Case Study

Asset Inspection App Cuts Workforce Requirement By Half

UK Power Networks serves over eight million customers in the Greater London and south east areas. This large customer base depends on safe, reliable electric service. Recurring fires in underground cable pits posed a public hazard and caused power outages. The utility contracted Black & Veatch to rapidly inspect its facilities. Collector for ArcGIS enabled fast and accurate inspections and provided actionable data to help ensure the public's safety. 

Industry - Electric & Gas

Black & Veatch 

Recurring fires in cable pits posed a safety hazard and caused power outages. The rapid inspection of 47,000 assets was needed to address public safety concerns and ensure reliable electric service. 

Black & Veatch rapidly deployed a mobile solution using Collector for ArcGIS.

Black & Veatch halved the labor requirement, reduced the average cost per inspection, and improved efficiency, thereby saving over $180,000, eliminating site revisits, and ensuring the public's safety. 

The Challenge

As part of a wide-ranging initiative to minimize health and safety risks, UK Power Networks needed to assess the condition of 47,000 cable pits across its 11,000-square-mile service area. The utility also needed accurate information to optimize its hazard mitigation and maintenance programs. It contracted with Black & Veatch, a leading consulting company, to verify the locations of these underground assets and provide actionable electronic data.

Black & Veatch initially employed a paper-based process in which back-office administrators printed and sorted maps, collated handwritten notes, and typed the data into spreadsheets. However, after visiting 17,000 sites in congested urban conditions, the company determined that this approach was inadequate for the enormous scale of the task. Black & Veatch needed a convenient and accurate tool to help gather the necessary data.

The Solution

Taking advantage of its existing enterprise license agreement for Esri's ArcGIS platform, Black & Veatch used the out-of-the-box capabilities of Collector for ArcGIS to deploy a customized mobile application. The proof of concept took less than one day to build and was further refined with users and UK Power Networks representatives. "In total, it took us just six days to put the mobile GIS [geographic information system] solution together," recalls Paul Hart, information management specialist at Black & Veatch. The application was so portable that 11 triathletes performed many of the 30,000 remaining inspections rapidly on foot, reducing the need for vehicles and minimizing parking challenges.

Using location intelligence, the team prioritized inspection sites by risk and safety factors such as proximity to gas mains. Black & Veatch also used ArcGIS to assign inspections automatically to the workers' mobile devices and aid them in locating the cable pits.

The Results

The new GIS-based method halved the labor requirement and eliminated revisits. Crews inspected and evaluated the remaining 30,000 cable pits in just six weeks. "We wouldn't have been able to even print 30,000 maps in six weeks using the traditional inspection method, let alone visit 30,000 sites," Hart says. Workers also photographed cable pits for the first time, capturing location-referenced, high-resolution images.

As workers documented the cable pits, the data loaded directly to a web map, enabling managers to monitor the inspection progress in near real time via Esri's Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS. "Using our previous method, it took around a week before we knew which cable pits had been visited," Hart says. "With our new approach, we could go online, at any time, to see exactly how many cable pits each team had visited."

Using accurate data, UK Power Networks expedited measures to mitigate potential street hazards. The improved asset data also helps the utility effectively plan future maintenance and has saved over $180,000.

"ArcGIS enabled us to do, in weeks, a project that might otherwise have taken years."
Paul Hart, Information Management Specialist, Black & Veatch