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From 2014 to 2019, the City Gas Distribution (CGD) network in India has expanded from 34 geographical areas (GA) to 228GAs spread across 406 districts. This growth has not been free from challenges. From convincing consumers to turn towards Piped Natural Gas (PNG) for clean cooking to maintaining infrastructure, here are the top 5 challenges faced by CGD and possible solutions.
There is a growing awareness about the advantages of piped gas over LPG cylinders. It is this awareness that is driving the growth of this sector and making people in homes, restaurants and hotels turn towards piped gas. However, building a consumer base is a long process especially when done manually. Enquiries must be tracked, responded to, appointments made for installation, etc.
Shifting focus from manual labor to technological platforms that can automate consumer onboarding is beneficial for CGD agencies as well as the end consumers. Processes can be standardized to ensure smooth interactions between company executives and customers from the first contact till when the connection is installed and made operational. This involves document verification, tracking the processing stage of applications and real-time 4 updates for pipeline and meter installation.
It is not enough to simply onboard new consumers.A good relationship must be maintained with each consumer to retain them. CGD agencies also need to be easily accessible and have quick responses to complaints and emergencies like leaks or fires.
This brings in the need for a consumer care and support team. With the help of this team, CGD agencies must ensure that their consumers get uninterrupted gas supplied to their kitchens without any delays caused by processes or logistics. Technology can play a major role in making the company more accessible and in reducing response times.
Most CGD agencies currently have a lack of internal capabilities to build technology platforms that suit their specific needs. There is also a lack of fit-for-purpose technology. This can hinder the growth of a CGD agency and limit their scope. In most cases, departments work independently, and thus are unaware of each other’s work. This can create transparency issues and harm customer relationships.
For challenges like this CGD agencies must partner with technological solution providers. Technology is constantly evolving and it’s about finding the right technology to match the agency’s needs. Technology can help streamline processes and improve productivity.
It can also open up inter-department communication channels and help workflow at a smoother pace. For example, the billing team could be automatically updated when a new consumer is on-boarded.
For the increasing consumer base to reflect a higher profit, bill generation and payment collection must be accurate and timely. Depending on manual labor to read meters and generate bills has a high risk of error. Misplacing a single digit can have cascading effects. There’s also the issue of delivering these bills to the account holder. Often bills remain unpaid simply because the bill has not been delivered in time.
Digital smart meters could be an effective solution to this issue. Smart meters automate bill generation at the end of each billing cycle and remove the risk of human error. Similarly, accepting bill payments online increases the customer’s convenience and reduces the number of outstanding bills.
Again sensors and IoT can help. These sensors paired with Machine Learning can predict maintenance requirements and thus help project managers be proactive instead of reactive. For example, sensors could be used to measure the gas flow. If it falls below a certain level, an alert would be sounded to indicate a maintenance issue. must also keep a record of all transactions involving the assets. Given the large number of assets needed, managing these projects can be quite challenging. Inspecting every inch of a pipeline can be difficult given how vast this network can be.
Again sensors and IoT can help. These sensors paired with Machine Learning can predict maintenance requirements and thus help project managers be proactive instead of reactive. For example, sensors could be used to measure the gas flow. If it falls below a certain level, an alert would be sounded to indicate a maintenance issue.
As more and more kitchens adopt piped gas in place of LPG cylinders, CGD agencies will have to meet these challenges and rise above them. Adopting modern, technology is the only way out IoT enabled sensors to measure gas flow, smart meters for spot billing and other such smart technological solutions can help CGD agencies scale up to meet the demand and be profitable.