Category Archives: Operational Efficiency

Quocirca Geospatial Intelligence eBook

Quocirca Geospatial Intelligence

On The Move

eBook

Mobile GIS enables improved customer service by getting the right field worker to the right place as quickly as possible. However the capability extends further, to enable field worker activity and status tracking, which protects their safety and provides insight which allows operations managers to adapt priorities and make the right decisions in response to events on the ground.
Using out of the box GIS mobile Apps has allowed organisations to increase field worker productivity by up to 20%, by enabling them to stay organised, report progress, call for assistance, remain productive and minimise travel. At the same time data quality is significantly improved – if you get the data right first time and at the point of capture then costly errors further down the line are avoided.
In essence, field workers collect data through common or rugged mobile devices and that status information and the data collected is available immediately back at the office, viewable on a real time dashboard. Organisations like Thames Water, Westminster City Council, Colas, Willis Group and many more have seen significant benefits from this approach.
Independent analysts Quocirca investigated this technology and the benefits to organisations adopting it. Their conclusions are set out in this eBook. Download the eBook free now to find out more…

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Education Authority Northern Ireland

Driving changes in school transportation

Parents in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, can now use an ingenious little web app to check if their children are eligible for school bus travel and apply online. The solution, developed by Esri Ireland, has received enthusiastic feedback from families following a highly successful pilot.

Greater convenience and better information for parents

Potential time savings of over 58 days a year, when the app is rolled out nationally

More accurate address information to assist decision making

The Challenge

Among its numerous responsibilities, the Education Authority is required to facilitate transportation for pupils who live more than a stipulated distance away from their allocated grant-aided school. Northern Ireland is a predominantly rural country and, as a consequence, over 90,000 children are eligible for free travel on school buses. Every summer the Education Authority must consider in excess of 25,000 new applications in time for the start of the academic year. It is a very complicated process, which involves measuring the walking distance to school for each individual applicant and ensuring that

all decisions about whether or not to fund transportation are made both quickly and fairly. Until recently, this entire process was driven by information collected and communicated in paper-based forms.

“The time had come to change this,” says Dale Hanna, transport manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region. “We want to make it really easy for parents to find out if their children are eligible for free travel and then submit accurate information for the application process online.”

“ When the GIS web app is rolled out nationally, we expect to save over 58 says a year, which will free up staff to focus on delivering other important educational services

Dale Hanna – transport manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region

The Solution

To help it achieve its goal, the Education Authority approached Esri Ireland and asked it to use Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) technology to create a web-based app that would be mobile friendly and accessible 24/7. Developed using Esri’s ArcGIS Platform, the solution integrates live Ordnance Survey map services and address data from Land and Property Services (LPS).

This ingenious app is now up-and-running as a pilot and available to parents of pupils moving from primary to post-primary education in the Dungannon area. When parents log in, a screen is presented that is already prepopulated with all of the pupil’s details. A map view shows the street where the pupil lives and an arrow marks the assumed location of the house or flat. If the arrow is in the wrong place, parents can simply slide the map using their touch screen or curser to indicate the precise location of the property.

When parents tap the ‘submit’ button, the GIS-based app automatically calculates walking distances. If the pupil is clearly eligible, parents will receive an instant ‘yes’ response, and their application is automatically forwarded to the transportation team.  Equally, if the pupil is evidently not eligible, parents are immediately notified.  In other cases, such as if pupils live in areas marginally outside the eligible distance, the applications are forwarded for more detailed consideration. “It’s beautifully simple, yet a terrific demonstration of the power of digital geography,” says Eamonn Doyle, chief technical officer at Esri Ireland.

“ This app moves our engagement with citizens to the next level and, in doing so, improves the quality of service to our customers

Colm Daly – information manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region

The Benefits

A convenient service for parents
The school transport app has transformed the quality and availability of information for parents. In the majority of cases, parents can get an instant answer to the question ‘is my child eligible for school transport?’  Parents also have the convenience of being able to apply for transportation online, and don’t have to fill in lengthy forms. “The feedback from parents has been very positive,” says Colm Daly, information manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region. “This app moves our engagement with citizens to the next level and, in doing so, improves the quality of service to our customers.”

Greater public confidence
The new online app also helps to give parents a better understanding of the eligibility criteria for school transport and instils greater confidence in the application process. Whereas previously, the Education Authority only received a postal address for applicants in its paper forms, it now receives emails with a precise map and the coordinates of pupils’ homes. “This helps us to make better, faster decisions,” Daly states, adding that, “the app may over time reduce costly appeals.”

Improved operational efficiency
The Education Authority can now operate more efficiently in the pilot area, as it no longer has to waste time processing applications from parents who have used the app and discovered that they are not eligible. “In our Dungannon pilot, 15% of the people who used our app received a ‘no’ response,” explains Hanna.  “We estimate that it takes 10 minutes to manually process a ‘no’ application, so in the pilot phase alone we saved over one working day. Across the whole of Northern Ireland there are around 2500 ‘no’ applications every year. When the GIS web app is rolled out nationally, we expect to save over 58 days a year, which will free up staff to focus on delivering other important educational services. Additional efficiencies are achievable by future advancements in integration with our back office systems.”

Enhanced data quality
One additional, unexpected, benefit has emerged, as Daly explains. “Because parents can correct the locations of their homes on the online map, they are effectively doing quality control on the address data and that’s pretty interesting from a GIS perspective. It means that we can actually go back to LPS and other data providers in the future and supply them with updates. I don’t think that anybody else in the UK or indeed in Europe is doing that right now.”

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Wiltshire Council

Pursuing savings, service improvements and efficiencies

Following the launch of a new data collection solution for mobile workers, Wiltshire Council has identified savings of £275,000, over a five year period, in one department alone. It now plans to roll-out mobile apps to additional business teams in an initiative that is expected to both improve public services and lead to further cost reductions.


Case study – Government


Esri’s ArcGIS Collector app allows teams to collect and edit asset information in the field and makes updates instantly visible to colleagues

Citizens benefit from improved public safety and enjoy council amenities that are more proactively maintained

Plans to extend the use of mobile GIS are expected to contribute to further savings in other departments and a reduction in the council’s carbon footprint

The Challenge

“Everybody matters” according to Wiltshire Council’s well publicised mission statement, and it is this fundamental principle that undoubtedly guides and shapes public services in the county. Like all local government organisations, however, Wiltshire Council has to balance its desire to improve its services with the omnipresent pressure to reduce costs. It also has to consider the environmental impact of its services and minimise its carbon footprint.

The highways team within Wiltshire Council was keen to adopt more mobile working practices to help it deliver a top quality public service more efficiently, and sustainably. The team was working from paper maps in the field and a great deal of time was spent travelling to and from the office, as well as transferring data from paper records to IT systems. Inevitably, data inconsistency issues arose occasionally, and the council didn’t want to risk key decisions being made on asset information that was out-of-date or inaccurate.

“ We have a responsibility to make sure that taxpayers’ money is spent in the best way that it can be. If we are reducing the amount of time and petrol wasted, we can deliver more efficient and proactive services to benefit the population

Julie Seddon – Solutions Manager for Spatial Information at Wiltshire Council

The Solution

Wiltshire Council had been using geographic information system (GIS) technology from Esri UK for the last four years and had an Enterprise License Agreement that gave it unlimited access to Esri’s ArcGIS platform. Therefore, there was no need to invest in any additional software. Matt Rudd and Lauren Wilson from the Spatial Information Team hadn’t developed mobile apps before but, following a one-day JumpStart training programme delivered by Esri UK, they had all the skills and confidence they needed to implement a new mobile GIS.

The solution the council developed specifically for the highways team runs on Samsung tablets and comprises three ArcGIS Collector Apps – drainage, fixed assets (benches, railings, bollards etc.) and play areas. It also includes four supplementary ArcGIS Online Viewer Apps for street litter, grounds maintenance, street cleaning and winter maintenance.

Twenty four highways employees now have access to the mobile apps to identify and plan the areas they wish to survey. Then, once they are at those locations, they use ArcGIS Collector to collect information about specific assets on their tablets, take and save photographs, update records and log changes in the condition of assets as necessary

If highways employees are working in areas with 3G coverage, their asset updates are instantly conveyed to the council’s central GIS. However, when they are working in locations where the mobile signal is poor, such as on Salisbury Plain, their updates are saved on the tablets and synchronised later. Julie Seddon, Solutions Manager for Spatial Information at Wiltshire Council, believes that this capability is critical for successful mobile working. “Wiltshire is such a rural county that offline functionality is absolutely key,” she says.

“ With one central source of master data, we now have up-to-date, accurate drainage and highways asset information that everyone in the council can rely upon. This improves our decision making and, ultimately, the services we deliver to the public

Julie Seddon – Solutions Manager for Spatial Information at Wiltshire Council

Benefits

The Head of Local Highways and Parking Services, Adrian Hampton, calculated that use of the mobile GIS would lead to a £30,000 saving per year on petrol and other travel expenses, as employees no longer have to make so many journeys between the office and the field. Time savings and other process efficiencies contribute a further £24,000 cost reduction, creating a total annual saving of £55,000 or £275,000 over five years. “This is an exceptional result, considering that the highways mobile solution cost just £250 to create in staff time,” says Seddon.

Within months of rolling out the highways solution, it became clear that this practical app could revolutionise the way in which many different council teams worked. The Spatial Information Team therefore started working with other business units, such as emergency planning, and expects to roll-out mobile GIS apps to further teams during the year. The potential five-year savings for the council could therefore increase further in the near future.

Wiltshire Council has yet to calculate the carbon savings that it will achieve from more extensive use of mobile GIS across the unitary authority. However, it is already clear that the reduction in unnecessary journeys and petrol usage will have an important benefit for the environment.

Most significantly, the council has been able to improve its public services, alongside achieving cost and carbon savings. Employees in the highways team can spend more time in the field, managing the conditions of assets, so citizens benefit from better quality amenities like play areas and cycle railings.

Broken equipment can be identified and isolated promptly, so public safety is improved, and the council less exposed to risk. Seddon explains: “If we can proactively capture information about the condition of assets and instigate repairs more quickly, we can reduce claims and safeguard our communities.”

Finally, the highways live master data captured in the field can be shared with all GIS users via ArcGIS Desktop, LocalView Fusion or ArcGIS Collector within the council. “With one central source of master data, we now have up-to-date, accurate drainage and highways asset information that everyone in the council can rely upon,” Seddon enthuses. “This improves our decision making and, ultimately, the services we deliver to the public.”

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National Grid: Gas Distribution

Re-energising a business with fully integrated GIS systems

National Grid has rolled out Esri’s ArcGIS platform as part of a business transformation programme that is expected to lead to cost savings of around £35 million per year. Up to 5,000 employees now use ArcGIS to work more productively, improve operational efficiency and make better informed decisions.

– Gas Distribution –


Case study – Gas


The Customer

National Grid plc is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world. It owns and operates gas distribution assets, which deliver energy to millions of homes and businesses right across Great Britain and the North East USA.

National Grid’s Gas Distribution business has replaced 40 business systems with just four – one of which is ArcGIS – to simplify and optimise its systems landscape

The organisation is saving time and improving its overall efficiency in areas including network design and data capture in the field

The integration of GIS with SAP eliminates data duplication and makes more accurate information available to support decision making

The Challenge

In an industry that is heavily monitored and increasingly competitive, the judgments of the regulator are of utmost importance. Ofgem’s comparator ratings of National Grid’s Gas Distribution business had fallen significantly behind those of its UK peers. Furthermore, National Grid’s customer satisfaction statistics in this division were also lower than both its own expectations and the industry average.

These factors together provided National Grid with compelling evidence of the need for change in its Gas Distribution business. The company wanted to urgently improve its standing with Ofgem, but it also had to start to prepare for the new challenges it would face in the future.

Pete Massey, Director of the company’s Gas Distribution Transformation Programme, explains: “We were not performing as strongly as our peers in the industry, but this wasn’t our only concern. We saw that the world was changing to be much more customer focused, more innovative and cost-conscious. This new world that we were moving into was going to be even more challenging and would stretch our capabilities to the limit, so we knew that we had to transform.”

“ Most of our activities are location based, so we could see we needed to get more of our processes on digital maps and make GIS capabilities accessible to employees right across the business

Pete Massey – Director of Gas Distribution Transformation Programme, National Grid

The Solution

As a core part of its business transformation, National Grid took the radical decision to reduce its business systems from forty to four to create a simplified, standardised and integrated systems landscape. National Grid had been using Esri Geographic Information System (GIS) solutions for many years, and this was the only solution carried forward to the new IT environment. Here, Esri’s ArcGIS software was integrated with the SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system, the SAP Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) and Syclo mobile applications.

The organisation recognised that Esri’s ArcGIS technology was the most intuitive way for users to work with network asset information, so it decided to make mapping technology accessible to the majority of its 5,000 UK employees, including its customer call centre staff and mobile engineers. “Most of our activities are location based, so we could see we needed to get more of our processes on digital maps and make GIS capabilities accessible to employees right across the business,” Massey says.

“ We have reduced a complex nine-step business process to six integrated stages, which has improved our efficiency significantly

Pete Massey – Director of Gas Distribution Transformation Programme, National Grid

Benefits

National Grid has succeeded in fundamentally changing the way that it works. It has redesigned many of its most critical business processes, to significantly improve cost efficiency and employee productivity. National Grid estimates that its entire transformation programme will deliver a cost saving of £35 million per year. “The use of GIS is a key part of this saving and provides new insights into our asset and business performance,” Massey says.

Previously, National Grid created designs for network extensions and replacements on paper and then manually generated the corresponding work orders. Now, engineers design new networks directly on maps in ArcGIS, and the work orders are produced automatically from these digital designs. “We have reduced a complex nine-step business process to six integrated stages, which improves our efficiency,” says Massey. “Our new integrated process also enables us to improve the accuracy of our cost estimates and cost tracking, create more precise network designs, make planned network changes more visible to the entire business and reduce the likelihood of manual errors.”

The use of ArcGIS on portable computers enables National Grid’s mobile engineers to locate assets and jobs much more easily and work more productively. If the ‘as-built’ infrastructure differs from the network plan, data capture technicians can easily mark up any changes on the asset map while in the field. These changes are sent automatically to a central quality assurance team and, from there, asset updates are fed directly into SAP. “The whole process is much slicker and a lot more efficient,” says Massey.

The integration of GIS with SAP eliminates data duplication and inconsistency and makes more accurate asset information accessible to support decision making. Highly intuitive, the GIS design solutions and simpler business processes have been a hit with employees.

“ The whole process is much slicker and a lot more efficient

Pete Massey – Director of Gas Distribution Transformation Programme, National Grid

The Future

National Grid is now considering the creation of online mapping solutions and GISbased ‘apps’, enabling consumers to more easily check the status of works in their neighbourhoods, book appointments and report faults. These new customer services, together with the efficiency and process improvements already achieved, are expected to lead to higher Ofgem rankings, stronger performance against industry peers and rising customer satisfaction.

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WSP Global

Creating an informed enterprise

Engineering company WSP Global has used Esri’s ArcGIS platform to make spatial data and GIS capabilities accessible to 2,800 employees in its UK business. This enterprise-wide solution, named iGIS, helps the company to work more efficiently, save money and deliver a higher quality of service for its customers.


Case study – Private Sector


The Customer

WSP Group plc is a global management and engineering consultancy. Whether designing, building or maintaining roads, bridges or civic amenities, knowledge of the built and natural environment is essential to their business and that of their clients.

Consultants can arrive on site better informed and produce high quality presentation materials, helping to improve customer service

The company saves money by eliminating unnecessary duplication and data management costs

iGIS allows employees to work more productively, so tasks that used to take hours can now be completed in a fraction of this time

The Challenge

When planning new road links, staff need to know the location of existing transport routes and centres of population; when designing new amenities, they need to know what environmental constraints might exist. The challenge was to make this information readily available to support staff in their day-to-day role.

Previously, WSP had a single data repository (including Ordnance Survey, NAVTEQ and demographic data), but used two different Esri tools for working with it: ArcIMS for around 100 non-specialist users, and ArcGIS Desktop to provide advanced functionality to around 300 specialists. WSP wanted to make data available to all 2,800 employees, irrespective of location and level of GIS expertise. Consequently, any new system had be intuitive and easy-to-use.

“ We wanted to give our employees easier access to maps and enable them to obtain the geographic information they need without having to ask a GIS specialist 

David Edem – UK GIS Manager at WSP

The Solution

Esri’s ArcGIS Server was identified as the best solution, partly because the Flex API (Application Programming Interface) in v9.3 makes it easy to create customised mapping applications, combining web services from ArcGIS Server with other web content, for delivery over an intranet or the web.

In addition, WSP chose Google Maps API Premier to provide access to background mapping and Google AJAX Search API for location finding.

Within four months, WSP developed a corporate mashup called iGIS to deliver GIS services to its UK employees. It integrates Google base maps and location services with the WSP’s geographic data assets and the powerful geo-processing capabilities of ArcGIS Server, which makes many terabytes of data instantly accessible across the entire UK operation.

The result is a user-friendly mapping application that allows users to perform such tasks as query population statistics by area, undertake proximity searches, sketch site boundaries and print maps on demand.

“ iGIS is rapidly becoming an essential business tool that is used regularly by a wide range of employees 

David Edem – UK GIS Manager at WSP

Benefits

Adoption was rapid (760 staff in the first fortnight and more than half the 2,800 UK staff within months) and the benefits too.

Data and functionality previously available to a few specialists is now available to all, taking GIS to new areas of the business. The intuitive iGIS interface, coupled with standard templates for figures and plans, has enabled GIS novices to produce high quality work for clients, including simple site location plans, analysing the demographics of an area, or undertaking complex spatial searches.

What previously took hours to pull together is now available in a fraction of the time, which is important in a business where many projects are charged on an hourly basis. iGIS allows WSP consultants to arrive on site with better knowledge of likely ground conditions and to offer a quicker, lower cost and higher quality service to clients.

ArcGIS Server has revolutionised data management: by having a central online data catalogue, WPS has saved money by eliminating unnecessary duplication and monitoring group spend more effectively to negotiate better rates.

Directors at WSP have been very impressed: “This is an exciting development of our GIS capability, which will materially improve the speed and efficiency of the delivery of a wide range of our project technical activities, calculations and presentation material,” says Mike Sheehan, Director, WSP Group. “iGIS helps to keep WSP competitive and stand out in the marketplace.”

Driven by positive feedback from staff and high demand, WSP plans to expand iGIS in the UK by adding further datasets and functionality and to roll it out globally across the entire group.

Recent improvements include adding new environmental and cultural heritage datasets and there are plans to add a geological map library catalogue showing where paper-based mapping has been purchased and where it is held.

In addition, WSP plans to use ArcGIS Server to develop value-added services for clients, whowill be able to access their own data, analyse the results, drill down into layers of information and print their own maps, all via a secure login.

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Yarlington Housing Group

Saving time and money when sourcing Ordnance Survey data

After selecting Esri’s ArcGIS platform for its first ever corporate GIS solution, Yarlington Housing Group (YHG) turned to Esri UK for help and advice in sourcing and loading data from Ordnance Survey and other third parties. The support and expertise provided by Esri UK’s Data Services group equipped the organisation with precisely the data it needed saving weeks of effort.

The Customer

Yarlington Housing Group (YHG) provides affordable housing across the South West of England, owning and managing over 9,000 properties in Somerset, Devon and Dorset. Working closely with local authorities, the group provides homes to rent and also offers Government-funded schemes to give people the chance to buy their own home. Based in Yeovil, YHG employs over 300 staff and was established in 1999 through a Large Scale Voluntary Transfer.

Esri UK’s Data Services professionals saved YHG around two weeks of time, by supplying data in precisely the right format for its GIS

The data experts were able to advise YHG on the most appropriate data types to acquire to deliver added benefits for the business

YHG asserts that Esri UK’s data services delivered better value for money than similar services offered by other vendors

The Challenge

YHG wanted to create a new corporate geographic information system (GIS), from which the entire housing association would benefit. By combining data from Housing Management, Asset Management, Workflow Management Tool, Repairs and Services, the company-wide GIS would give a complete view of the business and deliver valuable new insights in order to make informed strategic decisions and for users to quickly access and view information collated from a range of disparate systems in one central location.

With no previous GIS at YHG, the group had already decided to use Esri UK’s ArcGIS as its new GIS platform, but needed the most suitable Ordnance Survey (OS) data to underpin it.

“Embarking on a GIS project with such far-reaching implications meant expectations were high, so we needed the best approach to source our OS data,” explained Chris Reed, GIS Administrator, Yarlington Housing Group. “Customer service, housing specific knowledge, data quality, efficiency and costs were the main drivers behind our search for a supplier.”

After examining the market, YHG concluded that Esri UK could meet its OS data needs and offer other invaluable benefits.

“ The Esri approach presented a seamless OS dataset ready for use, resulting in an efficient integration into the GIS. We were up and running in a fraction of the time compared to buying data on its own

Chris Reed – GIS Administrator, Yarlington Housing Group

The Solution

For our initial phase of the implementation, YHG selected a combination of OS OpenData services, OS mastermap and OS 1:25 000 Scale Raster for its base map data but recently updated the raster data to VectorMap Local following Esri UK’s recommendation. Delivered in file-geodatabase format and already set-up to the group’s specific scale, style and projection criteria, the new data was supplied optimised and cached for their GIS.

“While VectorMap Local was more expensive, we felt it presented better value for money for the organisation. It provided a greater level of flexibility by having a number of different map styles and had all the benefits of vector data, such as the ability to carry out analysis, feature integration and calculations. We were also able to take advantage of a three year contract providing a year’s cost saving compared to an annual agreement,” explained Chris Reed. “Esri provided the OS data in the correct format for our GIS and its bespoke service meant data arrived just for the area we needed, with the correct cartographic layer .mxd files, styled to our requirements.”

At no additional cost, Esri UK also provided a cache of the base-map data, geo-coded property lists and online data services such as OS OpenData, already pre-cached and in the correct format.

“Esri UK’s data consultants are experts in the housing sector and could therefore recommend and supply the most appropriate OS data,” said Chris Reed. “But it was the extra services they offered included in the price that made their solution most attractive. The team is very accessible and quick to help with any queries and we’ve built a strong working relationship.”

Another factor in YHG’s decision was that it already had a contract with Esri UK for the GIS software. Being able to deal with the same supplier for its OS data made the whole process easy and straightforward.

“ Esri UK’s data consultants are experts in the housing sector and could therefore recommend and supply the most appropriate OS data

Chris Reed – GIS Administrator, Yarlington Housing Group

Benefits

Selecting Esri UK’s OS data solution has saved the Yarlington Housing Group’s GIS team a significant amount of time and effort.

No extra work was needed to convert or load the data, match tiles or create the desired symbology, as Chris Reed explained: “The Esri approach presented a seamless OS dataset ready for use, resulting in an efficient integration into the GIS. We were up and running in a fraction of the time compared to buying the data on its own.”

Another major time saving has been realised from the map cache. Previously, when YHG had first received its OS Raster data and master maps, creating a cache had taken them several days due to the caching process and processing issues. Now the team simply load the cache into their GIS and it becomes live the same day, with the GIS performance levels that users demand. The cache will also play a vital part in future plans for new web and mobile-based GIS services.

“Overall, the new approach from Esri UK has saved the organisation approximately 2 weeks of development work,” stated Chris Reed. “We no longer have to convert data, geocode properties, create symbology and build a cache, allowing us to focus on developing functionality, data and services that our users require.”

All of Yarlington Housing Group’s OS data needs were met by Esri UK along with the additional value-add offered by their data consultancy services. Data updates are now also provided on a six-monthly basis via ftp download.

“Esri UK has an in-depth understanding of the housing market and sourcing OS data from them has cut significant costs from the whole GIS process,” concluded Chris Reed. “The total solution has cost us the same as other vendors were quoting purely for the data, so we achieved great value for money.”

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Worcestershire County Council

Transforming public services through smart use of GIS

In the rural county of Worcestershire, Esri’s ArcGIS platform is used extensively to help deliver better services for citizens, in the most cost-effective way. The council uses custom-made web mapping services to deliver specific GIS-based solutions to multiple internal departments, as well as partners and the general public.


Case study – Local Government


The Customer

Worcestershire is a predominantly rural county in the West Midlands. The county council formed the Worcestershire Hub in partnership with its six district councils, as the first point of contact for council services.

One award-winning GIS-based solution, Encompass, enables the council to work more efficiently in the management of rights of way

ArcGIS has been used to create a map of heat loss in the county, which helps educate citizens about the importance of insulation and informs fuel poverty measures

Another GIS-based initiative, Total Place, helps the local authority to work more cohesively with voluntary organisations across the county

The Challenge

The council wanted new and innovative ways to work with partner agencies, councils and the public, to deliver better services in a cost-effective way.

“ We wanted to see how we could make better use of our collective properties

Hayley Miles – Land Terrier Officer

The Solution

Geography is the common denominator of council activities, so a central database now stores Geographical Information System (GIS) data that is used in the back office systems and custom-made web pages that underpin many projects: The 3,000 miles of footpaths, bridleways and byways were managed by separate teams. “Some used spreadsheets; others used a database. It was very difficult to get a single view of all rights of way information”, observes Philippa Jaine, Countryside Access GIS Management Officer. A new back office system, Encompass, now stores eight categories of data for every right of way, centrally.

Worcestershire is a pilot member of Total Place, UK-wide initiative to help local public service and voluntary organisations work more cohesively. “We wanted to see how we could make better use of our collective properties”, says Hayley Miles, Land Terrier Officer. Data from Total Place stakeholders was uploaded into the GIS. “We then worked with our GIS team to create a simple, secure web interface to this data, which each of our partners could access.”

“Warmer Worcestershire” was launched to tackle fuel poverty by enabling residents to see how much heat their property is losing. “Our GIS team created the map by overlaying a thermal night-time image of the county onto an Ordnance Survey map”, says Heather Lammas, Assistant Sustainability Officer.

The council had been accessing social care information as tables and lists from its Frameworki database, but it was difficult to cross reference this data and make decisions quickly in emergencies. The GIS team created an interface between Frameworki and its GIS. Individuals with care needs are now shown on an interactive, printable, map that is used to co-ordinate multi-agency responses.

“ I think the sheer variety of GIS-enabled projects we are working on at the council is testament to our belief in Esri technology and the benefits it can have in terms of public service delivery

Mark Smith – Worcestershire County Council’s GIS Team

Benefits

The council works closely with districts to use resources and deliver services more effectively, and is sharing more information with the public online.

“ArcGIS Server is very reliable for us. It also makes it very easy to develop web interfaces”, says Mark Smith of the GIS team. “All the web applications we’ve built refer to the same core set of data, which ensures no duplication and that our work is accurate… We’ve also made it possible to edit this data on the fly. So if one person makes a change, a user of another application can be sure they’re using that same, updated data.”

Developing web-based interfaces is quick, cost-effective and flexible, without the additional licensing costs of developing desktop solutions. The council shares map data with districts through Web Mapping Services (WMS): “We simply broadcast it. It allows applications and other organisations to consume our maps and data without the need for further development”, explains Smith. The benefits are impressive and award-winning:

Encompass won the 2010 Innovation and Best Practice (Local Public Services) Award from the Association for Geographic Information. “Now we can see everything that relates to a right of way in a single location”, confirms Jaine. This means “we never do something like dig up a path one month only to have to re-dig it up the next”.

With Total Place, “We’ve identified opportunities for co-location of police and fire stations”, says Miles. “And by seeing where all available training facilities are, both public and private, it’s easy to share them and save costs or improve service.”

“Warmer Worcestershire” was an instant success, with a survey showing a quarter of respondents had heard of the project, of whom 30% had then insulated their loft, 21% had cavity wall insulation and 6.5% applied for heating grants. Emergency Planning Officer Mike Warner explains that the integration between Frameworki and GIS means “We can brief the right people very quickly. We can plan how we might handle something… We’re now partnering with other councils to show them how they can create the same system that we have.”

The council is using online GIS to inform and serve the public better: Staff and residents can view and log the precise location of problems. “Thanks to GIS access via the website, council staff can focus on other tasks”, says Smith.

“My Local Area” gives a simple, web-based view of everything in a locality, including reported faults, schools, leisure facilities, and areas of environmental importance.

In 2009, the council generated a live map of election results. “This is a perfect application of GIS, as it really made election progress easy to follow”, says Smith.

Local map data is now available online, overlaying new and old data. “Some of this data is hundreds of years old”, says Smith. “Putting it online through GIS aids research into our past, and shows clearly how these locations have developed over time.”

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West Coast Group

Improving operational efficiency with mobile GIS

Field-based surveyors at West Coast Group now use a mobile GIS solution from Esri to help them survey trees and bushes growing in close proximity to electricity cables. The automated process has improved the organisation’s efficiency by 20%, helping it to deliver a better service for its customers.


Case study – Electricity Networks


The Customer

The West Coast Group of Companies is a specialist provider of energy services based in Wales. It provides services to UK electricity network operators through an experienced team of planners, surveyors, engineers and environmental managers.

Use of ArcGIS Mobile enables field-based surveyors to spend up to one day less per week in the office and therefore complete more tree surveys

ArcGIS automatically sends completed survey reports to planners at the end of each day, so there is no longer a delay of three weeks to get reports

The organisation can now alert its customers far more quickly to issues that might impact on public safety or cause a power outage

The Challenge

Electricity network providers in the UK have a statutory duty to ensure that trees and other vegetation do not come into contact with overhead power lines. As a statutory requirement the network providers take their responsibilities extremely seriously because trees can damage electricity cables, causing power cuts and risks to public safety.

West Coast Group carries out vegetation management services on behalf of a number of UK electricity network providers. It conducts on-site surveys of over 3500 km of electricity circuits per year.

Historically planners at West Coast Group would photocopy paper maps and mark sections of power line using a highlighter pen. The company’s surveyors would then take these paper maps into the field, take photographs and manually fill in forms to indicate any vegetation that required cutting or felling. These forms were returned to the office where they were collated and keyed into the back office system to create jobs.

West Coast Group had been using geographic information system (GIS) technology elsewhere in its business for a number of years and realised that it could use GIS to simplify, automate and accelerate this process. Using Esri’s ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS for Mobile solutions, it designed and developed a sophisticated new application that has transformed the way in which it delivers vegetation management services for its clients.

“ We estimate that we have improved the overall efficiency of our vegetation management process by around 20%

Nathan Caley – IT Manager, West Coast Group

The Solution

Planners in West Coast Group’s offices now upload the locations of its clients’ electricity network into ArcGIS, where they are displayed on digital Ordnance Survey maps. The planners then use an electronic highlighter to mark those sections of electricity circuit that are due to be surveyed. The map sections are subsequently sent electronically to the company’s surveyors, enabling these mobile employees to no longer have to go into the office to collect their jobs lists and paper maps.

In the field, West Coast Group’s surveyors view the highlighted circuits on toughened, portable tablet computers. A workflow within a mobile GIS application then guides the surveyors through each required stage in the surveying process. They enter details on the location of trees within the vicinity of overhead power lines, calculating distances, and requirements for road closures, circuit outages, etc. Surveyors also take pictures using the tablet computers and these images are entered directly into the GIS-based reports, attached to specific locations.

At the end of each day, the surveyors synchronise their tablets with the central system, passing their GIS-based survey reports direct to the planners. Icons within the GIS solution clearly show the planners which poles and lines have been surveyed, the locations of trees requiring work, circuit outages, network resilience issues and more. Armed with this information, planners can efficiently group maintenance tasks, allocate jobs and resources to works teams.

“ In the past, there were often considerable differences between the reports produced by our surveyors, because different people had different styles and approaches. GIS has given us greater consistency in data captured and the criteria applied

Nathan Caley – IT Manager, West Coast Group

Benefits

The development of this innovative GIS solution has enabled West Coast Group to save money, work more productively and deliver a far more efficient service to its clients.

Surveyors spend up to a day a week less time in the office, as they no longer have to go in to collect maps and drop off reports. The company’s administrators also save considerable amounts of time, as they no longer have to enter survey reports into the back office systems. In the past, a lot of time used to be absorbed in the office trying to match up photographs with locations, whereas now photographs are automatically assigned to the correct jobs. Nathan Caley, IT manager at West Coast Group says: “We estimate that we have improved the overall efficiency of our vegetation management process by around 20%.”

Previously planners within West Coast Group had to wait for around three weeks to receive survey reports, but they now receive them the very next day. Consequently, if trees have grown too close to the overhead power lines, they can alert the client more quickly and dispatch works teams directly to the sites. This faster response helps West Coast Group’s clients to provide a safer and more reliable service for their customers.

Use of GIS has also led to improvements in the accuracy and consistency of West Coast Group’s surveys. “In the past, there were often considerable differences between the reports produced by our surveyors, because different people had different styles and approaches,” explains Caley. “GIS has given us greater consistency in data captured and the criteria applied.”

West Coast Group believes that its use of GIS is enabling it to deliver a very high quality service to existing and new clients. “Our vegetation management solution gives us a unique selling point that other utility service providers just don’t have,” Caley says.

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