Category Archives: Mobile Working

Field Studies Council

Inspiring both students and teachers

Each year over 150,000 secondary school students and their teachers visit centres run by the Field Studies Council (FSC) to learn about the environment, undertake fieldwork and explore new scientific techniques. Since 2014 FSC has been embedding Esri’s ArcGIS platform as a core technology to help students acquire real-world skills, as well as supporting teachers in delivering engaging geography lessons with integrated GIS skills.

Students gain first-hand experience of using GIS in the field

Teachers derive inspiration from best practice use of GIS in education

FSC benefits from the support of Esri UK’s education specialists

The Challenge

Geographic information system (GIS) technology now features prominently in both the GCSE and A level geography specifications, and students studying at both levels need to understand how GIS could be used to collect, visualise, analyse and interpret data. However, the use of GIS in schools is often impeded by teachers’ lack of experience and confidence in using the technology, along with challenges of access to hardware in school.

As an environmental education charity that runs thousands of residential and day courses for geography, geology and biology students and professionals every year, the Field Studies Council (FSC) wanted to take a leadership role in the use of GIS in teaching. Rather than rely on simplistic solutions like Google Earth, it wanted to showcase the use of market leading GIS technology and equip both students and teachers with the skills to succeed.

“ Using ArcGIS, students spend more time thinking about what their data means and less time manually creating maps and handling data

David Morgan – Education Technology Officer – Field Studies Council

The Solution

There were two primary reasons why FSC selected Esri’s ArcGIS platform. Firstly, the organisation found the software very intuitive to use and felt it would be an easy system for young people and non-technical, teaching staff to become proficient in. Secondly, FSC felt well supported by Esri UK’s team of education specialists, who were on hand to help FSC employees build their capabilities with the solution and develop teaching resources.

FSC now uses a suite of ArcGIS solutions across all nineteen of its centres in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Students start by performing research using data from Esri’s Living Atlas and ArcGIS Online to explore environmental or geographic issues and develop their knowledge of the study area, helping them to plan their investigations. They then use Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123 for ArcGIS in the field to collect data via mobile devices and undertake studies on anything from glaciated landscapes and the impacts of flooding to human ‘moods’ in urban areas.

All of the data collected in the field using Collector and Survey123 is instantly uploaded to ArcGIS Online on their return to the classroom, so groups do not waste time processing and copying data. They can then view their data alongside that collected by their peers on interactive maps in ArcGIS Online to identify trends and analyse data. The cloud-based nature of ArcGIS Online means that students and teachers can access their project data from home or school after their residential trip.

“ ArcGIS connects students to the real world. It shows them that they are developing skills that have an application in a wide range of careers, beyond school and education

David Morgan – Education Technology Officer, Field Studies Council

The Benefits

An enhanced learning experience
Students that attend FSC courses have an enhanced learning experience, because they can analyse the data they have collected in the field as soon as they get back to the centre and combine their own findings with relevant contextual data, on interactive maps, at the push of a button. “Using ArcGIS, students spend more time thinking about what their data means and less time manually creating maps and handling data,” says David Morgan, FSC Education Technology Officer. “That means learners can spend more time tackling higher level questions and ensure they get the most value from their studies.”

A platform for continued learning
As FSC allows students and teachers to continue to access their own data via ArcGIS Online long after the end of residential courses, students are able to build on what they learned. “For lots of our students, the work that they do on a fieldtrip provides the basis of coursework for their A levels” Morgan says. “With ArcGIS, the data they need for their projects is exactly where they left it, and, most importantly, they know how to analyse it with ArcGIS.”

A demonstration of good practice for teachers
During school visits, teachers are themselves often inspired by FSC’s use of ArcGIS. GIS with the FSC is integrated, student led, differentiated for each student’s ability and broad enough to allow students to self-direct in ways which will support their understanding around a topic. Many teachers return to attend professional courses, run by the FSC, aimed specifically at helping teachers to use ArcGIS to support teaching of GCSEs and A levels, as well as Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland. “When teachers see ArcGIS being used well, they say how can I do that?” Morgan says.

Real-world skills for the future
With access to the latest ArcGIS solutions, students at FSC centres gain experience of using the kinds of GIS tools that professional geographers and ecologists use in their jobs. “ArcGIS connects students to the real world,” observes Morgan. “It shows them that they are developing skills that have an application in a wide range of careers, beyond school and education.”

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Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Driving efficiency improvements in national road surveys

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has deployed a mobile ArcGIS solution to help it automate, standardise and accelerate its annual survey to assess the skid resistance of national roads throughout Ireland. It can now plan and undertake road surface inspections with 20% fewer people, while collecting better data to inform highway improvement programmes.

Mobile inspectors find inspection sites more quickly and collect data more efficiently in the field

Office-based teams don’t waste time printing maps, creating forms, uploading data and filing information

Senior managers monitor and manage progress with real-time insight into the status of surveys

The Challenge

The national road network in Ireland is around 5,300 km long, incorporating multilane motorways and rural single carriageways. Every year, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is required to undertake detailed inspections of around 1,000 locations nationwide that have been identified as potentially posing an increased risk of skidding in the future. While none of the inspection sites present an immediate threat to safety for the general public, TII has to complete its survey within four months, so that recommendations can be acted upon as part of proactive road maintenance activities.

Known as the HD28 survey, the skidding risk assessment used to be a very manual process, demanding a large amount of staff time. Inspectors would be given print-outs showing maps of the locations of inspection sites and would collect road observations and data on paper forms. Typically, they had a bundle of around 40-50 sheets of paper for a week’s work and wasted lots of time in the field trying to find inspection sites, as well as grappling with paper in wet and windy weather. Many days of effort were also required in the office to plan inspections, print maps, report on the survey’s progress, enter the collected data into central systems and file away the paper forms.

“ The mobile survey app and reporting dashboard were created and deployed in just one day by the TII in-house team, with no need for consultancy support

Brendan Kennedy – GIS Manager, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

The Solution

TII completely transformed its paper-driven HD28 survey process using solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform. Using Collector for ArcGIS, the organisation created a mobile app enabling inspectors to see the precise locations of inspection sites on digital maps, collect data in the field using drop-down boxes and upload it directly to Esri’s ArcGIS Online. Critically, the solution works in online and offline modes, so it can be used in rural areas where there is no mobile coverage. TII also used Esri’s Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS to create a live reporting interface for management at TII to monitor the progress of surveys.

Remarkably, TII was able to create this entire solution incredibly quickly, due to the “ease-of-use and flexibility of ArcGIS,” according to Brendan Kennedy, GIS Manager at TII. “The mobile survey app and reporting dashboard were created and deployed in just one day by the TII in-house team, with no need for consultancy support,” he says.

A key advantage of the ArcGIS-based solution is that the app can be used by employees on their own devices, including mobile phones not owned by TII. Users simply download the app and log in with a secure user name and password. “We didn’t have to purchase and deploy tablets or make any other hardware investments, which kept the cost down,” says Kennedy. “We can also flexibly introduce more people to the survey team from our regional offices, when necessary, to help us meet targets.”

 

 

“ Due to staff changes, we have around 20% fewer personnel and yet can still complete the HD28 survey programme within the required timeframe

Tom Casey – Head of Pavements, Construction Materials & Innovation, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

The Benefits

Efficiencies improved by 20%
As employees no longer have to manually plan their surveys and transfer their survey findings from paper to electronic systems, individual efficiencies have increased by around 10-20%. Indeed, TII estimates that six employees each save one month per year as they do not have to print, file, upload and manage hard copy forms and maps. “Due to staff changes, we have around 20% fewer personnel and yet can still complete the HD28 survey programme within the required timeframe,” says Tom Casey, Head of Pavements, Construction Materials & Innovation at TII.

Greater speed and flexibility in the field
Using the ArcGIS mobile app, inspectors waste less time trying to find sites and can complete nearly twice as many inspections in a typical day. “When the process was paper based, I would get through around 7 to 8 inspections per day; with the app I usually do around 15 inspections per day,” estimates Stephen Smyth, Senior Manager for the Pavement Asset Programme. As all the data inspectors need is always with them, on their phones, they can carry out surveys on a more flexible, impromptu basis, at short notice, when they are already in the area, without having to return to the office to collect the necessary paperwork, which significantly improves their efficiency.

Real-time oversight of survey programme
Previously, TII employees had to develop weekly reports on the status of the survey for senior managers. Now, however, real-time information is available on demand, online, allowing managers to monitor and manage the survey process more effectively. “We can identify regions where perhaps an additional inspector is needed to complete a job list and better allocate resources around the country to ensure that the survey is completed as quickly as possible,” Kennedy explains.

Better decisions about road maintenance
The GIS-driven process improves the accuracy and consistency of the survey data collected, which in turn helps TII to make better informed decisions about interventions and restorative roadworks. The organisation can incorporate skid resistance improvement works into other planned road improvement programmes in the same area, reducing the cost of interventions, minimising disruption for road users and maintaining the safety of roads for years to come.

 

 

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The Internet of Things – Why Location Matters eBook

The Internet of Things – Why Location Matters

How location transforms raw data into actionable intelligence

eBook

We are moving rapidly to an ever more connected world and the opportunities for the Telecommunications industry are significant, from new connectivity offerings based on dedicated IoT infrastructure to participating in the data market and the creation of new applications. At the core, since everything happens somewhere and all the things in the IoT have a place, location information is pivotal to maximising the potential and in particular to transforming raw data into valuable, actionable intelligence.

The ‘Internet of Things; Why Location Matters’ ebook is essential reading for understanding this potential, from management of mobile industrial assets and crowdsourcing air quality monitoring to targeted mobile advertising, smarter refuse collection and the Smart Home. It is an essential guide for telecommunications businesses to understand how to leverage the location information that will be the key to realising potential revenue streams from the IoT.

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Thames Water

Improving the efficiency and quality of asset maintenance

Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and wastewater services provider, has cut the time required to survey a pipe bridge from 7-10 days to 2-3 hours, while also improving data quality. Consequently, it can now implement a proactive, condition-based maintenance programme to significantly reduce costs and enhance customer satisfaction.

Thames Water has rapid access to accurate, consistent and complete data on thousands of pipe bridges

Maintenance jobs can be prioritised based on condition and planned proactively to reduce pipe bursts

Employees and contractors can perform pipe repairs more cost efficiently and safely

The Challenge

Throughout London and the Thames Valley region there are over 5,000 bridges that convey fresh or waste water pipes over roads, rivers, canals and gorges. Thames Water wanted to implement a more proactive programme of repairs and upgrades to improve the condition of these bridge-based assets, but did not have a complete, centralised source of information about them that it could use to inform its maintenance planning.

Previously, pipe bridges had been surveyed by Thames Water’s regional teams using paper-based sheets in the field. Employees then typed up their surveys when they returned to the office, wasting time with the potential of manual data entry errors. By centralising its pipe bridge survey process, Thames Water aimed to furnish its master asset database with accurate information on all 5,000 pipe bridges and filter out regional variations in the type and quality of data collected.

“ With Esri UK’s help, not only did we solve the problem of the pipe bridges project, but we also gained a degree of self-sufficiency so that we can go on to develop similar projects within the business in the future

Lawrence Smith – Technical Information Manager, Thames Water

The Solution

Thames Water decided to use a GIS-based mobile data collection app that would integrate with its existing centralised ArcGIS database. The solution had to be highly intuitive as it would be used by employees and contractors within eight2O, an alliance of Thames Water, industry partners and joint ventures, formed to deliver a suite of infrastructure investment programmes on behalf of Thames Water.

With minimal consultancy support from Esri UK’s Professional Services team, Thames Water succeeded in developing a Pipe Bridges Validation app in just 14 working days, while also gaining invaluable new GIS skills. “This was our first foray into GIS online and we saw the project as a pilot with intent,” says Dr Lawrence Smith, Technical Information Manager at Thames Water. “With Esri UK’s help, not only did we solve the problem of the pipe bridges project, but we also gained a degree of self-sufficiency so that we can go on to develop similar projects within the business in the future.”

Now in use throughout all of Thames Water’s regions, the Pipe Bridges Validation app draws in existing asset information from ArcGIS Server to partially populate the survey ‘form’ on mobile devices. Employees edit, correct and supplement this information while in the field and, as key fields are mandatory, Thames Water is able to ensure that each pipe bridge survey records the same attributes and information. The data collected is then made available to a secondary app in ArcGIS Online for checking and verification, before being transferred without any additional data entry, into the master database in ArcGIS Server. Managers have a range of reporting tools that they can use to track the progress of surveys and see where survey teams are working at all times.

“ We now have incredibly rapid access to survey data that is complete, accurate and consistent for all the thousands of pipe bridges under our responsibility

Lawrence Smith – Technical Information Manager, Thames Water

The Benefits

Rapid collection of accurate asset information
The new Pipe Bridge Validation app has significantly reduced the time lapse between data collection in the field and the availability of that data at head office. Thames Water estimates that it used to take 7 to 10 days to capture survey information using the previous paper-driven method, but now validated data from completed pipe bridge surveys is available centrally in just 2 or 3 hours. “We now have incredibly rapid access to survey data that is complete, accurate and consistent for all the thousands of pipe bridges under our responsibility,” Smith says.

Proactive asset maintenance to enhance customer satisfaction
With improved pipe bridge data, Thames Water is now able to implement a proactive, condition-based asset maintenance programme that is, in time, expected to contribute to enhanced customer satisfaction. The company can prioritise repairs on the pipe bridges that are in the worst condition, minimising the likelihood of sudden pipe bursts or pollution incidents that might lead to customer complaints or reputational damage. With fewer complaints and service issues, Thames Water can improve its Ofwat customer index score.

Sustainable cost efficiencies in planned maintenance activities
Maintenance activities can also be undertaken far more cost efficiently, due to effective planning. Managers within both Thames Water and eight2O have better information to enable them to assign the correct maintenance plan to each pipe bridge, gain the necessary access permissions in advance and dispatch the right teams with the appropriate equipment and materials. Consequently, engineers are less likely to waste time sitting in their vans waiting for landowners to unlock access gates and will avoid having to make unnecessary repeat trips because they have the wrong materials in their vans for the type of pipe on the bridge.

Greater employee, contractor and public safety
In the new GIS-led process, surveyors take photos of pipe bridges and these images – along with supplementary data captured in the field – help to improve understanding of potential hazards at pipe bridges. When going out to each new maintenance job, employees and contractors from Thames Water and eight2O will now be better informed about what to expect and can ensure they have the right safety equipment with them to protect themselves and the general public during essential works.

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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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connect-plus3

Connect Plus Services

Driving the sustainable operation of the M25

Within the grass verges of the M25, one of Europe’s busiest motorways, Connect Plus Services is taking innovative steps to conserve some of Britain’s protected species and to promote pollinator species.  Using Esri’s ArcGIS platform, the company is able to better understand the environmental impacts of its business, implement schemes to enhance the natural environment and, at the same time, operate more cost efficiently.

Improved schemes to conserve habitats and species

25% more productivity in field workers

The ability to share enhanced quality data

The Challenge

The joint venture company Connect Plus Services works on behalf of Highways England, as part of a DBFO (Design, Build, Finance and Operate) contract comprising all motorways and A roads within Highways England’s Area 5 network around Greater London. As well as maintaining this 228-mile road network, the company has a legal obligation to protect the natural environment, a challenging requirement that also involves monitoring and improving approximately 15 km2 of soft estate on roadside verges.

“ ArcGIS has become a critical tool in helping us ensure that the ongoing maintenance of the M25 has minimal adverse impacts on the environment

Jennifer Banks – GIS Specialist and Environmental Assistant, Connect Plus Services

The Solution

Connect Plus Services has been using geographic information system (GIS) technology ever since its foundation in 2009, when it was awarded the 30-year M25 contract by Highways England.  The company’s Environment Department selected Esri’s ArcGIS platform to meet Highways England’s EnvIS (Environmental Information System) data requirements and improve the quality and quantity of environmental asset data available for the M25 network. It drew together a diverse range of data sets, from on-site surveys and street-view video to water drainage reports and public rights of way data, to build up a valuable and informative picture of the natural environment under its stewardship.

In addition, Connect Plus Services took advantage of ArcGIS Online & ArcGIS Server to create a Corporate GIS for the visualisation of operational data.  Using this platform, the company can make its rich environmental data accessible to all employees, across all departments, via a secure, intranet-based map viewer.  This solution not only displays environmental and asset-related information on an intuitive mapping interface; it also puts basic GIS capabilities in the hands of all employees, enabling them to conduct analysis on demand, to help them make better decisions.

More recently, the Environment Department has used the ArcGIS Collector App to create a versatile mobile GIS solution, integrated with internal systems, that removes the need for surveyors to rely on paper maps and survey forms. Field-based employees enter their survey findings into mobile devices, from the roadside, and the data is automatically and securely transferred directly into Connect Plus Services’ central systems, without any need for further manual data handling.

“ Working with GIS data in apps such as Collector streamlines the digital data hand-over process because our client, Highways England, also use an Esri GIS system to store, view and analyse information

Jennifer Banks – GIS Specialist and Environmental Assistant, Connect Plus Services

The Benefits

ArcGIS now plays a key role in helping Connect Plus Services to meet its environmental obligations more efficiently. The advantages include:

Reduced adverse environmental impacts
Employees use ArcGIS to make more informed decisions about how to mitigate any potentially damaging environmental consequences during and following activities such as essential road maintenance.  “It is vitally important for us to ensure that due consideration is given to the environment in everything we do,” says Jennifer Banks, GIS Specialist and Environmental Assistant at Connect Plus Services.  “ArcGIS has become a critical tool in helping us ensure that the ongoing maintenance of the M25 has minimal adverse impacts on the environment.”

Improved schemes to protect native species
In a range of environmental improvement projects, Connect Plus Services is using ArcGIS to help it proactively conserve protected species and enhance environmental assets.   For instance, the company uses ArcGIS to analyse third-party land that lies adjacent to the soft estate it manages, to determine whether it is feasible to use the roadside verge to create ecological corridors.  As Graham Lee, Environmental Manager at Connect Plus Services, explains, “It is possible to use the motorway verge to enhance ecological connectivity, by joining areas of species-rich grassland so that pollinator species can move more freely within the landscape.”

25% more productivity in the field
Using the mobile GIS solution, the organisation’s environmental inspectors can complete surveys in the field in significantly less time, as they no longer have to record their environmental information on paper, then re-enter it when they get back to the office.  “We have cut the amount of time we spend on surveys and post-survey data entry by up to a quarter,” says Lee. “As a result, we can perform more inspections of the soft estate, more quickly and in greater detail, to meet the growing needs of the business.”

More cost-effective tenders
Connect Plus Services is making ongoing cost efficiencies by giving sub-contractors more accurate plot information relating to grass cutting, weed control and vegetation removal activities.  “When we go out to tender, we receive more competitive prices from contractors, as they have more accurate information about the areas of land we expect them to work on,” Lee says.

Better data, shared more easily with partners
Finally, Connect Plus Services can now continually enhance and more easily share its data.  For instance, new data on environmental assets, collected by mobile surveyors in the field, can be easily submitted quarterly to Highways England, for inclusion in its Environmental Information System (EnvIS). As Banks observes, “Working with GIS data in apps such as Collector streamlines the digital data hand-over process because our client, Highways England, also use an Esri GIS system to store, view and analyse information.”

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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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Black & Veatch

Accelerating a survey of 30,000 assets with mobile GIS

Working on behalf of UK Power Networks, Black & Veatch succeeded in surveying 30,000 assets, over an area of 29,000 km2, in just six weeks using a mobile GIS solution from Esri. The project led to cost savings of over £130,000, delivered high quality asset information and improved the tracking of surveyors in the field.

Black & Veatch delivered the massive project exceptionally quickly to provide good customer service

The use of mobile GIS created cost savings for Black & Veatch, its customer and its sub-contractor

Safety was improved through better tracking of field-based survey teams

The Challenge

As part of a wide-ranging initiative to minimise health and safety risks, the electricity distribution network operator UK Power Networks needed to assess and improve the condition of 47,000 cable pits, spread throughout London, the South and South East. It therefore appointed the integrated consulting and construction business Black & Veatch to verify the locations of these underground assets and provide it with the accurate information required, to help inform its planned maintenance programme.

Black & Veatch initially employed a paper-based process, in which ten back-office administrators printed and sorted maps, collated the handwritten notes from surveyors and typed the data into spreadsheets. However, following the completion of the first 17,000 cable pit visits, Black & Veatch was convinced that this traditional survey approach simply wasn’t sufficient for the enormous scale of the task.

“ ArcGIS enabled us to do, in weeks, a project that might otherwise have taken years

Paul Hart – information management specialist, Black & Veatch

The Solution

Taking advantage of its existing Enterprise License Agreement for Esri’s ArcGIS platform, Black & Veatch used out-of-the-box technology to create a mobile GIS app. The proof of concept took just half a day to build, and was subsequently refined after demos with internal teams, the sub-contractor and UK Power Networks. “In total, it took us just six days to put the mobile GIS solution together,” recalls Paul Hart, information management specialist at Black & Veatch.

Next, Black & Veatch developed a new survey method for the UK Power Networks project, by combining the mobile GIS app with other new and existing GIS solutions from the Esri ArcGIS platform. In summary, Black & Veatch used ArcGIS to:

  • Determine the priority order for cable pit inspections, based on risk & safety factors, such as distance from the gas mains •Send job allocations automatically to the tablets used by eleven surveying teams
  • Allow field-workers to locate cable pits, photograph them and describe their condition using tablets
  • Convey survey data from the tablets via 3G to a web map on ArcGIS Online, without the need for any further data entry
  • Monitor the progress of inspections in real-time via Esri’s ArcGIS Operations Dashboard
  • Export lists of cable pits for a partner organisation that doesn’t use GIS yet, using ArcGIS for Excel.

“ Our use of ArcGIS will enable us to offer future clients a highly cost-competitive service, as well as deliver a faster and higher quality survey result

Paul Hart – information management specialist, Black & Veatch

Benefits

The use of mobile GIS for this cable pit survey project – in conjunction with web and desktop GIS solutions – has benefited not only Black & Veatch, but also its client and sub-contractor.

Fast and effective customer service
Using the new GIS-based survey method, Black & Veatch was able to survey the remaining 30,000 cable pits in just six weeks, enabling it to deliver a fast and effective service for its customer, UK Power Networks. “We wouldn’t have been able to even print 30,000 maps in six weeks using the traditional survey method, let alone visit 30,000 sites,” Hart says. “ArcGIS enabled us to do, in weeks, a project that might otherwise have taken years.”

Substantial cost savings
Black & Veatch estimates that its use of GIS has saved UK Power Networks in excess of £130,000, by reducing the amount of time crews might potentially waste going to the wrong streets and attempting to locate cable pits that are no longer there. Within its own business, Black & Veatch made additional cost savings by removing eight to ten back office administration roles and eliminating the need to print tens of thousands of paper maps and forms. Furthermore, Black & Veatch’s sub-contractor benefitted financially, by being able to plan survey journeys more effectively and reduce parking fines.

Better tracking of field workers
The use of Esri’s Operations Dashboard gave managers at Black & Veatch and UK Power Networks up-to-the-minute visibility of the progress that surveyors were making. “Using our previous survey method, it took around a week before we knew which cable pits had been visited,” Hart says. “With our new approach, we could go online, at any time, to see exactly how many cable pits each team had visited. We could also see the current locations of survey teams, improving safety for our sub-contracted surveyors.”

Improved data quality
While accelerating its survey process, Black & Veatch simultaneously improved the quality of the information that it collected for UK Power Networks. For instance, it was able to photograph cable pits for the first time, capturing over 29,500 location-referenced images. This improved asset data will help UK Power Networks to plan future maintenance activities more effectively and speed up the implementation of measures to mitigate potential hazards on British streets.

Strong competitive advantage
In 2015, the mobile GIS app won Black & Veatch’s Innovation Award and, ever since, Hart has been receiving requests for demonstrations from potential new clients. He says, “Our use of ArcGIS will enable us to offer future clients a highly cost-competitive service, as well as deliver a faster and higher quality survey result.”

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