In a previous article, I wrote about factors to consider when deciding whether to use an outside contractor or your own staff to change meters in preparation for the transition to an automated meter reading system.

Should you decide to hire a contractor, here are some things to keep in mind before turning them loose to start changing meters.

Software interface

Does your billing software have the capability of creating an electronic file of meters to be changed and, in turn, importing those changed meters? Hopefully it can, because updating a mass meter change-out rather than manually entering each change-out is a huge time savings for your billing staff.

Moving meters to a new route

Will your AMR or AMI system use different software for reading the meters than you currently use? If so, these meters will most likely need to be exported in separate interface files. For many billing systems, this means moving the changed-out meters to a different route.

Coordination of the process

An earlier post examined the timing of creating your meter reading file at the right time. The point of that issue was that you shouldn’t create all of your meter reading files at the same time. This is especially true if you are in the midst of a mass meter change-out program.

It is imperative the meter that was loaded in the handheld is the same one your meter reader will encounter when reading that route. Unless you have extremely good communication and coordination with your contractor, creating the reading file too early in the month greatly increases the chance your contractor will have changed the meter by the time that route is read. Creating the reading file the afternoon before or the morning of reading a route virtually eliminates the possibility of this happening.

Photograph of the old meter

Many contractors use tablets or smartphones in the field to log the meter change-out. While negotiating a contract with them, inquire if they can take a digital photograph of the old meter’s register before removing it. This can be most helpful in resolving any disputes with customers over what the correct final reading for the old meter was.

Capture latitude/longitude

Again, many contractors have the ability to capture the GPS coordinates – latitude and longitude – for each meter. If you don’t already have this information stored in your billing system, a mass meter change-out is a great way to capture it.