116 THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY NISC | 50 YEARS OF INNOVATION AND MEMBER SERVICE THE POWER OF AUTOMATION: HELPING A COOP MANAGE AN OIL BOOM When Williston, North Dakota, was just a sleepy town on the prairie, the workflow at Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative was slow and steady. Then a new method of drilling transformed the nearby Bakken oil field, and a modern-day gold rush ensued. Along with new drilling rigs came new businesses, new residents — and massive new demand for electricity. In 2006, Mountrail-Williams serviced 7,300 meters. The growth gained steam in 2010, and by 2017, they had almost 20,000 meters. In a decade, the population of Williston boomed from 12,000 to about 28,000 (plus thousands more temporary workers), and the energy sold by Mountrail-Williams rose from 238 to 2,600 megawatt hours. How did the co-op handle the challenge of almost tripling in size? For General Manager Dale Haugen, there’s only one answer: NISC and the power of automation. “The integration of software brought our departments in sync and enabled Mountrail-Williams to be successful in making it on top of this Bakken oil boom,” he says. “Without it, I don’t know where we would have been.” Employees at Mountrail-Williams were overwhelmed by the demands of filling new service orders, setting up new accounts, updating billing, installing new meters, staking poles and mapping locations. A consultant analyzed the co-op’s workflow, and Mountrail-Williams used the integrated NISC software to move through each task seamlessly, with products such as AppSuite, Mobile WorkForce and SmartHub. At certain designated steps, the software triggered an alert that someone needed to sign off on the completion of the task. NISC provided training to employees to help them use the software to add efficiency. “We grabbed hold of all of the technology they pushed to us,” says Haugen. “That was the only way we were going to make it.” In 2017, with an international oil glut, the intense demand has subsided, and Mountrail-Williams has a chance to catch its breath. The co-op is building a new office, after years of working in temporary modular buildings. Vern Dosch spoke at the co-op’s Annual Meeting and lauded the co-op’s members for their role in supporting the success of Mountrail-Williams. He received a standing ovation. “He made the members proud,” says Haugen. But Haugen also returns the compliment: “It’s because of him — and NISC — that we were successful. Otherwise, we could not have managed all the things we did in six years.” With the production and processing needs from grasshopper oil pumps, the number of meters serviced by Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative in Williston, North Dakota, nearly tripled between 2006 and 2018. Photo courtesy of Basin Electric Cooperative.