With ArcGIS tools, we are able to report new events in real time direct to the software, [and] we are able to visually inspect the community for patterns/problem areas and more efficiently plan for budgets regarding system upkeep and replacement.
City of Hastings: Going All In with Esri's ArcGIS Utility Network
The City of Hastings, Nebraska, serves a community of 25,000 people with all their utility needs: water, sewer, gas, and electricity. With Hastings' expanding and aging utility infrastructure, the city wanted to take its geographic information system (GIS) to the next level in order to provide extensive data to employees in the office and the field; be able to provide analytic data for project planning, replacement programs, and inspections; and integrate electric service with outage management and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems. All of this would require eliminating paper-based workflows and moving to digital data collection in the field so that updates are made and viewable by staff daily.
Lindsey Stone, GIS coordinator for the City of Hastings, had started at the city using GIS for land management. Her role grew when she began managing the utility GIS data as well, and there was work to be done in order to achieve the goals the city had identified.
GIS infrastructure for utility services was previously maintained using a combination of CAD drawings, GIS records, paper forms, and Excel documents. The data was not organized in a consistent manner, which caused concern about reports' accuracy. Also, there were several aspects of data completely missing from the GIS dataset and only being kept on AutoCAD files. For example, the electric system only had medium-voltage lines and no devices in the GIS. In most cases, updates regarding the types and locations of assets were being given via paper forms and hand-drawn pictures and, at times, took months to be entered into GIS. This way of doing things was not going to support requests made by staff. The city needed to undertake a massive cleanup and collection of data to fill in the gaps.
Paving the Way Forward
Stone knew she wanted all four of the services to have similar database structures and naming conventions. This would make data maintenance consistent across all services. In addition, staff requested the ability to do inspections and run reports for replacement programs. To determine the best way forward, Stone reached out to several utility companies and municipalities in the Midwest, asking them how they maintain their utility services and what they did to get their data into GIS. Several companies reported that they were currently using Esri's geometric network and would be converting to Esri's ArcGIS Utility Network due to the geometric network's upcoming end of life. She also talked with several companies on how to convert the city's current CAD drawings into GIS or using GPS to collect data in the field, knowing that it would take years to complete if staff relied solely on an already busy workforce.
Ultimately, Hastings decided to convert its data into ArcGIS Utility Network because it provided technology that would support the city's multiple utilities for years to come. In addition, ArcGIS Utility Network has an out-of-the-box data schema with preloaded fields and domains for each service as well as the similar setups the city was looking for. This schema would allow for the consistent data management that staff wanted, along with the capabilities of built-in inspection and maintenance-related tables that could be utilized in the field. In addition, it opens up the opportunity for the GIS to be expandable, with many fields and domains already in place for data that Hastings doesn't currently collect but could in the future as the GIS develops.
In order to reach the goals of converting all four utility services to ArcGIS Utility Network and obtain the massive amount of missing data from within the electric system, Hastings staff members knew they needed help without overloading the budget.
First, staff members needed knowledge on how to deploy ArcGIS Utility Network—which they had no experience in—for each of the utility services. After several interviews with Esri, Esri partners with the ArcGIS Utility Network Management specialty, and other specialists, Hastings decided to collaborate with GISinc—now known as Axim Geospatial—because of the company's unique product, called Jumpstart Package. Axim would teach city staff as well as guide and review one deployment of ArcGIS Utility Network side-by-side with Hastings, instead of just doing all the work and then handing it back to Hastings. This placed the workload in Hastings employees' hands, enabling them to learn as the ArcGIS Utility Network deployment was developed. Since the water dataset was the most complete, they started with that, and by the end of the project with Axim, Hastings staff members were able to understand the requirements, configure and migrate the existing data, deploy a brand-new ArcGIS Utility Network implementation, and maintain it all by themselves. This gave the City of Hastings the opportunity to deploy ArcGIS Utility Network in the sewer and electrical utilities without spending additional budgetary resources on any outside companies' assistance.
"Our team has been able to learn and transition more easily by working side-by-side with expert partners. In addition to helping migrate our data, Axim has helped us implement new tools and processes which have improved efficiencies for our department and other users."—Lindsey Stone, GIS Coordinator, City of Hastings
Secondly, the City of Hastings knew it needed to get all its missing electrical data into GIS in a timely manner. Since staff resources were limited, Hastings contracted with Midland GIS Solutions—now known as SAM, LLC to locate and map the city's entire electric network. SAM used GPS devices to collect asset locations and data for over 12,000 poles and devices attached to poles or pad mounts and over 300 miles of high-, medium-, and low-voltage lines. This gave Hastings an extreme leap ahead in terms of the data that staff needed in order to implement ArcGIS Utility Network and meet the requirements for a future outage management system.
With the water and sewer utilities' deployments of ArcGIS Utility Network, Hastings has given employees the data they need with a high level of detail viewable in the office and the field. What used to take employees days to filter out through dated drawings and Excel spreadsheets can now easily be filtered through GIS, giving them greater resources for project planning and replacement programs. Field crews use ArcGIS Field Maps on iPads that are paired with external GPS receivers. The crews collect service line and device locations along with information such as size, installation dates, and models at the time of installation. This process increases the level of accuracy of spatial and attribute data and gives the updated information to all employees instantly via web maps, instead of taking months to get updates via handwritten forms and maps from the field to GIS. The water and sewer services have taken their inspection programs from paper forms and lists to inspections being inserted directly into ArcGIS Utility Network technology-related tables via Field Maps. Supervisors and staff then use ArcGIS Dashboards to pinpoint where they need to go next as well as to see any patterns of problem areas. The electric service has deployed streetlight replacement programs that utilize Field Maps and Dashboards; previously, staff used Excel worksheets and paper forms to track the programs' progress. The staff mindset of using the GIS has gone from thinking, "Here is a nice map of where the service is," to envisioning what GIS can do next to improve efficiency and quality of work.
"We've utilized the GIS software to provide exclusive, interactive maps for our two most severe events in water/sewer. We have generated a water main break map with about 35 years of data, and a sewer main backup map utilizing about 25 years of paper reports. With these tools, we are able to report new events in real time direct to the software, [and] we are able to visually inspect the community for patterns/problem areas and more efficiently plan for budgets regarding system upkeep and replacement."—Brandan Lubken, Water and Wastewater Superintendent, City of Hastings
Discovering What the Future Brings
Currently, the City of Hastings is collecting additional data required by its outage management system vendor and plans on having that system deployed this year. Staff have already been discussing the implementation of an additional maintenance and inspection program for the electrical system. Hastings has started deploying ArcGIS Utility Network for the gas service—the last of the city's four utility services—and plans on completing the deployment by the end of the year.
ArcGIS supports asset management
ArcGIS enables a holistic approach with fresh insights about performance, risks, resources, and costs.