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From ground to record in 24 hours

  • We have saved 200 man days in field visits, the equivalent of one full time person or £40 000.

    Neil Auty, Geomatics Partner Support Manager

Challenge

Thanks to process improvements, Yorkshire Water have saved 200 man-days in field visits, the equivalent of one full-time person, or £40 000.

In brief

Challenge

Record all remedial and upgrade work undertaken on all assets within 24 hours of the work being beneficially complete so that asset records are always up to date.

Solution

Ensure that network changes appear on the geographical information system (GIS) within 24 hours by rolling out Panasonic® ToughBooks (durable computers) loaded with the in-house GIS, an electronic redlining tool, and map datasets that include a flattened version of OS MasterMap® Topography Layer, 1:10 000 Scale Raster, 1:25 000 Scale Colour Raster and 1:50 000 Scale Colour Raster.

Benefits

  • Bimonthly updates to OS MasterMap mean that field operatives are always working from the most reliable up-to-date geographic data.
  • Monthly paper reports cut by 96%, from 950 to 26.
  • It now takes 10 minutes to file a record instead of 30 minutes, cutting out 40 man days per month on administration and saving the company £165 000 annually.
  • A total of 99% of queries are now resolved quickly by telephone rather than a field visit, with significantly fewer queries raised against submitted amendments to the network. This represents an annual saving of 200 man days on field visits or £40 000.

Return on investment

  • The equivalent of one full-time geomatics role has been saved.
  • Yorkshire Water is well placed to demonstrate asset management improvements to Ofwat.
  • Geographic data submitted to the records office is of a consistently high standard, and incident and network management is undertaken with data that reflects the real asset base.

As one of the biggest landowners in the region, Yorkshire Water manages 32 000 hectares (80 000 acres) of land, which is used for activities such as walking, cycling and horse riding as well as collecting raw water. The company has 120 reservoirs and 40 000 miles of water and sewerage mains – enough pipes to circle the earth. Each day it supplies 1.24 billion litres of drinking water and returns one billion litres of waste water safely back into the environment through its 700 water and sewage treatment works.

The challenge

Each business day teams send in redlines that affect the network. It now takes 10 minutes to file a record instead of 30 minutes. This cuts out 40 man days per month on administration by the field team, who are each costed at £400 per day. Including plant, an annual saving of £165 000 is achieved.

Neil Auty, Geomatics Partner Support Manager

With such a large network to maintain, repair work is taking place daily. Any changes to the network need to be recorded accurately and field operatives have in the past utilised two methods by which they could send information to the central records office. One option was to take a screen grab of a map view, save it and then open it in a graphics programme and use a paint tool to mark any amendments. The other was to print off the relevant section of map and mark up by hand or draw a plan from scratch, before then submitting the piece of paper. Both processes varied in accuracy and quality and clearly an electronic means of providing this ‘redline’ data was required. In addition, it could take up to 28 days for a record to reach the central office and up to 28 days to log that change.

Neil Auty, Geomatics Partner Support Manager at Yorkshire Water, notes one of the consequences: ‘If there is a query on a job, it is not realistic after a potential delay of 56 days to call someone up and ask them about a job they did – quite understandably they often have little memory of it. In such cases a field visit would become necessary, and gathering the appropriate job details, driving to the relevant location, checking the work done, returning to base and recording the correct information could take half a day.

Neil estimates that 10% of jobs were wrongly recorded and so triggered a site visit. ‘We recognised that our methods of working had to alter and we instigated a programme of change. Our objective was to record jobs undertaken on our underground assets within 24 hours of the work being beneficially complete. We knew that good communication and the right tools would be critical.’

The solution

The decisions we make, when managing the network, are underpinned by the combined quality of the base geographic data and the asset record. By using Ordnance Survey data our people are now more confident about the quality of the record and the decisions they make. This all supports delivery of an improving service for our customer.

Mike Turner, Asset Records Manager

The communications aspect was addressed with the formation of the Geomatics Partner Support Team. This group was dedicated to supporting internal and external users of Yorkshire Water’s GIS, Odyssey.

Neil Auty, who leads this team, explains, ‘We met regularly with Partner Support Representatives (PSR) and designated individuals from each of our contract partners to define and clarify our requirements and prepare them to deliver training and support when required.’

In autumn 2008 Yorkshire Water loaded Panasonic ToughBooks with a mobile version of Odyssey, an electronic redlining tool, and map datasets that included a flattened version of OS MasterMap Topography Layer. Whilst this retains all relevant topographical detail, polygons and lines have been removed to make it lighter and it uses the OpenStreetMap (OSM) format. The ToughBooks were rolled out to repair and maintenance contract partners and training began in earnest with work gangs and field technicians. ‘This roll-out was part of a much broader project to improve customer services,’ explains Neil Auty.

After familiarisation training on the ToughBook® and Odyssey was completed, the teams were brought back in from January 2009 to undertake a two-hour session on the redlining system and the standards by which Yorkshire Water expected asset data to be delivered. Neil comments, ‘The new way of working was also able to provide the GI Integration Team, responsible for translating the redline into the final product, with an up-to-date working view of the water network.’

The benefits

In May 2009 Yorkshire Water had transferred to mobile redlining and achieved its goal of fieldwork to live record within 24 hours. New works appear on the GIS within 24 hours and this ensures that incident and network management is undertaken with network data that truly reflects the real asset base.

Each business day teams send in redlines that affect the network. It now takes 10 minutes to file a record instead of 30 minutes. This cuts out 40 man days per month on administration by the field team, who are each costed at £400 per day. Including plant, an annual saving of £165 000 is achieved.

These redlines are recorded and reported back to the contract partners, who look at the work their teams should have reported and identify any missing redlines.

Any queries and comments are raised the same day whilst the job is still fresh in the minds of the team undertaking the work. This feedback also helps to identify teams that may require further support to deliver efficiently to target.

Because OS MasterMap is updated bimonthly the mobile teams always have the latest, most reliable geographic data, which incorporates even small changes.

‘Land-Line®, which we used previously, was updated tile by tile and each tile update was triggered only after a certain number of changes on the ground,’ Neil Auty explains. ‘It was possible to find two tiles side by side which did not match up because one had been updated to reflect real life and the other had not. For example, one might show half a new housing development and the other might still show a green field instead of the other half of the estate.’

This success is due to our emphasis on communication and training and our choice of reliable data such as OS MasterMap.

Neil Auty , Geomatics Partner Support Manager

A total of 99% of queries are now resolved quickly by telephone call. The query rate has also decreased because the system employs simple-to-use drop-down tools and freehand sketching tools. ‘We have saved 200 man days in field visits, the equivalent of one full-time person or £40 000,’ says Neil. ‘Now field visits are done purely as quality checks, whereas we often did not get to do these before.’

Typically, 950 reportable jobs are undertaken each month, and this process has resulted in a reduction in the use of paper reporting from 100% in December 2008 to just 4% – 26 pieces of paper – in May 2009. This is a saving of 3 800 paper reports in a period of five months. The level of paper reporting subsequently dropped to about 1%, reflecting special cases only. Yorkshire Water is saving on the cost of paper, office administration and storage.

For larger capital schemes, Yorkshire Water has instigated a project to integrate new schemes of work into the Odyssey record by tagging them when they are at the ‘construction drawing’ stage. When a job is completed and flows are turned on in the network, the system is instantly updated by changing the ‘for construction’ attribute to ‘public’. Any amendments to the planned layout can be made by applying redline feedback to the integrated ‘construction’ drawing so that an accurate rendition of the completed project is entered onto the record.

‘There was some trepidation over the use of ToughBook hardware and the new software by teams that had previously worked with a paper-based system,’ comments Neil Auty. ‘However, these misgivings were to prove unfounded and many of the teams took to the new way of working very quickly. The look and feel of the upgraded solution is important for users and the versatility of OS MasterMap means we could be selective with the displayed features, yet retain the previous simplicity of the application. In fact, as part of our change-management process, we deliberately did not announce some changes in order to avoid creating possible apprehension.’

OS MasterMap also gave Yorkshire Water the flexibility to remove data that was not required. ‘We have taken out most of the dynamic functionality, which means that a complete background map of the Yorkshire Water region can be carried on the limited space of a ToughBook yet the user can bring up in-depth mapping views.’

In addition to OS MasterMap Topography Layer, Yorkshire Water’s network version of Odyssey incorporates Points of Interest accommodation, eating and drinking classification data supplied by Ordnance Survey. This will be used to help monitor oil and grease problems, such as blockages, in the network. When a build-up of fat is found the likely polluters can be identified by tracing back up the network and locating at street level businesses such as fast-food outlets. In addition, Yorkshire Water can target remedial works according to where fast-food outlets are located and jet out nearby sewers most likely to benefit from cleaning. Points of Interest also makes it easy to identify the location of petrol stations, where there is potential for leakage into aquifers used for groundwater abstraction.

Return on investment

The role of the Geomatics Partner Support Team is to ensure the best use of geographic data. ‘The introduction of new technology and new working processes is the culmination of four years’ focus on improving customer service by streamlining the way we work with contract partners,’ states Neil Auty. ‘We have increased the quality of our data and we are saving the equivalent of one full-time person because we no longer have to sort out so many queries. This success is due to our emphasis on communication and training and our choice of reliable data such as OS MasterMap.’

The products used

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