members benefit most from the operational efficiencies, there are other aspects of mapping that are important to the co-op, including documenting easements and keeping up with ever-changing municipal boundaries and regulations.
“Different municipalities have certain requirements regarding inspections, for example, and as cities grow our guys really need to know where they are working,” Nix said. “It is also important to be accurate regarding franchise fees that are collected in certain areas. This presents a challenge since not every county or municipality has the same resources for getting the information to us. In these cases, we have to be really proactive in reaching out to them for updates if available.”
With rapid growth near the DFW metroplex, steady development throughout the TVEC service area and a constantly changing technological landscape, the TVEC mapping team will remain a foundational element that improves every area of service for the co-op.
“Whenever I meet a co-op member, I like to know that I can shake their hand and honestly say that if they have an outage or issue, our guys will absolutely be able to get there as quickly as possible and get them taken care of,” Nix said. “It is what drives what we do—that electricity is not just a convenience but is really essential in the lives of our members.”