Tag Archives: enterprise asset management
What keeps water, wastewater and stormwater utility GIS professionals up at night? Could be doubts about your system architecture or capacity, might be fears about data backups and recovery, maybe your backlog of unprocessed as-builts. A common concern we are hearing right now from the user community is about being sure that your data is good enough to meet the needs of your utility. This is driving more water utilities to focus on quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC).
Across the industry water utilities are expanding their GIS quality control procedures or implementing formalized quality control if they don’t have any in place. Water utilities are also reviewing their existing GIS implementation and workflows for ways to increase quality assurance. At some water utilities these changes are coming out the GIS department, driven by proactive GIS managers and staff. At other utilities these changes are coming top down from utility management that recognize GIS data now runs throughout their utility like a steel thread or from the IT department as it assess the state of all utility digital data.
But haven’t we always been concerned about data quality?
No doubt, if you’ve seen Esri present on water, wastewater or stormwater utility GIS over the past year you’ve probably heard us talk about how GIS fits into the “business patterns” of a water utility. We’ve gotten tremendously positive feedback from the water utility community that this framework helps people understand how GIS supports their mission as a utility. We’ve also heard from GIS professionals that this is a very useful framework t to educate their colleagues about the current and potential future contributions of GIS at their utility.
We thought it would be helpful to take some time to review these patterns as we will continue to build upon these concepts in 2011 with the Water Utility Resource Center.
This graphic shows 5 common “business patterns” of a water utility – Asset Management, Planning and Analysis, Field Mobility, Operational Awareness and Stakeholder Engagement. Just about all of the activities of a water utility fall within one or cross multiple of these business patterns
Let’s review these 5 common water utility business patterns and how GIS supports them.
The Asset Management Business Pattern
All utilities engage in some form of “asset management”. Increasingly utilities are creating formalized “asset management programs”. Even without a formal asset management program (and a program in this case doesn’t imply a software program, it means an organizational initiative) many utilities have informal workflows and procedures that guide decision making around managing assets. So from a hunch about what assets need to be replaced or maintained to hard scientific evidence, utilities are constantly making decisions about their assets.
The cornerstone of effective asset management at utilities is good asset information. Whether a utility has a formal asset management program or an informal one, decisions require some level of information about assets – from knowledge in a worker’s head to information in a computerized system.
GIS supports the Asset Management pattern of water utilities through being the authoritative system to store, manage and maintain accurate asset records that are able to be shared utility wide. Simply put, GIS manages asset information.
It’s important to note that it’s common at water utilities for the complete information about an asset to be stored in multiple systems. For example, GIS stores the location, connectivity to other assets and basic descriptive information (material, diameter, install date, operational status, etc) about an asset, a workorder management system (also called EAM or CMMS) may store extended information about the work history for an asset, a financial system may store depreciation and valuation information for assets, a customer information system may store complaints about the function of an asset, etc. Optimally there is integration among all of the systems that store information about an asset and the ability for utility staff to access data stored across multiple systems enabling a comprehensive view of the location, connectivity, status, history and description of an asset.
Going Beyond Managing Asset Information with GIS
In the early years of water utility GIS, the bulk of GIS activity for water utilities was focused on creating and maintaining GIS data about assets and that data was used to make maps. GIS was usually the domain of a few folks in the utility that were tasked with continually updating data to support the creation of paper maps for the field and the office.
Over the years, many utilities have evolved their GIS to much more than just a siloed system to manage asset data to make maps. Around the industry utilities realized that their GIS contained a treasure trove of information that could be shared across the entire organization and used to support many of the information needs of the utility. No doubt, utilities can significantly increase their return on investment in GIS by sharing it around the entire utility and using it to support multiple business patterns.
Planning and Analysis
Historically, when a utility had asset data in GIS, it was a natural evolution to begin using that data to support the planning needs of the utility through spatial analysis.
Water utilities plan for the future and use some form of data analysis to do this. There are normally 2 very distinct types of planning water utilities do – short term planning and long term planning. Short term planning at a water utility is typically focused on creating and optimizing reactive and proactive work orders. Long term water utility planning typically focuses on capital improvement planning and future utility network expansion projects.
GIS supports water utility planning and analysis by transforming asset and operational data into actionable information. So far we’ve focused on asset data; operational data for water utilities is customer complaints, service requests, historic work order locations, etc. Crossing the Asset Management business pattern we described above and the Planning and Analysis pattern encompasses what many in water utility industry consider define as a utility asset management program.
For short term planning, GIS is typically used to support creating and optimizing work orders. Answering questions such as what is the best route to accomplish my daily work tasks and where can I do some proactive work in close proximity to assets that need reactive work. GIS is also used to understand what assets you should do proactive work on and when you should do it. An example is answering questions about which sewer pipes take flow from restaurants that are frequent grease trap violators resulting in the need for pipes to be cleaned more often to prevent fat, oil and grease build up from causing a blockage and overflow.
For long term planning, asset data, performance data and GIS analysis is used to help utilities understand how their utility networks are performing. Then to identify the best replacement and rehabilitation projects to undertake and to estimate project costs to support project evaluation and budgeting. For example, water utilities use repeatable geoprocessing models that take into account many weighted factors to rate their assets on condition, reliability, criticality, performance, etc. This information is then used to help guide where to best spend capital dollars to maximize the value of investments in a utility’s assets. For main extensions; land records, demographic projections and proposed development plans are often used to help guide long term system expansion plans.
Water, wastewater and stormwater utilities have mobile workers that are out in the field for the majority of their work days. In small utilities mobile workers may have many responsibilities such as meter reading, customer service, installs, maintenance, repair work, CCTV, hydrant flushing, valve exercising, etc and in large utilities mobile workers may be specialized.
Mobile field workers at water utilities need information that is current, optimized for their needs to help them carry out their work and delivered in an easy to use format. Mobile field workers also generate much information that needs to be passed back into the office and managed in enterprise business systems.
The field mobility business patterns includes both work the field crews are performing as well as the processes used in the office to support and manage field crews. There is recognition across the industry that field work is a large part of water utility operating budget and for many utilities there is not enough field crew labor available to meet the needs of the utility. Water utilities are always looking for ways to decrease the time it takes to share information bi-directionally with the field and increase the reliability and accuracy of data coming back from the field. The mobile nature of field crews, the many tasks a field crew may carry out during a given day and the limited exposure by some field personnel to technology present a challenge to utilities that need to reduce field operations costs and increase efficiency.
Water utility field staff are among the most map centric people you will encounter. They think of their work world in terms of map book sheets. So for GIS, the Field Mobility business pattern is about providing water utility field crews with maps and map centric applications that can be rapidly updated and are easy to use. GIS also supports the Field Mobility business pattern by enabling field crews to capture GIS data in the field and efficiently pass it back into the office.
Some utilities choose to create paper or electronic field maps books out of their GIS. Other utilities are deploying mobile GIS applications for field crews that act as an interactive version of the traditional utility map book and also provide decision support and data capture tools. Whether delivering paper maps or interactive mapping applications to the field, GIS is supporting the needs of utility field workers as well as those in the office that need to share information with the field.
Talk to a manager or executive director at a utility about their information needs and most often they will say something along the lines of “I need to know what is happing around the entire utility at any given time”. They need to be operationally aware.
The Operational Awareness business pattern is about having an understanding of the current state of operations at a water utility, so this is a real time or near real time understanding of how assets, utility networks and personnel are performing and how they are affecting each other. Being operationally aware empowers water utility managers to confidently make decisions based on accurate and up to date information.
GIS supports utility operational awareness by enabling utilities to have a web map based view into the current state of operations. We’ve heard over and over from water utility managers that a map based view into their organization is the easiest way for them to understand at a glance what is currently happening at their utility. An interactive map is also an easy way for utilities to take information from multiple business systems and present it through a common application.
What do water utility managers want on their interactive maps? Most want their utility networks overlaid with locations of recent callers, new service requests, open workorders, out of service customers, crew locations, limited SCADA information, recent sewer over flows, planned capital projects, etc. They would also like to be presented with KPIs and metrics derived spatially, utilize heat maps to spot trends, be able to see historic operational data on demand and be able to zoom far enough in to see all of their utility assets in detail as necessary.
Thinking about data that utility managers need to be operationally aware brings about an important point. Much of that data comes from other enterprise business systems used at utilities and can be spatially enabled by a GIS so it is placed on the map.
Water utilities have many external stakeholders such as customers, elected officials, regulatory agencies, other utilities in their service area, etc. The Stakeholder Engagement business pattern encapsulates how utilities interact with external entities that are affected by the utility.
Across the industry, the trend is for water utilities to more proactively engage with stakeholders through public outreach programs, providing more transparency while delivering information in a way that minimizes the possibility of misinterpretation. Modern water utilities recognize they need to utilize the internet and social media to communicate with their stakeholders. Presenting up to date information via interactive maps is a powerful medium to communicate with the technology savvy stakeholder.
Utilities use GIS to support Stakeholder Engagement by creating and delivering static and interactive maps. For years GIS has been used by utilities to make maps that were submitted either electronically or as a hardcopy for regulatory agencies. Utilities have also used GIS to make static maps available as an image file or PDFs on their websites. Now utilities are creating public facing web mapping applications for their stakeholders to support things like customer self service, capital project coordination, service interruption incident management and transparency into utility performance.
We hope that you’ve found this exploration of how a pattern based framework for how GIS supports the needs of water utility useful. As always, if you have any comments on this blog please share them.
The water utility industry is increasingly recognizing GIS as an authoritative repository of utility asset information that can be shared around the entire utility and can spatially enable other utility business systems. As a result water, wastewater and stormwater utilities are increasing focused on GIS data accuracy. More specifically water utilities need to ensure that their GIS data is positionally accurate (in the right place), descriptively accurate (describes the asset appropriately) and temporally accurate (up to date).
On February 15th Esri’s Water Practice and the Data Reviewer team will be offering a free webinar to discuss how water utilities can leverage the ArcGIS Data Reviewer as well as core ArcGIS functionality and the Water Utility Resource Center Templates to create and safeguard accurate asset data. You can sign up for the webinar here:
One of my favorite topics of discussion is the relationship between GIS and enterprise asset management and in particular Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Systems. This discussion happens with increasing regularity as most water utilities now have multiple computerized systems that store information about their assets and GIS is part of their system of record for asset information.
Breaking down silos of information
If you think about it, for years utilities have had pieces of information about their assets in multiple places. For example paper as-builts (or perhaps even linens or mylars) describing what was constructed (or should have been constructed), maybe old project records with financial information that describe what it cost to put assets into operation, in other places paper work orders that described the level of effort to keep assets functioning. You could rightfully call these silos of information – they all may be describing the same asset, with different primary pieces of information (and most likely some overlapping and contradictory information) and perhaps at different times in an asset’s life-cycle. There was no interconnection between these information sources and often no senses of which was one was more correct or authoritative.
We’ve now moved into an era where most utilities have taken advantage of information technology (in some form) to store and maintain their information. Instead of manual drafted paper maps utilities use GIS, instead of handwritten ledgers to track payments utilities use billing systems, etc. Common IT systems used at water utilities are billing, financial, workorder (CMMS), GIS, SCADA, CIS, LIMS, etc.
Utilities still have pieces of information about their assets in multiple systems, but now they are computerized systems. This means it’s still possible to have different descriptive information about an assets, costs associated with an asset, performance of an asset (perhaps describe by SCADA data or indicated by customer complaints) in multiple systems and that data may conflict. So it continues to be a struggle for many utilities that still have to go to multiple systems to get a complete understand of their assets and it may also be a struggle to know what is authoritative information when data in multiple systems conflict.
Some utilities are overcoming these challenges by specifying how their enterprise IT systems must work together. This often takes the form of identifying where data is at a utility, how it’s maintained and then determining how systems should integrate with each other to share information and what systems are the “system of record” meaning they own the data. It’s important to note that you may have multiple systems working together (properly integrated) that form your system of record. So the “system of record” determination may happen on a field by field basis.
Enterprise Asset Management
The interesting thing about enterprise asset management is that it’s both a concept and now the name of a class of software commonly used at utilities and facilities. A few years ago a trend started in the utility and facility industry where vendors of workorder and CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems) began to refer to themselves as “Enterprise Asset Management Systems”, reflecting that the systems that create workorders and manage maintenance tasks (both planned and unplanned) rightfully should participate in the enterprise IT environment. But this has also added to a lot of confusion about how assets are really stored and managed in the enterprise IT environment at most utilities. While now called EAM systems, workorders and maintenance tasks are only part of what a utility needs to truly manage their assets.
From our experience with large water and sewer utilizes, enterprise asset management is something that is only achievable with multiple systems at a utility that are properly integrated. After speaking with many utilities big and small, it seems like what utilities want for enterprise asset management is the use of integrated information from multiple systems to enable a utility to best manage their assets. It’s the best data from each system to describe what an asset is, how it affects others related things (customers, service levels, other assets in your network), what its condition is, maintenance history, cost to build, cost to maintain, criticality, etc. That data should be maintained in a way that it’s created or maintained one time and then stored in the appropriate system in a way that’s transparent to users. So enterprise asset management as a concept is really the ability to access and use the right pieces of information (and that information needs to be descriptively and temporally accurate and authoritative) from enterprise IT systems at a water utility.
GIS, Enterprise Asset Management and EAM Systems
So how does GIS play a role in enterprise asset management? Spatial location is typically the one common aspect among all of the data at a water utility. We can understand the relationship between customers and distribution or collection system assets by their spatial location and interconnection. A map is often the easiest way for humans to aggregate many sources of data together to visualize them all and understand how they affect each other. When we spatially enable our utility data we can then use the analytical power of GIS to gain a better understanding of how our assets are performing and how they affect our level of service and our customers. From years of working with utilities, we’ve seen GIS consistently be the gateway where large amounts of asset data enter a utility and where its basic characteristics (location, size, installation date, material, etc) is maintained. So maps from GIS are the place to visualize, analyze and explore many pieces of asset related data and also enable you to propose ways to manage your assets better (maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement) and understand the impact.
Interestingly, when you look at how modern EAM systems (workorder & CMMS) are implemented at water utilities, they almost always have a GIS integration component that includes a toolbar in desktop GIS to keep assets in sync between the GIS and the EAM and also uses server based GIS to give a spatial view of assets and workorders to utility staff that are dispatching and managing workorders. So the way EAM systems are integrated with GIS underscores the concept that enterprise asset management is about utilizing the best information from each system that stores data about assets.
Want to share your experience or thoughts on this? Feel free to post a comment.
We just posted two more updated templates, The Water Utilities Operations Dashboard and the Water Utilities Customer Interaction(formerly Citizen Service) template. You may have noticed we changed the names of the templates slightly. We switched to Water Utilities because these templates now cover more than just the Water Distribution network.
In the new version of the dashboard, you will find an updated basemap document with improved cartography. All the operational map documents have been updated to include layers for sewer and stormwater. You will also see a new set of widgets, some configured for the new data and some that were included in the most recent release of the sample flex viewer. Take some time and explore the new widgets and give us your feedback. We’re really happy about how user feedback is shaping this template into a true utility dashboard.
The Citizen Service template, now called the Customer Interaction template, underwent a big overhaul. The first release of this template was focused on getting information from the public. In this release, we wanted to expand how and what information can be captured. In the submit request web page, you can now overlay a map service from your utility. A user can click on an asset in that service and use the selected asset to power the request. The selected assets ID is silently submitted with the request, allowing you better identify the asset the request is tied to.
Not only did we want to provide a better way of capturing information, but we wanted to help you share information with your customers. There is a new web page allowing you to do just that. You can list any layers that you want to share with the public in the configuration file. We included two different configurations of this web page with the template. One that share main breaks, out of service hydrants and location of capital projects, the other is used to share boil water notices. The web page can also be used to summarize information by area and then display that to the public, so you can give the public a high level view of information by an operating district or administrative area. As they look closer, the overview will fade away and have access to the detailed feature locations.
Again, we are very happy and pleased with being able to roll out these enhancements. Which, came from all of you. So, please let us know what you like, do not like, what enhancement requests you may have, etc. You feedback drives the development of these. Thanks
This week and the next, we will be posting updates to the templates on the Water Utilities Resource Center. Our focus was to expand the templates to include data, cartography and examples for sewer and storm water.
The next release of the templates will have an expanded and updated data model. There are now feature dataset for both the Sewer System and Storm Collection System. We have included these datasets in each the of map documents with sample cartography, scale dependency, label expressions, etc.
We also restructure the Operations and Planning datasets. All operational data, whether it be data for the field or the office, is now in the Operations Dataset. This dataset has been expanded to include layers to support typical activities for Sewer and Storm data maintenance. The Planning dataset is now only used to store and manage the reporting layers. We have also included the results from the CIP template, both decision support results and the CIP project areas, in the core information model. We did this so you can see how storing when you store CIP data in your utilities authoritative data repository in GIS, your analytical results and new CIP projects are available for publication to browser based and mobile GIS applications.
Since many public works departments also operate water or wastewater utilities, we’ve decided that the public works resource center and the water utility resource center should use the same sample data when possible. So you’ll also notice in the newer template sample data some public works feature classes like roads and facilities. We wanted to leave this dataset in the download to show how one Geodatabase, a central source of information, can support many different divisions or departments in a municipality and to show that these templates can be easily expanded to support different or other datasets.
At the time of this blog, we have already posted the first two updated templates, the Water Utilities Mobile Map template and the Water Utilities Network Editing template. These templates have been upgraded and improved to handle the changes to the data model mentioned above. You will see new functions and workflows built around the sewer and storm datasets. Below I will highlight some of the new functions in each template.
In the Water Utilities Network Editing Template, you will find many new improvements and enhancements. Most of these changes were a direct result of your requests. First you will notice that we split up the Attribute Assistant and the ArcMap Toolbars into 2 separate installs. This makes it easier for us to make future improvements and roll them out faster and also allows you to install just one of the components. We heard from a few utilities that had built their own editing toolbar previously that they just wanted the attribute assistant.
When you open ArcMap, you will now find two toolbars. We split the tools into reporting/tracing tools and into editing tools. If you want more details, review the release notes, or you can click shift +F1 on top of any of the tools on the toolbar…yes per your suggestions, we included compiled help for each of the tools!!! The new reporting/trace toolbar has commonly used tracing functions. You can perform an upstream trace, downstream trace, or isolation trace, by just the click of your mouse. There is also an option to Export to Excel the selected feature, or load the selected features into the ID Box.
You’ll also have notice a new table, GenerateID, in the GDB in the updated data model. This table is used to support a new option in the Attribute Assistant, GenerateID. This new option allows you to specify a column in the GenerateID table to use as the ID index. Yup, you can generate unique ID right in ArcMap using whatever incrementing scheme you want. The tool uses the value, combines it with a prefix you specified, then increments the table. There are a few more new options in the Attribute Assistant, so check out the release notes and review the help. There is also a link for the help in the start menu, under ArcGIS Templates. Note, Windows 7 does not support .hlp out of the box, please download the fix.
The Water Utilities Mobile Map now shows both the Water dataset, and the sewer and storm data. We added a new component that lets you toggle between the different datasets. So it is easy now to just look at sewer data or water or storm, or turn all three on. This is presented to the field staff as a single, large button that make toggling between them very easy. We also improved the ID layer list. You can now filter which layers are presented to the user for Identification, making it easier to navigate the drop down list. You will also see the list expands when you click it, again, making it easier for the field personal to select a value. This new version also includes a module to show how to record new data, such as inspections, leak locations, service request, etc. This inspection module can linked to a source asset. Say you are doing a fire hydrant inspection. When you tap or click the hydrant, the inspection module copies information from the hydrant to the inspection record. It does this by matching field names. So it can help automate some of the information that needs to be captured, like ID. Lastly, you will see a module for workorders. This is an example of how you can work with a workorder system. This module read a feature class that stores all the work orders, filters them based on the crew name and present them to the field staff. The workorder module is linked to the activity module, so by opening a workorder, it starts an inspection.
We’re very happy with these new releases, but we’re already looking forward to rolling out more enhancements. With the expanded tools, symbology, data schema and workflows into Sewer and Storm, you now have a starting point for all assets at a water department, sewer utility or public works department.
Please keep in mind, these enhancements came directly from your requests and feedback about the templates, so please keep them coming!
ArcGIS Team Water
In the upcoming months, we will try to pull out some key pieces from 9.4 and start discussing how the templates will take advantage of the new functionality and how they will affect the water community. Our first post, we will take a look at ArcGIS Mobile and the Mobile Map Template that was based on this platform.
At 9.3 and 9.3.1, the ArcGIS Mobile platform included a SDK or developer kit and an out of the box application for Windows Mobile 5/6 handheld devices. We used this SDK for the Mobile Map template that you can download from the water resource center. At 9.4, ArcGIS Mobile is also going to include an out of the box tablet based application. This application has been designed for the field personal using a touch base PC. So it is very easy to navigate and interact with. This application is also extendable, so you can use the base application and add extensions that provide custom functions or workflows.
At 9.4, we are going to release a configuration of the Out of the Box ArcGIS Mobile Tablet application with several Add-Ins focused on the field workflows for the water community. The Add-Ins will emulate the functionality in the current Mobile Map Template. They will be starting point to show you how to extend the Out of the Box mobile application to fit into your utilities workflows. The goal is that you will be able to use a core, supported mobile application, and just provide the add-ons to support your needs.
The ArcGIS Mobile framework has many new enhancements that the water community will be able to take advantage of. The most intriguing is the new supported data formats. ArcGIS Mobile now supports both Operational Layers and Basemaps. This means, you can separate the data into two different storage types.
Your operational data is the data that you interact with, so data that you search, identify, and edit. This is your water mains, sewer lines, valves, manholes, catch basins, etc. This operational data is stored in the mobile cache format, which is a representation of your geodatabase. This representation or cache stores the geometry, attributes and symbology. By caching the data on the device, it allows the field personal to work disconnected from the office, but anytime you have a connection to the office, this data can be updated, and changes made in the field can be pushed back to the office.
Your basemap is the data that helps your field personnel orient themselves, locate a particular asset or facility, and it provides a reference for the operational data. In the past, the basemap data was included in the operational data cache and typically has been larger than the operational data. This made managing the cache a lot harder.
At 9.4, the basemap data can be stored or delivered in a number of ways. One way basemap data can be delivered to your field personnel is directly from ArcGIS Server in the form of a tiled map service. This means that none of the basemap data has to be deployed to the device. ArcGIS mobile leverages the internet to retrieve the tiles and displays them for the user. Those tiles are stored on the device for your session, so once they are retrieved, that can be used again and again, until the application shuts down. This can be ArcGIS Online tile map services or map services that your organization authors. The upside here is that only the operational data, or mobile cache, has to be managed on the device. All the basemap data is provided by a map service. That map service can deliver a tremendous amount of information to the user for the area they are working in. Those tiles retrieved for the mobile worker persist for the user’s session, so once a tile is retrieved once, it saved on the device so it can be reused in that session. The downside with this approach is that a data connection is required. So you will want to look at your network coverage in your area and data fees before settling on this approach for your basemap data.
If you do not have a persistent internet connection but want to provide a large amount of basemap information on your mobile devices, there is another option at 9.4 that allows you to deliver content in a compressed format. Those same tiles that ArcGIS server is reading and delivering to the field personnel through the map service, can be copied local to the device and used just like any raster dataset. This allows you to extract out an area of interest at a series of scales and provision the device with this content. If you worked with an ArcGIS Server tiled cache in the past, you know that there can be lots of files that make up the server cache and moving this number of files around can take a long time. ArcGIS 9.4 has a new cache format called compact. This compact cache format bundles up a large number of tiles into one set of files. It significantly reduces the number of files that need to be copied and reduces the amount of disk space required. There are also geoprocessing tools that allow you to extract out a section of the cache. So you can build one large cache, covering your entire service area and pull out sub areas to reduce the amount of data that you would have to deliver to support a field application.
ArcGIS Mobile at 9.4 has many improvements and enhancements, we focused on the application and the data because we see these as important changes that the community will want to take advantage of. The new application and the supported data formats will allow you to deliverer both a better application and better maps to you field users. With an out of the box application that is extendable, you can focus on the workflows for the field personal and simplifying them with custom Add-ins without developing an entire application. The new data formats will allow the field to use better basemaps and reduce the data that needs to be managed on the device.
Whether you are implementing GIS in your water, wastewater or stormwater utility and creating a data model for the first time or you are updating your existing GIS datamodel, you will no doubt ask yourself this question –
How should I model my utility’s asset in a geometric network and why should I use a geometric network? You should model a Geometric networks can enable utility system tracing, error checking, and better productivity while editing.
But how should I build it. That one simple question spawns many sub questions. Should I use complex edges, what edge to junction or edge to edge rules should I implement? What are weights? Should I worry about cardinality? We get these questions or have this conversation all the time with utilities and partners.
Below, you will find information and some guidance to help you answer these questions. Also, we always recommend that you read through ESRI’s webhelp as a starting point on geometric on networks:
First, you will need to create your network. When creating your network, you have a few options. The most important are choosing which layers participate in the geometric network and what layers, if any, are sources or sinks.
So what layers should you include in your geometric network? Keep in mind that the geometric network should encapsulate how your distribution or collection systems actually operate. So include only layers that participate in the logic network – or to think of it another way the layers that include assets that determine how your collection or distribution system function.
These typically are mains, valves, fittings, hydrants, laterals, virtual lines, manholes, catch basins, etc. Since the geometric network should only contain layers that affect the network, a change in geometry or information can affect analysis on that network. Data like Leaks, or SCADA sensor locations, are operational data sets. It is showing some incident on the network or some value or reading of the network. So these operational layers should be included in the operations dataset and not in the geometic network.
In order to create a geometric network, you’ll need to have a feature dataset which contains all of the feature classes for that network. You’ll also need at least the ArcEditor level of ArcGIS Desktop. When prompted to build the geometric network from existing features or an empty network or to create an empty network, you’ll typically choose the first option.
After you determine the layers that should be part of your geometric network, you need to think about how you are going to model flow. When setting sources or sinks, make sure to only set one of these. This is critically important, and a mistake that we see all too often. Do not set one feature as source and another as sinks. You only need one and having both in a geometric network for water, wastewater or stormwater will lead to odd network behaviors. Typically the NetworkStructure feature class or similar feature class containing a relatively small number of points is used. While creating the network you don’t specify whether it is a source or sink just that it could be one or the other. This adds a field called AncillaryRole to any feature classes you specify. Later, in ArcMap you can set the value of this field for individual features to source, sink or none. These values can be used to establish flow direction for the non-looped portion of your network. You could instead choose to use the digitized direction of your lines to establish flow direction, in this case sources and sinks are not used.
After the geometric network has been created, you need to set up the core properties of the network.
Let’s first think about complex edges versus simple edges. This is an easy one to make a decision on. In a geometric network, a simple edge must be split at every junction, so every valve, manhole, fitting, etc, on an edge, splits that edge. Complex edges allow one segment to have many junctions on top of it and it does not require that segment to be split. And by split, I mean separate records in the geodatabase. Usually, complex edges only are used on your mains and laterals for water, sewer, and storm. This allows you to model your segments by the method defined by your utility – meaning that there is no standard industry definition for what a “pipe segment” is and we often see utilities making a conscious decision for how they want to define a pipe segment and use that definition across all of their operation and business systems. We have seen people model laterals as simple edges. Typically, simple edges are used here because the lateral and the connection point (meter, service connection) is a representation of the actual meter and lateral. The representation allows you to perform tracing through the network to the meter and connect the meter id to a billing or customer system.
Next we need to determine whether to set connectivity rules. Keep this in mind – if you set just one connectivity rule in your geometric network and wish to use the validation tools, then you need to set up all the rules. This can be a complex process to figure out how all your assets connect in every situation-. Despite being complex to implement and maintain, there are certainly large benefits to using connectivity rules.
Connectivity rules allow you to model the logic connection of your network. To support all connection types, you need to make sure your datamodel will support this. Connectivity rules can leverage a geodatabase design element called subtypes. Subtype allow more complex modeling of your data so that within a feature class, features are assigned to a subtype which may have different default values, different domains, and different connectivity rules than the other subtypes within that feature class. The example template geodatabase is simplified and doesn’t include any subtypes. This means that for connectivity purposes a fitting is just a fitting not a tee, bend, or cap. Likewise for connectivity purposes a lateral line is just lateral line not a hydrant lateral or service lateral. With a more detailed design which includes subtypes you can make more extensive use of connectivity rules. That is you could have a rule that says a hydrant must connect to a hydrant lateral line and that a hydrant lateral line must connect to one hydrant. You could also specify that a hydrant feature be added by default at the free end of a hydrant lateral and that a tap fitting be placed automatically where the lateral line connects to the main. You could set up a similar set of rules for service lines and meters.
Within connectivity rules, there is an option to set cardinality. So you can go beyond just how your assets can connect and you can define how many assets can connect to each other. Let’s think about fittings again, with subtypes for fittings, you could specify that a tee fitting must connect to 3 pipes, an end cap to 1 pipe, etc. So you can see that to model proper cardinality, you need to model your data in a way to properly define the number each asset can connect to.
With a simple data model, like the data model that is included with the Water Utility Resource Center templates, you can still set a connectivity rule if desired. For instance, you can specify that wLateralLine should connect to a wMain and by default a fitting must be added.
Some of the Edit Tools in the Network Editing Template are designed to assist with automation and basic connectivity testing without the use of geodatabase connectivity rules. For example, the connectivity checker tool merely looks at feature types and makes sure they logically connect to each other. So if you want to use connectivity to enhance your editing experience, you can do so, without modeling connectivity to represent every asset’s connectivity restrictions in the geodatabase. For instance, you can model a hydrant to a lateral to a main and not worry about modeling everything, you will just have some connectivity errors when you validate, which you can choose to ignore.
Next, you will see an option for setting weights. Geometric network weights can be used in two ways. Weights can be a filter, tracing only features with matched values. This is somewhat advanced and is used primarily in telecom and electric networks. Weights can also be used to aggregate flow. This is second usage is helpful for wastewater and storm water networks where flow direction is known – that is the non-looped portion of the network. Using trace weights, we can accumulate flow upstream from a specified location. You might add a trace weight on the length of your gravity mains and laterals in order to later obtain the total length of pipes upstream from a given location. You might also add a field to your wastewater lateral points representing estimated gallons entering the system. By creating a trace weight on this field, you can summarize gallons at any point in your network using the Find Upstream Accumulation trace task on the Utility Network Analyst toolbar. If desired, the system could then store these values of accumulated flow along your network in the manholes and gravity mains. For an example of this, see the Calculate Accumulation script:
In short, weights are typically not used for most utilities. You can see that they do provide some advance functions but are not required to model and work with a geometric network.
Lastly, we like to recommend that if you are tackling some of these issues, that you take ESRI training so you can understand all of the implications of what we’ve discussed in this blog. The proper training or consulting help with creating your datamodel or implementing the geometric network will undoubtedly save you a lot of time and money when your data model is in production.
As you may have seen, we released the Water Distribution Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) Template a last week. First, we wanted to say a big thank you to all of our users and business partners who helped us to refine the initial geoprocessing models and the toolset also shared their workflows for capital planning.
We’ve already had a few questions about why we chose the term Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) to describe this template, since not all utilities use that term. So when we use the term CIP, what we mean is the long term plans of a utility to manage their assets and/or to expand their system, what you may also call a “Capital Plan”, “Long Term Plan” or “5 year plan”.
Personally, I think the CIP Template is great example of how ESRI listens to our water utility customers and responds to their needs. We’ve had numerous customers over the past few years tell us that they want to be able to leverage their asset data in GIS as well as their operational data (workorders, CIS, water quality) better to support their long term plans. Of course, we thought that giving our customers a geographic view of all that asset and operational data was the best place for them to start. We also heard from many of our water and wastewater customers that their long term planning has evolved from an occasional event to a continual process; because of funding issues, grant availability, coincidence with other projects that a utility could share costs with and the desire to be quick and proactive to eliminate the risk of future critical asset failures.
Also, we are excited, because the CIP template is great example of GeoDesign. We’ll be doing a blog shortly that explores the principals of GeoDesign and relates them back to the CIP template.
2 Parts of the CIP Workflow
As we dug into the CIP process, we observed 2 distinct, but related workflows happening. The first part of the workflow was to assemble data from many sources and analyze that data to look for where projects are needed. This part of the process is tailor made for the benefits of GIS – to use GIS as the place where different types of data are assembled together into a common view and also to use the analytical capabilities of GIS to gain better insight into the aggregated data. Because this analysis needs to be iterative (looking at multiple data layers with different weighted criteria), an auditable process (you have to be able to defend your findings to a PUC and your ratepayers) and an automated workflow (to save time, money and resources) this is a perfect match for Geoprocessing Models in ArcGIS.
GIS Analysis for CIP Decision Making
At first we took the approach that ESRI should try and build a few geoprocessing models that all water and wastewater utilities could use to score and rate their assets by estimated remaining asset life, condition or criticality. We figured that we could do some research, interview some of our users and figure out these geoprocessing models (our inner geography geek begged us to take this approach first). What we quickly realized was that there isn’t a silver bullet set of geoprocessing models we could build because every utility system has their own approach to long term asset management and their own priorities (KPIs, level of service they want to provide, hot button issues, fiscal condition, etc) that drive their long term planning.
This was also a great reminder that even though we have the ability to use technology to automate a process, the human element is still critical, meaning that the more we talked with the engineers who are creating these CIP plans, the more we realized they need a better way to manipulate and process data so they could apply their engineering expertise to make decisions about capital projects. We also noticed when talking to engineers doing capital planning, that while they were somewhat aware of the analytical capabilities of GIS, they weren’t aware of the geoprocessing framework core to ArcGIS and how to use ModelBuilder to automate analysis and create a reusable toolset.
So we decided that we need to focus our CIP template on showing the water utility community how they could benefit from automating spatial analysis with the ArcGIS geoprocessing framework by providing some generic models. So, please keep in mind that the intent of the models we’ve provided in the CIP template is to show you how geoprocessing and ModelBuilder work within ArcGIS so you can create geoprocessing models that reflect how your utility wants to manage assets and plan for the long term. Incidentally, if you want to learn more about GIS analysis, Geoprocessing or Model Builder within ArcGIS, ESRI has lots of great resource including on-line training, books and class room instruction.
Estimating Project Costs
The second part of the CIP workflow we observed was estimating CIP project costs. Basically this workflow was estimating the cost of a project based on either replacing existing infrastructure or adding new infrastructure (main extensions, interconnections, extending service to new sub-divisions, etc). It’s important to note that all of the functionality in this part of the CIP process is core to ArcGIS and the geodatabase, all we’ve done is customized the application to automate and simplify this part of the workflow. This is what we decided to call the Costing Estimating Tools.
The first step in estimating project costs is to create projects by grouping assets together into projects. In this part of the process you are visualizing the data you brought into GIS and also the results of your analysis and then determining what assets you want to include in a project, your rehab or replacement strategy for those assets and then saving that information. So you are literally visualizing data in GIS (most likely working with many data layers of data, including the same feature datasets symbolized different ways) and doing some spatial and attribute queries to come up with candidate assets to include in CIP projects.
From there, assets that are in need of replacement or rehabilitation and spatially close to together are grouped in projects. We’ve heard from many water utilities that without a spatial context it was a real challenge for them to group assets together into appropriate projects without and also it was a challenge for them to track and manage information about candidate assets for CIP projects throughout the CIP planning process. Water utilities were struggling with supporting their CIP process with paper maps and tracking assets that were part of a project, including costs to replace those assets, in spreadsheets.
So traditionally, this CIP process took a lot of staff time and also lead to uncertainty about whether utilities were actually spending their money on the most appropriate capital projects. We also heard that utilities were struggling with how to update data when they tried to refine a large candidate list of CIP projects down to just a few to carry forward into design and that it was next to impossible to look at multiple scenarios for the same project area (assets grouping and rehab or replacement approach) because so much of this process was manual or spreadsheet driven.
We took the approach that if a utility has their assets (water distribution, wastewater collection or stormwater) in GIS, they should use their GIS asset data to group into CIP projects and then to store information about the CIP projects (like the extent and also all of the assets that are part of the project) as new data layers in GIS. This enables a utility to create an authoritative source of data about their proposed capital projects in GIS. So this drove us to create the Cost Estimating Tools.
As we began to demonstrate early versions of the Cost Estimating Tools to our utility users, we got a lot of great feedback that helped us to refine the tools. We were told that to be really useful, the tools should include the ability to either rehab or replace existing assets and to extend mains, so we programmed that functionality into the tools. We also were told by our users that they needed to be able to compare the costs of different replacement strategies (open cut, trenchless, etc) for the same set of assets so we designed the tools to make it easy to compare the costs of use using different rehab methodologies. Also we knew that the costing element of the tools needed to be flexible, because individual utilities favor different pipe materials which can be set as defaults and that unit costs are often specific to a utility and those can be easily configured in a simple table.
So what we wanted to do with this blog was to explain how we arrived at version 1 of the Water Distribution CIP Template. We are very interested in your feedback so we can incorporate more useful changes in version 2. Also we’d like to hear about any geoprocessing models that you would like to use for CIP planning. So, please leave us feedback here – http://forums.esri.com/forums.asp?c=55&s=426#426
In the next few weeks we’ll be recording a video of the Water Distributions CIP Template in action and we are also going to do a webcast in December that takes a deep dive into the CIP Template.
If you have been following us on twitter, you already know that we released the ArcGIS Water Distribution Capital Planning template (we are calling this the CIP Template for short) yesterday. The CIP template includes a set of models to help you understand how to you can use GIS to score and rank your infrastructure and a set of tools to provide cost estimates for rehabilitating, replacing or building new infrastructure.
We will film a video at the end of October that shows you in detail how these tools work, and we’ll be doing a live webcast in December to explore the CIP template in depth. So in the mean time, below is a little help with the CIP Template.
We included 6 models that show different ways you can analyze your data. To run these models, you will need to create a temporary file geodatabase and set the environmental variables for each model. The two variables you need to set are Current Workspace (the folder that has the CapitalPlanning.gdb in it) and the Scratch Workspace (the folder that has the temporary File GDB you just created).
The Project Cost Estimating tools use three tables in the CapitalPlanning.gdb for configuration. These tables are shipped to work with the data in the Sample.gdb. If you want to start changing cost or the configuration, you will need to change these tables.
CIPDEFINITON – This tables defines which featureclass’s to cost, the fields to look at(such as Diameter and Material) and a few other parameters.
CIPCOST – This table defines the cost for a particular asset. When costing an asset, you can define a Strategy, like Replacement or Rehabilitate, then an action for that Strategy, like Open cut for a Replacement . For each Strategy and Action, then you define the cost based on the fields you set up in the definition table. So if you are looking at wMains as a layer, you are interested in the Field’s, Diameter and Material, you would select your Strategy, the Action for that Strategy, the Material(say PVC), then Diameter(say 12) and define a cost for what each foot would cost. So by using a Strategy, Action and two filter fields, you can provide very detailed cost estimates.
CIPREPLACEMENT – This table allows you to provide lookups for replacement. If you are going to replace a 6” DI, you may have a rule saying that each 6” DI is going to be replaced with a 8” PVC. This table allows you to define this replacement. So that costing is preformed an 8” PVC, not a 6” DI.
Since this is our initial release of the CIP Template, we want your feedback. So please post any questions or feedback to our forums under the Water Utilities Template section: http://forums.esri.com/forums.asp?c=55