Case studies

ArcFM UT Click-Before-You-Dig

ArcFM UT Click-Before-You-Dig

Solid and Reliable Operations

Oberhausener Netzgesellschaft, former evo-Energie-Netz GmbH (evo) is a medium-sized multi-utility in the state of North-Rhine-Westfalia, and supply the 209 000 inhabitants of the city of Oberhausen with electricity, gas and district heating. In a continous search for optimization of GIS services and automatization of processes, they adopted the ArcFM UT Click-Before-You-Dig solution at a very early stage. In fact, they contributed considerably with their process know-how to its development! Now, they have implemented the completely remodelled and new ArcFM UT Click-Before-You-Dig solution.

Oberhausen is said to be the cradle of German heavy industry, many of the iron smelting empires were born here. Today these are either industrial ruins or revitalized, vibrant cultural and artistic centers. An important temporary storage room for industrial gases was the 117,5 m high and 68 m in diameter large Gasometer Oberhausen. It was converted in 1994 into a very unique exhibition hall. Controversial “wrapping” artist Christo installed in 1999 a famous exhibition “the Wall” out of 13 000 oil drums in this Gasometer.  Obviously, all required construction activities for these landscape monuments need to get by law information on the underground utility lines before starting to dig.

In earlier times, civil engineering companies had to take their car, drive to the offices of evo, explain where they are planning to do excavations, and obtain the required print-outs on the underground utility lines in the area of concern. Today, this is handled completely automatically by the ArcFM UT Click-Before-You-Dig (CBYD) solution. Both  –  external companies and evo – profit from this new service: External companies have 24 / 365 online access to this service, and it is for free. evo could reduce staff by 1 person and also could manage without any problems sudden increases in information requests, e.g. due to higher public budgets and higher construction activities.

From an IT point of view, it is a completely web-based solution with a state-of-the-art JavaScript web client. The Intranet solution is available in the Internet through a reverse proxy server. The web server receives the information requests. The first task is to check in the production geodatabase if the requested area actually contains any underground utility lines. If there are no lines, a corresponding message will be sent to the end-user. If there are lines, a plotting request according to the user input (size of plot) will be sent to the plot server. The final delivery, which is a ZIP file containing all plots and additional PDF files like e.g. legends and terms of use, is assembled using the WebMapPlotService (WMPS). In the order book of the CBYD the results are then available and the end-user is also informed by email from the evo email server. In the evo case, the network is quite dense due to the high building density in Oberhausen. Therefore, typically 5 plots from the production geodatabase are generated: One each for the low voltage, medium voltage & telecommunication, streetlight, low & high pressure gas and district heating grid.

Many different security measures ensure that the civil engineering companies receive always the correct information: From an IT point of view, there are many checks integrated to see if database and plot servers are actually available. Additionally, evo IT has implemented the IT industry standard solution “Nagios” for IT infrastructure monitoring, which gives automatic red light and warning emails in case one of the vital servers is not available. Also if the resulting email cannot be sent (e.g. wrong email), an error will be given. From a workflow point of view, new field measurements on the position of underground lines are scanned the same evening and attached as documents (“field books”) to ongoing construction sites. The construction sites are clearly marked in the end-user maps and attached scanned sketches are also added to the ZIP file in the CBYD answers in case the construction site is within the requested area. This way CBYD users receive the next day the updated information on the network.  Once the as-built status has been updated in the main GIS database by the evo GIS team, the scans are removed. CBYD requests are also only valid 30 days, and the terms of use require external companies to start construction within 10 days after receiving the CBYD information. Renewing the CBYD request is easy for end-users: They can simply select their last request from the order book and send it again. Klaus Beck, head of GIS at Oberhausener Netzgesellschaft explains: “We rely 100 % on the automatic delivery of the map requests to external civil engineering companies. We receive between 3000 and 7000 requests per year and there is no need for us to supervise each single request. This really gives us a lot of freedom for other tasks. However, we do check with standardized tests roughly once a month the performance of the CBYD system to be sure that performance does not degenerate. We have outsourced our servers to an external IT provider and they have guarantueed a 99.9 % availability.” The external IT provider also holds available failover servers and the smooth switching-over is tested once a year.

However, the evo processes are improved also in another aspect: evo is required to supervise construction activities of third parties which might affect their network. Over the years, evo has learnt which construction companies require higher supervision activity from evo. The ArcFM UT CBYD solution stores of course all requests with attributes as polygones in the central geodatabase, and this is added as layer in the display of the ArcFM UT Asset Manager: The evo field crews can thus easily check what construction companies are active if in their area and accordingly arrange very quickly for a site supervision visit. But the administrator interface of the CBYD interface is also important for responding to requests by insurance companies: In case of a backhoe hitting a line, the insurance company does not only have to pay the dammage but also the financial implications of the black-out. The exact time of the accident and the request to the CBYD server are therefore critical. evo already had cases where the accident took place at 8:00 am, and the corresponding CBYD request was logged not until 8:15 am ! The availability to filter CBYD requests by any attribute greatly facilitates here efficient answering to insurance requests.

In total, currently about 300 external companies have concluded a contract with evo to use the CBYD service. End-users are always registered by name, and roughly 650 end users are currently in the system. Users are often simply the secretary of the head of a civil engineering company, and therefore the new design of the CBYD graphical user interface was specifically designed for non–GIS-experts, which was well received. evo has also created a very specific manual for these non-expert users, as Klaus Beck puts it – “this is a comic strip!”. Especially the new possibility to generate plots along a line is very useful for end-users (less plots) and evo (smaller area to supervise). Many of these companies use the CBYD service also in a planning stage to better prepare their answer to public tenders. Therefore the simple functions like measuring or adding aerial photos are very important for them to find out e.g. if there is an “expensive to remove” asphalt surface, or if and where there are trees, or where to place construction barriers. But also in emergency situations, e.g. in the case of an outage, the responsible field engineer checks with his tablet and UMTS connection online in the field the CBYD service. Also for evo, the CBYD service comes in handy when discussing with other network operators (e.g. water) joint construction projects, to be able to quickly ascertain where e.g. excavated material can be deposited.

Klaus Beck summarizes his experiences:

Our end users are extremely happy with the ArcFM UT CBYD service. It is available around the clock, and this is very helpful for them. They tell us that compared to similar services which they have to use from other network operators, the ArcFM UT CBYD is by far the easiest service to use. For us the most important criteria is the reliability of the service, and I can tell you I can sleep very well !

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