‘All Systems Go' with Integrated GIS Data

As a multi-utility provider, Industrielle Werke Basel (IWB) delivers electricity, natural gas, drinking water, district heating, and telecommunications services ...

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by Michael Berteld

As a multi-utility provider, Industrielle Werke Basel (IWB) delivers electricity, natural gas, drinking water, district heating, and telecommunications services to businesses and residents in Basel, Switzerland, and to 27 communities in four other cantons. Each of these services requires an extensive network of infrastructure, such as pipes, transformers, wires, and pumping stations. To keep its infrastructure operating effectively, IWB depends on integrated geospatial and design data that is up-to-date, accurate and easily accessible.

With the Swiss utility market moving towards deregulation, IWB recognized a need to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. However, it lacked the integrated infrastructure information necessary to achieve that goal. IWB housed alphanumeric information, such as customer data, parts information, and project costs, in its various business management systems. Data related to network and location information was stored separately as geospatial and CAD data. When information had to be cross-referenced, the process was slow, manual and costly.

The utility wanted to save resources, time and money by integrating its business management data and network data in a geographic information system (GIS). But its top objective was to gain greater visibility into its assets in order to operate effectively in a more open market.

Open System Supports Integration

After evaluating the GIS data management solutions on the market, IWB chose Autodesk® Topobase™ asset management software. Because the technology is based on an open data model, the utility could easily customize the technology to handle established business processes. The software readily accommodated data in a number of common GIS formats and standards, including OpenGIS standards, which enabled IWB to incorporate survey and other geospatial data from outside sources into its GIS. An added benefit is that the software worked seamlessly with the Oracle® database technology IWB used to store spatial data as well as with data from its SAP business systems.

The utility used the system to analyze its complete water infrastructure network using a list of criteria and standards to measure the state of the infrastructure. This allowed engineers to see critical pipes and facilities that needed to be replaced or updated in the coming years. It also led to a multi-year maintenance plan, where budget is planned and risks are minimized. With the new asset management system, IWB has been able to reduce costs, plan better and project future maintenance projects.

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Integrating business management and network data into a standard GIS has given IWB greater visibility into existing water infrastructure assets.
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IWB benefited from using this type of technology because of its greater transparency and standard processes. The utility was able to analyze, plan and measure the effect of its decisions. Now IWB is better able to anticipate its maintenance, resources and costs, enabling better planning for infrastructure maintenance.

Faster Service and Better Asset Management

Today, IWB uses the system to manage network data for its water, gas, electric, and district heating infrastructure. The software serves as the interface for all spatial and CAD data management processes. Leveraging AutoCAD® Map 3D software to create network design information, Topobase modules include function-specific capabilities that improve the network documentation and data management process. For instance, IWB employees use the water module to enter complete maintenance schedule information whenever they add new water assets, such as pipes or hydrants. This helps to ensure the quality of the data while streamlining the process for employees.

The solution enables IWB to do more than just create and manage data effectively; it also ensures that the utility effectively stores and shares vital network information. IWB is able to store asset data within an Oracle database and make it available to employees over the company's Intranet using the Autodesk MapGuide® 6.5 application, which builds online maps. This is particularly useful for employees without CAD or GIS experience; they can select the information they need and the application displays it on an easy-to-read map. When a contractor needs to find a water connection, IWB customer service agents are able to provide the information almost instantly on maps that blend spatial data with data integrated from IWB's SAP business systems.

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IWB employees use the GIS to enter complete maintenance schedule information whenever they add new water assets, such as pipes or hydrants. This helps to ensure the quality of the data while streamlining the process for employees.
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As a result of the new system, IWB employees are able to work more independently and effectively because they can find the information they need themselves. And, because utility planners can see where older water and sewer infrastructure is located and when it needs to be replaced, management is able to forecast and budget for maintenance more proactively.

All the Work in Half the Time

With its new asset management solution, IWB has been able to save time and money while operating more effectively. Employees now have insight into the entire infrastructure online from any location, not just in the home-base office, enabling them to interact across the utility, identify the problem and begin solving it.

IWB is now able to maintain its water documentation in half the time and with half the resources. As a result, the department can accomplish more and provide better support for other departments. More importantly, the utility's employees have access to the network information they need to make more strategic decisions and to deliver better customer service.

About the Author

Michael Berteld is the head of the documentation department at Industrielle Werke Basel. He joined IWB in 2002 and is responsible for the documentation of gas, water, electricity, district heating and their assets.

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