- Adam Schmehl
How Pole Owners And Attachers Can Work Together
Updated: Apr 4
Pole owners and attachers both have a lot on their plates.
Not only are they responsible for providing power and communications service to thousands of individuals, families, and businesses, but they are also responsible for the condition of the poles, the safety of those working on the poles, and, of course, remaining profitable.
While most organizations want to excel in these functions, it can be a lot to juggle. A mistake could result in service interruption, decreased revenue, serious injury, or death.
Recent broadband deployment efforts highlight the importance of rapid progress, though the benefits of 5G networks will never surpass the importance of safety and keeping consumers' power on.
In an attempt to help speed up communications deployment, the FCC has proposed more aggressive attachment timelines that hope to mitigate some of the lost time and expensive ride-outs that make ready moves and OSP engineering require.
While shorter timelines could be a solution, it's possible that they ignore a deeper problem. Many joint use departments are struggling to meet the current deadlines, and shortening it will only compound the stress, while potentially causing more mistakes and causing pole owners and pole attachers to harbor more and more resentment towards each other.
An adversarial relationship between owners and attachers is harmful to all parties involved. While shorter timelines may play a crucial role in faster deployment, a more important goal should be to introduce process improvements that encourage collaboration.
Here are four ways that the Katapult method can play a part in building more cohesive, mutually-beneficial relationships between pole owners and their attachers:
1. Present ONE version of the truth
Version control is a real struggle in this industry. Changes to spreadsheets as they pass through many different hands causes a "whisper-down-the-lane" effect. Instead of having your whole distribution list in the know, you have a group of people each holding a modified version of the data.
Your bottom line and all involved parties' safety is at risk when people are looking at different versions of the same data.
Real-time data is certainly achievable, and tools like Google Sheets can help you make sure your team is on the same page.
Our primary software offering, Katapult Pro, stores thousands and thousands of poles' data and photos on secure cloud servers. When we finish processing the data, we can share all photos, measurements, design, and make ready calls with the pole owner as well as the attacher requesting the survey.
Any changes to the design or measurements are live, and changes from the office will be immediately available to field crews or remote processors. It's time for forked spreadsheets and data to become a thing of the past.
Image of a pole with height annotations on it.
2. Provide defensible data
Pole profile sheets are helpful, but they can't compete with photo documentation. The Katapult method of data collection simplifies make ready disputes by providing actual, accurate documentation of attachment and midspan heights stamped with a date.
Photo documentation also allows inexperienced crews to receive feedback on their work without requiring a more experienced team member to spend their whole day watching over their shoulder. After uploading their data, a team member can walk them through what they missed and provide suggestions to make their collection more efficient.
There are so many dollars wasted by arguing over two sets of data and trying to prove that the other party is wrong. Defensible data (especially when collected by a third party) seeks to place the focus back on what it should be: getting the project completed quickly, correctly, and safely.
When the measurements are no longer subject to interpretation (they are facts, after all), owners and attachers can focus their time and energy on delivering service and keeping their poles and workers safe.
3. Automate what makes sense
It's 2018, and we know how to leverage our technology to improve efficiency. No, I'm not suggesting that each power company should build a robot to run their joint use department, but there are pieces of the data collection workflow that are just begging for 21st-century solutions.
Let's take a look at pole loading, for example. Katapult Pro data exports cleanly into Pole Foreman, SpidaCalc, and O-Calc, cutting pole loading time significantly. For a big project, a clean export can increase your throughput while also freeing up staff to take on new work.
Computers are good at calculations and checking that data is complete and in a standard format. One of the biggest things that we automate is quality control checks. Whether it's making sure there are no poles missed, checking to see where slack spans should be or running a computation of what the survey for a specific job costs, the Katapult method can reduce error and increase efficiency for job design, data collection, billing, and communication between parties.
4. Give humans appropriate context
As much as we love automation, computers are poor at making certain decisions. Just like repeated human calculation often leads to error, so does asking a computer to perform specific pieces of OSP engineering workflows.
The Katapult method seeks to provide your team member with the right amount of information to make the best decision possible. This could mean breaking down a 3,000 pole survey into 50-pole chunks for your field crew or highlighting measurements that are in violation of NESC or GO95 regulations so that your team can call make ready more efficiently.
Though we take pride that our methodology makes it very easy to collect multitudes of context data, measure at sub-inch accuracy, and process a thousand poles or more in a week, too much information paralyzes decision-making and slows projects down.
With tools to narrow down the enormous amount of data involved, decision-makers on both sides can quickly evaluate the situation and take necessary action.
Better relationships between pole owners and attachers mean better service, better revenue, and better safety practices.
Give us a call or shoot us an email to see how the Katapult method can help your team's projects thrive!