posted on November 30, 2011 11:42
The Charlotte City Council voted Monday, November 28th to replace approximately 68,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD)water meter electronic transmitters at the manufacturer's expense. Customers that have a transmitter that will be replaced will get a letter in the mail with more details.
The change out will start December 1st and run through April. During the change out procedure, steps will be taken to confirm that the water usage sent by the transmitter to the billing system matches what is on the mechanical register at the meter. Any discrepancy in the customer's favor will result in a billing adjustment.
Analysis by CMUD shows that less than 10 percent will likely fail in the field but proactive replacement will further ensure accurate billing.
Over the last eighteen months, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department has worked to implement a new corporate culture that includes proactively examining processes, systems and procedures in an effort to continuously improve overall customer service performance at the utility. This shift includes ongoing meter equipment audits coupled with new pre-billing procedures put in place to verify and confirm billing accuracy. Due to these internal quality assurance process changes, CMUD identified the potential for a certain model of electronic meter transmitters to fail in the field.
As a part of the 40-point customer service improvement plan, CMUD implemented new quality assurance process changes that led the utility to discover the potential for a certain model of electronic meter transmitters to fail in the field. The transmitters convert water usage information measured by the meter and register into electronic data and send it via a radio signal to the meter reading trucks.
The potential malfunctions are related to a particular batch of electronic components used by the manufacturer during a certain time period. CMUD is able to identify the locations where this equipment is installed through the serial numbers of the equipment. When the transmitters do malfunction, they transmit the water usage information from the meter as either too low or too high.
Accurate billing is of the utmost importance to CMUD. There is a multi-step process in place that includes checking water usage for anything that is exceptional when compared to the historical usage. Also, new quality assurance measures include checking random equipment in the field as an ongoing audit program, conducting pre-bill checks of high exceptions before issuing bills and, finally, if there is a post-billing issue, a high bill inspection is conducted. If a discrepancy is discovered in the customer’s favor, an account credit is applied and the customer is contacted by phone.
For the replacement project, these additional checks will be made:
• Field-to-Billing Quality Assurance
The manufacturer will perform random field audits on 5 percent of all work and report weekly. Audits will check for accurate data collection and proper installation of all new equipment by each technician. External water faucets will be used to increment the new equipment slightly to ensure that everything is working properly at the time of install. CMUD will also perform ongoing random quality field audits of work as it is completed.
• Periodic and Final Validation
CMUD will perform a field validation when the manufacturer has completed approximately 50 percent of the replacements. A second validation will be conducted when the replacements are 90 percent complete.
• Billing Staff will audit data as it is reported prior to billing
CMUD staff will compare the data to prior historical billing information and if exceptional water usage is noted, another field check read will be performed prior to billing