Modernizing Utility Operations by Moving from CAD to ArcGIS
Austin Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit municipal utility that distributes electricity, natural gas, and water to Austin, Minnesota, a community of over 23,000 people. For years, the utility stored its data in CAD. The emerging need to meet tracking and traceability regulatory requirements, combined with the desire for multiple other improvements, led Austin Utilities to migrate from AutoCAD to the ArcGIS platform. In doing so, the data was moved into Esri's gas industry-specific Utility and Pipeline Data Model (UPDM). Austin Utilities then implemented the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension. With these advances, combined with the other capabilities of the ArcGIS platform, Austin Utilities positioned itself to better address current and emerging utility operations requirements.
For many years, Austin Utilities stored its utility network data in AutoCAD. In recent years, the utility began considering a move to a geographic information system (GIS) to address improvements that could not be satisfied in CAD. For a while, Austin Utilities did not decide to move to GIS as it did not feel the justification was there yet to do so. That changed with the prospect of gas regulators requiring tracking and traceability of network assets. The desire to add electric utility capabilities—such as outage management, maps on mobile devices, and asset management—was also a key factor in the decision to move forward with GIS. With CAD, what you see is basically what you get—just a picture, not usable data. GIS delivers much more. You still can see the picture, but it illustrates the data behind it, and you can use that data in many powerful ways. Those powerful ways include not only using the capabilities essential to meeting tracking and traceability requirements but also enabling gas utility workers, in the office and in the field, to perform numerous other tasks. For instance, should there be a change to an equipment recall, the utility can query the data to identify affected components and display where they are located.
Austin Utilities decided the time was right to move to GIS.
Industry – Electric and Gas
User: Austin Utilities is an electric, natural gas, and water distribution utility based in Austin, Minnesota.
Challenge: Austin Utilities needed new capabilities to address emerging business and regulatory requirements, such as tracking and traceability.
Solution: The utility decided to move from CAD to Esri's industry-leading GIS platform and to use Power Systems Engineering for implementation assistance.
Results: Austin Utilities employees in the office and field can better collect and work with map data to meet current and future business and regulatory needs.
Austin Utilities decided to implement an enterprise GIS based on the ArcGIS platform. This included ArcGIS Enterprise and other components of ArcGIS such as ArcGIS Pro. In the field, the workforce has access to apps such as ArcGIS Collector, ArcGIS Survey123, and ArcGIS Explorer. Data collected with these apps can be posted directly in the enterprise GIS for immediate sharing among all users, in the office and in the field. The new solution provides capabilities for electric, natural gas, and water distribution. Austin Utilities also has implemented the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension to build models of each of the utility's three networks.
A phased implementation plan allowed Austin Utilities to progress from CAD to GIS in an orderly manner. The plan also allowed the utility to realize benefits from the completion of each project phase.
The new GIS-based solution can be integrated with other systems. Integration with the NISC Customer Care and Billing solution is among the first planned.
With the implementation of the ArcGIS platform, Austin Utilities employees in the office and the field can better collect and work with map data for current and future business and regulatory needs. Now utility employees can not only see their assets but also work with the data behind the visualization. This fulfills the goal of Austin Utilities to be better prepared to meet emerging business and regulatory needs—tracking and tracing capabilities, in particular. Implementation of ArcGIS Utility Network Management has not only enabled staff to better understand the utility's networks and their operation but also prompted improvement in underlying data quality. In addition, the new solution lends itself to integration with other systems, and it is paperless and mobile. As part of this modernization, Austin Utilities is improving its operational efficiency by streamlining processes to reduce the use of paper and remove unneeded steps wherever possible.
"Austin Utilities' transitioning from CAD to GIS is moving us to a more efficient and far more capable future. GIS is becoming a cornerstone—a hub—of business information at Austin Utilities. We have already been able to find efficiencies we did not expect before we began the transition. Our rollout to staff has gone well, [and] the excitement about using GIS is building. The ripple effects of GIS have had some surprises, such as how much better prepared we are—and will be—for disaster recovery"