Should you hire a contractor to upgrade your meters?
So, your utility has decided to upgrade to an automated meter reading system? You know all your meters must be replaced, but should your staff replace them or should you hire an outside contractor?
Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of both options…
Replacing meters using existing staff
The primary advantage of having your own field staff replace meters is the cost savings. If your existing field staff is able to replace the meters without working overtime, you won’t incur any additional labor cost.
However, if you are using existing staff, chances are they have other job responsibilities besides changing out meters. This means they won’t be able to dedicate all their time to replacing meters, making the project take longer to complete. If you have a major leak and need extra help to repair it, the technicians tasked with changing meters are often the first to be called.
Using an outside contractor
An outside contractor is dedicated to the task of replacing meters, regardless of what else is happening in your utility. If you have a water main break, contractors don’t get pulled off the job to repair the leak and meters continue to be changed out.
You won’t realize the full return on investment for your new automated meter reading system until all of your meters have been replaced with radio read meters. If there is a deadline for the project to be fully implemented, it might be wise to consider hiring a contractor.
Another advantage to hiring a contractor is many contractors are able to provide a data file with meter change-out information. If your billing system can import and update a meter change-out file, this can greatly reduce the data entry time required for your billing staff to enter all the meter change-outs.
The obvious disadvantage to hiring an outside contractor is cost. The contractor is going to have to be paid and this cost needs to be factored into the overall cost of the project.