Prior to its work with Urbint, SEMCO Energy assets consistently sustained over 400 damages from third-party excavators each year. Despite the best efforts of SEMCO to expand awareness of 811 laws and to apply positive response, damage figures remained persistent.
The company needed a solution that enabled its damage prevention personnel to target the upcoming excavations most likely to result in damage to its assets.
In 2020, SEMCO initiated a pilot implementation of Urbint for Damage Prevention.
Urbint uses machine learning to determine which 811 tickets are at disproportionately high risk of causing severe damage to underground infrastructure. (High-risk excavations are up to five times more likely to damage infrastructure than average.)
Urbint software analyzes hundreds of risk variables from utilities’ historical incident data and the Urbint Model of the World — a dynamic representation of the natural and built environment that includes soil conditions, elevation, weather, population density, construction, and other factors. By assessing this information, Urbint is able to spotlight the upcoming excavations likely to damage a utilities’ most critical assets (and the ones where interventions would distract from reducing noteworthy damages).
The Urbint solution multiplies the impact of a utility’s damage prevention field team. By identifying patterns in data that a person cannot, Urbint empowers damage prevention specialists to concentrate on the most critical projects, amplifying their capabilities and making them more effective at locate prioritization, site inspections, and other interventions.
The pilot began in December 2020, after which SEMCO Energy expanded deployment to all areas of operation. Over the next three years, the utility saw significant reductions in damages to its underground assets for the first time, reducing damages 6% year-over-year.
Certain operating divisions experienced even stronger improvements. SEMCO’s Battle Creek division saw a 40% decrease in damage in 2022, which company executives have attributed to use of Urbint for Damage Prevention. Similarly, the company’s northern division saw a 29% reduction in damages.
SEMCO has also noted a strong improvement in its relationships with third-party excavators and other contractors since deploying Urbint.
“Sometimes a contractor’s first interaction with us might have been us responding to a hit and … them getting a bill for the damage,” says Marc Simone, Vice President of Operations and Engineering at SEMCO Energy. “[Urbint] helps us get out in front of these. Before there’s a damage… they can put a face to the company, they get our card, and they get a number to call.”
Yet, SEMCO insists the most significant impact has come from the depth of professional service the utility receives from Urbint’s customer success team.
“We’re going into our third year with Urbint, and … the responsiveness of everyone at Urbint has been fantastic,” says Simone.
“That, quite frankly, is worth more to me than the product [by itself]. It’s the thought process of keeping your mind open, always looking for new ideas.”
“We’re going into our third year with Urbint, and … the responsiveness of everyone at Urbint has been fantastic.”
Urbint is proud to partner with SEMCO Energy in lowering operational risk to its critical infrastructure. By combining people, process, and technology, Urbint and SEMCO are forging a new way forward in preventing damage to utility pipelines, improving relationships with excavators, and developing approaches that reduce risk for the company and communities across Michigan.