When it comes to stepping up our reliability efforts, there’s nowhere we won’t go for our customers – even when it requires navigating tough to reach areas. We just rely on a little help from some mighty yet nimble machines, our flex tracks.  

Recently, the tool came to the rescue for a crew working to strengthen our system, including fusing and replacing lines and poles in a rural area just outside Coldwater. 

Instead of trekking their heavy equipment across a corn field to the wooded area, they simply loaded it onto the flex track and headed to the job site. And rather than climbing poles, they used the flex track bucket to get into the sky. What does that mean for you? In short, less time without power. 

In the above example, work that would’ve previously taken several hours to complete took less than one with this new technology – leading to reduced outage times. 

“The flex track is a great tool for the customer because it allows them to get their power restored in a shorter amount of time,” said Cheyenne Abnet, a lineworker in charge out of Coldwater. “And it’s great for our workers because it allows them to work safer.” 

For instance, when customers’ yards become too saturated after rain, we can use flex equipment rather than a bucket truck. This minimizes damage to lawns and landscape, saving the need for the customer to go through the damage claims process, and ultimately saving money.  

So – what are they? 

We have three sizes of flex tracks and each vehicle has a digger derrick for setting poles or a personal bucket for line work. 

  1. A backyard machine can operate in condensed areas and is for wet and delicate surfaces in an urban setting. They’re able to travel over a septic field and other surfaces that can’t handle a lot of weight in one area. 
  2. A mini machine is made for areas that are still size restricted but larger than a backyard machine. 
  3. A large machine used for open fields or swamps up to three feet deep that a traditional bucket truck wouldn’t be able to access. These play a critical role during storm restoration. 

Flex tracks will continue to help drive the Reliability Roadmap, our plan for a smarter and stronger electric grid. In addition to the new flex tracks, the roadmap includes investments in smart technology and automation, forestry work and infrastructure upgrades. It’s a blueprint for serving Michigan today while investing and innovating to meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

When asked about his feelings on the reliability work the team is doing, Abnet said “I love this work because it helps my community. The people I know, the people I drive by and the people I talk to. They count on us. We provide a sense of relief, a sense of security.” 

 Related blogs:

Consumers Energy Announces Reliability Roadmap to Achieve Fewer, Shorter Power Outages

Next Up in the Reliability Roadmap Journey: Iron Poles

Next Up in the Reliability Roadmap Journey: Burying the Lines