Pole transfers are an unavoidable part of the joint use universe. This business-as-usual task requires resource allocation, time, thought and consistent record-keeping to keep track of what has been requested, how much time has elapsed, what equipment has been transferred and finally whether or not old poles have been removed after work is completed. The list goes on.
As complex as this work can be, the situation gets even dicier when, by virtue of sheer volume, lack of preparedness or a multitude of other reasons, pole transfer requests get out of hand and there are more requests than a company’s internal resources can complete in the contractually allotted time.
Backlogs happen to the best of us. So what can a smart pole owner or attaching company do to get control of transfer requests? We would like to share a few things worth thinking about.
Do you have the manpower to clear your backlogs?
Your resources are likely finely tuned for efficiently and effectively getting typical business-as-usual tasks completed. Backlogs, however, are a different animal that can spark resource contention and internal turmoil. Taking an honest look at your staff capacity to determine if you need the assistance of an outside source to clear backlogs is a wise way to ensure business continues as usual and extra work is completed on time.
Are you prepared for exceptional circumstances?
Weather is not always kind to utility poles and we know that maintenance and replacements must happen. Massive growth in your territory might be great for the local economy, but could mean a backlog of incomplete transfer requests for your business. Special projects take time and resources to complete. You may have the right processes and adequate staff in place to complete your typical amount of transfer requests in a "reasonable timeframe," but what happens when the unforeseen strikes? Are you ready to ramp up?
Are you already the unwitting owner of a collection of decommissioned poles?
If a utility pole transfer request is not completed in the allotted time dictated by contract, ownership of the old pole may be transferred to the delinquent attaching company. With that transfer comes transference of liability as well and attachers can end up owning poles that are unstable, damaged or overloaded. No one wants this type of liability. Field assessments can determine if neglected pole transfer requests have made you the not-so-proud owner of "bad" poles, and if so, help you determine how to release your business from that liability.
Do you have the processes and tools in place to keep backlogs from happening?
How do you initiate or respond to pole transfer requests? By emailed PDF? By a locally served spreadsheet? By passenger pigeon? (We doubt that one, but are rarely surprised.) Trading inadequate and unsuitable technology for an imminently updatable, shared online solution that puts all information about poles, other jointly-owned field assets, transfers and contracts at your fingertips can help you stay out of the backlog danger zone and keep a tight reign on transfers.
Getting control of pole transfer requests is all about asking the right questions and taking a hard look at the processes and work streams you have in place. Dig into the details and you may avoid digging out from under a mountain of backlogs in the future.