Apr 09, 2002

Texas Utility Cuts Meter Reading Costs, Improves Efficiency with AMR

Products In Action

The city of Pasadena, Texas, targeted a variety of objectives for improved customer service in meter reading. Pasadena’s primary goals were elimination of estimated water bills and minimized disruption for customers. But the city’s manual reading system was inefficient, especially where meters were remote or hard to access. The answer was a system that increased the efficiency of Pasadena’s water meter reading operations with a leap from a manual meter reading process to an automated meter reading (AMR) solution.

Pasadena was looking for a single vendor with a proven track
record in meter installation programs, meter replacement programs, and AMR
installation programs that could furnish and install their own products.
Pasadena (population 141,000) had been using manual meter reading to read over
34,000 meters. It used a team of six readers working in four billing cycles
with accounts ranging from 5,900 to 10,700 meters per cycle. Disruptions to the
manual meter reading process included obstructed meters, inclement weather,
heavy traffic, and  uncooperative

Having established the need for a total meter change-out,
the city of Pasadena water utility decided on an integrated metering and
communication solution that would deliver value to the utility and its

The city selected a system from Neptune Technology Group
Inc. of Tallassee, Ala. Neptune offers solutions designed to allow cities to
better manage their meter reading operations. These solutions include a large
line of communicating meters, interface units, walk-by and drive-by reading
devices, and route management software that allows the utility to easily
implement AMR using radio frequency (RF) technology.

The Neptune solution for Pasadena included replacement of
the entire 34,000 meter population with Neptune T-10 meters equipped with a
ProRead AutoDetect exact encoder register and an R900 RF water pit MIU. The
meters are read using drive-by technology with a vehicle-based meter reading

The Neptune RoadMAPS® drive-by data collector is a
rugged, compact meter reading device. It consists of a data collection unit and
a laptop computer in a durable case that can be securely placed in the
passenger seat of any vehicle. Data transmitted by the MIU is received and
stored by the unit. Information can be quickly uploaded to the RouteMAPS host
software. The host software transfers the customer information to the billing
computer to generate customer bills. Pasadena uses Neptune RouteMAPS software
to process the data.

In a project that combined a comprehensive meter upgrade
program with wireless communication technology, Pasadena was able to reduce its
meter reading staff from six readers working five days  to one reader working one day for each
billing cycle. Ninety-eight percent of the meters are read with the RoadMAPS
drive-by data collector.

“The installation of new NeptuneT-10 meters with
ProRead exact encoder registers and R900 water pit MIUs has resulted not only
in increased revenue for the city, but a much more detailed picture about the
actual water use,” noted Helen Young, Pasadena’s water billing

By implementing the drive-by service, Pasadena shortened the
billing cycle by reducing read-to-bill times, lowered operational costs, and
improved customer service.

More specifically, the utility has cut meter reading labor
costs by more than 80 percent and improved efficiency by over 85 percent using
a Neptune automated meter reading solution. Water accountability also has
improved, with a 60 percent reduction in lost water.

About the author

For additional information, contact Neptune Technology Group Inc. at 334-283-6555.