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 pets.

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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 customers.

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 unit.

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.

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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 supervisor.

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.

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

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