Because of these analyses [in ArcGIS] we are able to make better choices when it comes to investments. It's efficient and insightful. We now use the time we saved to enhance our analyses with more data for better insights.
Dutch Water Company Brabant Water Leads the Way with ArcGIS Utility Network
Brabant Water is a Dutch water company servicing households and industrial zones of water in the province of Noord-Brabant, located in the south of the Netherlands. It provides 190 million m3 of water to 2.4 million citizens and companies annually. Brabant Water has been an ArcGIS user for more than 15 years.
In 2018 Brabant Water started a pilot project with Esri Nederland to implement ArcGIS Utility Network. It was the first company in the Netherlands to do so.
Geographic information system (GIS) technology is one of three essential applications used by Brabant Water. "We use GIS for the registration of all our assets underground. These assets, such as pipes, valves, and hydrants, are essential for transferring water from us to our customers. Asset management is therefore of the upmost importance, and ArcGIS Utility Network helps us to optimize our processes and workflows, and we are able to easily and safely share the needed information with a third party," says Harrie Van Meel, project manager for Brabant Water's information management department.
Software to Support Brabant Water's GIS Vision
Brabant Water searched for years to identify an advanced geographic information system that would help the organization find disruptions in its production and distribution process before they're noticed by the end user. The company wanted to develop its registration system (system of record) into a decision-making system or even an independent operation system. As a result, Brabant Water created a GIS vision for the company, stating that all processes with a geographic component should require enhanced data quality that is available everywhere and for everyone.
ArcGIS Utility Network supports this vision to the fullest. "Our former GIS could not support our vision for the future. The software was not always up-to-date, and it could not support a great deal of the functionality we require, such as data analyses, overview of all work in progress in the field, and our long-term planning for maintenance and renewal of assets. Esri suggested a pilot [project] of the newest utility network model to see if it would support our GIS vision," says Van Meel.
"ArcGIS Utility Network was developed with a Web GIS in mind. Utility data and information should not be limited to one system or one specialist but [instead should be] accessible for all that need it. Utility Network enables this accessibility," says Mark Clavaux, business developer for utilities at Esri Nederland.
As every utility knows, stability of the network is critical. "Our core business is always making sure we deliver fresh and clean drinking water, "says Van Meel. "So to start with ArcGIS Utility Network as the first client in the Netherlands was quite scary. Luckily and as expected, Esri was on top of its game. During the implementation, communication was key, and the attention we received was essential. The collaboration actually advanced us further around asset management—for example, using tracing to respond more quickly, reducing downtime."
People Are the Most Important Asset
In 2021 Wilfried Martens was added to the Brabant Water team as department head. He became responsible for project MAGIC (Mapping Assets and Geographic Information System), which GIS and therefore ArcGIS Utility Network are a part of. Martens became part of the team after the first phase of ArcGIS Utility Network was already implemented. Brabant Water had already made big steps toward its goal, but its biggest challenge was yet to come: changing the mind-set of its people. Martens was ready for the challenge.
"When trying to accomplish our vision, two components are the most important: data and people. We decided to review and to enrich all of our data. When needed we collected new information about our assets in the field using ArcGIS Field Maps. Quality of the data is essential. The quality of data required for the system of record is continually increasing. Improving data quality also requires a change of responsibilities for our employees. They are now responsible for correct data entry for project managers, stakeholder managers, and asset managers, who depend on this data for analysis. The organizational change that is required to complete our vision isn't easy, and creating support among our employees is of the highest importance. We will not reach our goal without them," says Martens.
"Brabant Water [staff were] rolling out multiple projects at a time. First, they decided to modernize their current GIS, and second, they wanted to create a web-based information system, making this case very complex," explains Clavaux. "A web-based information system requires a different approach to IT infrastructure and management, which results in a different way of working. To ensure this new way of work, a mentality change is necessary before you can use the new infrastructure to the fullest."
Working Collaboratively to Achieve Success
After the implementation of ArcGIS Utility Network, Brabant Water was in daily contact with Esri. "With ArcGIS as one of three main technologies for the utility, we will always want to improve. After the implementation we were in touch with Esri Nederland and Esri in the United States of America to resolve issues as fast as possible. We also had to rethink our process when we thought there were technical issues. It's not always the system's fault; it's a combination of software, hardware, and the people that use it. Through this collaboration, we were able to engage more departments at once—for example, asset management and IT. As a result, we are able to monitor disruptions and solve problems faster," says Martens.
The Right Platform
Brabant Water staff are very happy with ArcGIS Utility Network because it saves a lot of time. With all the enriched data they've added, Utility Network is now used by different users. "Asset managers, project managers, and stakeholder managers are extremely happy with ArcGIS Utility Network. Before we would have separate lists of, for example, how many kilometers of pipeline were renewed in that year. Updating this list every week would take us 4 hours a week. That adds up to 208 hours a year. Now with one push of a button, it's directly visible in ArcGIS Utility Network. Because of these analyses we are able to make better choices when it comes to investments. It's efficient and insightful. We now use the time we saved to enhance our analyses with more data for better insights," says Martens.
Martens wants people to remember that implementing a new system is not the only step to take. "Yes, it's a change in tooling, but more so [it's] an organizational change that impacts the people. Take enough time to educate your employees and help them get used to the new way of working. Using ArcGIS Utility Network is not a onetime implementation; it's a [continual] process," says Martens.
ArcGIS Utility Network is the platform for Brabant Water to realize its future GIS vision. "Now that ArcGIS Utility Network is implemented, we can optimize our processes around geographic data and our GIS further, such as remeasuring assets in the field and processing the data in real time," says Van Meel. That's how Brabant Water is innovating gradually to make its GIS vision a reality. "As long as Esri keeps developing and improving its technology, we will be up-to-date—now and in 20 years' time."
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