CoCon Systems, Inc., Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, U.S., is offering software that improves control of utility construction and excavation projects. U'Pro Suite is a user friendly set of systems that helps save time and money for planning, quotations, budgeting and "just in time" scheduling for personnel, material and equipment. installed for more than 10 years in Europe at more than 40 utilities, it allows fast and accurate cost estimation, measurement, on-time control and billing for utility construction projects, especially underground.

U'Pro Suite comes in five parts: C'Pro, T'Pro, M'Pro, DB'Pro and C'Pro Analyzer. C'Pro provides: - detailed volume and cost estimates based on a list of activity units and parts and respective price tables. - Requests for proposals (RFPs), price comparison and evaluation of contractors' offers. - On-site measurement with mobile computers and hands-free data flow to the supervisor's desktop and into existing host systems for commercial applications. For instance, given that cross sections of a ditch are close to constant, the volume of dirt removed, sand backfill and dirt backfill can be determined by three formulas, all using the length, depth and width figures. Much time saving results when the three formulas are stored in the computer and the operator has to only insert length, width, before and after depths (instead of nine) figures for the proper estimates. - Bill creation and verification for the contractor's work. - On-time cost control and statistics.

T'Pro is a time and capacity management toll that uses estimated volumes to automatically create a time schedule for the project and compare with existing resources, allowing a smoothening of the work load for expensive resources.

M'Pro is a materials management tool that allows the project supervisor to control the materials (as estimated in C'Pro) on time following the ongoing project, thus reducing unnecessary stock for expensive materials.

DB'Pro is a project database holding all the other data in construction projects such as permits, appointments... everything yet stored in the project folder.

C'Pro Analyzer is a decision-support system that allows flexible analysis of all the invaluable data stored in the U'Pro database.

An example of the benefits and improvements that utilities have enjoyed from using the U'Pro concept is from Stuttgart Power. Time consumption is compared before (=100%) and after introducing C'Pro for projects, showing an average savings of 3.25 hours per project or 6000 hours per year, respectively, because data created in the estimation and measurement process is available on a pushbutton for other purposes.

Detroit Edison Forgoes Switch Replacement When an existing installation has problems, total switch replacement is not always the best option. Another more cost- and time-effective approach may be available.

Detroit Edison, Detroit, Michigan, U.S., was troubled with several three-phase, vertical break air disconnect switches on its system that were not operating properly due to age. To compound the situation, an outage could be scheduled for a maximum of eight hours only. Rather than replace the switches, Detroit Edison contacted Southern States, Hampton, Georgia, U.S., to see if the existing switches could be rebuilt.

Eight weeks later, live parts were delivered to the substation site for each three-phase switch. Existing insulators, bases and control parts were re-used. The switches were back in service within four hours. Material costs were reduced. Installation required fewer man-hours, resulting in additional savings, all without sacrificing quality.

Template and Anchor Speed UG Cable Termination Northern Indiana Public Service Co. is using two tools in direct-buried underground residential distribution systems. The aluminum FORM-A-PAD is a template that holds the primary and secondary underground cables in place for ease in padmounted transformer installation. To eliminate the potential sinking problem, once the padmount template is installed, the SUPPORT-A-PAD transformer stabilizing brackets are installed, giving support from the trench bottom. Once the lid is installed, the padmount unit can be installed without fear of future leaning.

Cathguide Introduces Wire Technology Cathguide Corp., Miami, Florida, U.S., has introduced a new wire technology that draws two or more wires of equal or dissimilar metals into a single entity, using a process that resembles cold alloying. The new wire technology produces an improved combination of properties without disturbing the molecular structure or homogeneity of the original wire components or losing flexibility, according to the manufacturer.

"MFD(tm) wire represents a technological breakthrough impacting positively on applications in the medical, electronics and electrical industries," said Frank Avellanet, president and chief executive officer of Cathguide Corp.

The wire technology can be used in several applications, including in utility and building wire and cable, high performance conductors for computers and telecommunications. It owes its wide range of application possibilities to its superiority over conventional solid and stranded wires and cables, according to the manufacturer. The wire has greater fatigue strength, high flexibility, high torque transmission, high corrosion resistance and low resistivity than conventional wiring. The MFD technology works by combining ferrous, non-ferrous and precious metals.

Cathguide Corp. has filed 10 patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in less than two years and is drafting several more patents.

Ditch Witch Designs New Jet Trac Systems After listening to input from its customers, Ditch Witch(r), Perry, Oklahoma, U.S., has designed and introduced a line of Jet Trac directional boring systems: the JT920L, JT1720, JT2720, JT4020 and the JT7020. These systems mark the first time that a full line of directional boring equipment has been introduced simultaneously by a single manufacturer, according to Ditch Witch.

This family of directional boring systems is designed to place power at the point where it is needed most. Successful bores require the proper balance of torque, speed and fluid - any one key element by itself is meaningless. The Ditch Witch systems ensure that all factors work in tandem for maximum productivity, according to the company.

The Jet Trac family is extensively automated to reduce labor and to speed non-boring activities.

Customer-requested features on the Jet Trac products include on-board fluid mixing and pumping, hydraulic pipe loaders, automatic lubrication for each rod, automatic fluid shutoff at tool joint break-out, operator control similarity and more user-friendly electronics.

Chernobyl Units To Be Decommissioned The Ukraine government is in the process of decommissioning Units 1, 2 and 3 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) in the Ukraine. Plans call for converting the existing location into a switching station. To do this, the utility has called upon Power Distribution Services, Inc. (PDS) to replace the 6-kV switchgear at ChNPP. The contract is worth US$3 million. PDS employs many former Ukrainian and Bellarussian residents. "We are fortunate to have strong engineering and service talent and Russian ties. It was just a matter of time before our strengths were recognized in this area," said William A. McCloy, PDS president.