Tools for Utility Supervisors: GIS Based Asset Management That Performs

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Essentially, utility supervisors in local government positions have five daily objectives:

  1. Which jobs need to be done?
  2. Who’s doing the work?
  3. How soon will the work be completed?
  4. Are we within budget?
  5. How can we plan ahead?

Problems come when one of those daily objectives is not met or one of the questions does not get answered in a timely manner. Having the tools to answer these daily objectives are necessary to staying ahead of the work and assist in fulfilling requests from other departments or administrators.

A company with similar objectives can be found in Roane County, Tennessee. Rockwood: Water, Sewer, and Gas, a small utility company has the difficult task of managing six departments: Water, Sewer, Gas, Water Plant, Sewer Plant & Garbage.  For many years Rockwood was managing their assets with spreadsheets. This practice became very time consuming and difficult to generate reports and make practical business decisions.

Rodney Griffin, Rockwood Water Distribution Superintendent, explains how difficult things were:

“Before, if you wanted to keep up with everything you had to create a spreadsheet. We had to keep up with all the paper work in folders. If you took vacation you had to get with who was covering for and give them a copy of all your paper work so they would know what your crew was assigned for that week. We had to have weekly meetings just to go over what was being done with the General Manager.”

When looking for a solution to this and many other challenges that come from running six departments, Rockwood wanted to benefit from the advancements in GIS. By integrating their operations with their GIS they could visualize all the work that was taking place and that needed to be done. The maps provided a simple tool to assign jobs, develop reports based on location, and complete other routine tasks. The software they chose to integrate with their Esri ArcGIS platform was Elements XS3 from Novotx.

Software Essentials

Rockwood had several ideas as to the features they needed when researching an asset and work order management system. Some of the features included:

  • Software that interacts directly with their map services via Esri’s ArcGIS for Server or ArcGIS Online.
  • When doing updates in their work order software, they wanted those changes to be automatically updated in their GIS so that the geodatabase would be the single, authoritative dataset for all spatial assets with no coping or synchronized of data.
  • A mapping tool with integrated query layers to graphically represent data including locations of work, labor, types of work, job costing details, and more.
  • Geofences to define job routing and other workflow processing criteria
  • Heat maps, feature clustering, and map-based reporting to enhance the GIS
  • Map viewers that work well on any device in any standard web browser.
Screenshot showing Elements XS3 Mobile Viewer of Rockwood Sewer Assets.

Rodney Griffin from Rockwood talks about one of the reasons why they chose Elements,

“Elements ties into our Esri mapping so with this the employees can see the map live from the field and we can create instant maintenance tasks for them. The Blowoffs are GPS points on our Esri map, with Elements we can create GIS assets to tie work orders to the Blowoffs, This helps us with all of our system maintenance and keeping reports for them.”

Tailored Workspaces

As to not create confusion, it was important to Rockwood to set up unique workspaces for each employee. This principle allows different users to access different application interfaces, each tailored to meet the unique needs of specific job functions.

Mr. Griffin explains why unique workspaces are important:

“You can set the software filters for the crews so that they only see the work that they need to for that day. If you assign them a task for Friday they will not see the task until Friday. You have a dashboard that not only shows you what you have to do but the people that cover for you will see it too!”

Automatic Workflows

Rockwood wanted to use a data management technology that allowed them to create any custom dataset and associate that information to other assets.  This would help them to design custom permits, licenses, inspections, and any other type of custom form.  These forms can then be combined with the workflow designer to automate business processes and guide them through the processes of managing unique workflows.

Mr. Griffin continues:

“If an employee takes the chlorine reads and they are below the low level the software will automatically create a work task to Re-Flush; scheduled 7 days after the original task. We have these designed to be assigned to the Supervisor so that they are aware of the issue.”

Rockwood understands that they are new to the software and have only configured a small amount of what Elements XS3 can do. Their hope for the future is to continually build workflows to speed up processes and streamline the work.

About the Author

Article by Michael Boyd of Novotx.  Located near Salt Lake City, Utah, Novotx develops, maintains, and implements the Elements XS3 application.  Novotx has been developing GIS-based asset and work management software since 2004 and has customers throughout the US and Canada.

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