Northern Gas Networks

21st December 2015
Esri UK

Northern Gas Networks

To improve the quality and consistency of address data within its business, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) selected Esri’s LocatorHub solution. It now has a single, centralised source of address information, which helps improve its operational efficiency right across the organisation.

The Customer

Northern Gas Networks (NGN) distributes gas to 2.6m homes and businesses across the north of England. Its 37,000km network extends south from the Scottish border, covering a significant rural area as well as a number of large cities.

NGN has been consistently measured by Ofgem as the most cost-efficient of the eight gas distribution networks in the UK.

Employees in all departments now consult the same accurate source of information to support daily decision making

LocatorHub helps NGN rapidly locate problems in emergency situations and provide timely, up-to-date information to customers

NGN uses LocatorHub to ensure notifications are sent to the correct addresses when potentially disruptive works are planned nearby

The Challenge

Good quality address data is vital for utility companies. Inaccuracies or duplication in address information can seriously impact all sorts of activities, from emergency response times to informing residents of planned works.

However, getting access to accurate data can be challenging. Because the typical utility firm has multiple address datasets across the business, there is a greater risk of duplicated entries. The lack of centralisation also makes finding address data time-consuming, hampering staff efficiency. And given the ever-changing nature of the data – as new roads are laid, buildings are constructed, and house numbers are changed to names – it’s easy for inaccuracies to creep in every day.

The need for a robust process for address management is something that NGN has understood for years. Its network covers not only two of the six largest conurbations in the UK – West Yorkshire and Tyneside – but also an area with the lowest population density outside of Scotland. This mix of dense urban areas and highly remote rural populations makes it vital for NGN to have accurate address data, to keep network maintenance and management as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

That’s why NGN relies on Esri UK’s LocatorHub platform.

LocatorHub ensures we have accurate addresses for everyone, and helps us to plan the most fast and efficient drop route

Pete Crosier – GIS Data Integrity Assistant, NGN

The Solution

LocatorHub is a powerful and flexible address management solution. It gives utilities centralised access to any and all datasets they want to use, from public data from providers such as Ordnance Survey, to their own sets of addresses, roads, network assets, points of interest and more. This creates a ‘single point of truth’ for all location information within the business.

Since 2003, LocatorHub has been the central, accurate repository for all address information across NGN. “Planning, emergency management, customer care, network maintenance, our technicians in the field – every department consults the same, accurate set of data to make decisions daily, which helps us to stay efficient,” explains Pete Crosier, GIS Data Integrity Assistant for NGN.

Importantly, the system gives every location a set of coordinates, to ensure pinpoint accuracy. It also constantly cleanses address data, correcting inaccuracies and removing any duplicates. And it can be embedded into other applications, making it a seamless part of a company’s business processes.

At NGN, LocatorHub is used to find the precise location of key business assets – from depots, to customers, to pipes. And it’s very easy to use; the vast majority of staff refer to the location information via a simple browser-based utility viewer, which lets them search for the information they want using coordinates, standard address formats such as postcode or via asset type or code.

When we first implemented LocatorHub, we didn’t know how powerful it was and how much we would use it. But it’s become absolutely central to everything we do

Pete Crosier – GIS Data Integrity Assistant, NGN

The Benefits

Thanks to the accurate address data in LocatorHub, NGN is equipped to perform a whole range of tasks more efficiently across the business.

This includes managing planned works under the Iron Mains Replacement Programme. NGN needs to replace over 500km of pipe in its network every year, and informing residents of these street works is a regulatory requirement. Sending them to the wrong places or missing residences altogether, however, can result in hefty fines. “LocatorHub ensures we have accurate addresses for everyone, and helps us to plan the most fast and efficient drop route,” says Pete.

Accurate address data is also vital in the event of an emergency. Information that is duplicated or incorrect can seriously hamper response times, or at worst compromise the safety of residents. “If there’s a gas leak, we’ll typically need to turn off a whole estate. Using the data from LocatorHub, we rapidly locate the problem and have all the facts ready for any customers who may call in. We also know straight away if there’s a vulnerable person in the area who will need to be communicated with separately,” confirms Pete.

LocatorHub also helps field staff work more efficiently. “A member of staff might call up to locate something like a pipe or a manhole cover. They’ll typically be working on a restricted laptop, so they won’t be able to access this information themselves,” he explains. “All they need to do is provide a loose description of where it should be – perhaps ‘outside number seven Smith Street’. Through LocatorHub, our internal team can explain exactly what assets are in the area and how to reach them. This helps field staff get to work quickly.”

Importantly, LocatorHub gives NGN the reassurance that ever-changing address data will stay accurate long into the future. “Say we add a new-build connection, for example. It will start as a plot, will later be given a house number, and eventually it’ll have a postcode,” explains Pete. “Because LocatorHub continually cleanses the data, we never have to worry about any old references staying in the system and causing trouble down the line.”

Thanks to regular monthly support from Esri UK, NGN is always discovering new things that LocatorHub can be used for. Pete concludes: “When we first implemented LocatorHub, we didn’t know how powerful it was and how much we would use it. But it’s become absolutely central to everything we do.”

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