GIS: Getting Inspections Smarter — An Esri User Conference Preview


An electric manhole is a little room buried in the street or sidewalk, where utility workers access electric cables, switches and other dangerous stuff. (In the old days, the majority of utilities workers were men, so the term manhole stuck.) When a cable fails, workers splice together new and old sections — inside these manholes. You enter the manhole through a round hole, which is usually covered with, you guessed It, those heavy manhole covers. Inside, manholes are hot, dangerous and creepy. If a cable fails, it generates a lot of heat, too, and sometimes fire. Any debris caught in the manhole will worsen the fire. And if things explode, those heavy manhole covers go flying.

The ArcGIS Platform can help utilities better manage data and workflows ensuring inspections make sense and go off without a hitch.

To keep things operating well, manholes should be inspected and cleaned of all debris.

But since there are so many things to do — and frankly, no one likes to inspect and clean manholes — this workflow often takes a back seat.

Not Exactly Smart Inspection

A power company I used to work for had 16,157 manholes. Each one was numbered from #1 to #16,157.

At one point after a number of manhole incidents, we decided to go gangbusters and get aggressive in inspecting and cleaning the manholes. Where to begin? The logical choice was of course to inspect the manholes in numerical order, starting with manhole #1. After a year of this process, we hadn’t gotten beyond around manhole #200. We decided to abandon the aggressive project and move to as-needed inspections and cleaning. It was clear we were never going to inspect all 16,157 manholes, given our limited resources. Plus, most of those manholes were just fine. The problem was how to prioritize the targeted manhole inspection.

GIS: Getting Inspections Smarter

The trick is to avoid inspecting all manholes (and other assets that need inspections). You have to figure out which assets are most vulnerable to having something go wrong. Which manholes are near debris sources? Which manholes are most likely to be flooded? Which manholes carry very critical cables? Which manholes have not been entered for years? Which manholes have higher incidents of fires?

What smart utilities are doing is looking to ArcGIS technology to analyze data and build smart inspection strategies. Technology can help figure out which of the 16,157 manholes need the most inspections and cleanings. Staff can cluster these manholes spatially — on a map in the GIS. As a result, they can schedule inspections for minimum crew travel time, or they can combine inspections with other field work they know is going on in proximity. They can bring in all kinds of content, like weather, crime, graffiti incidents, abandoned buildings, high insurance risk data and any other spatial data sources easily with the ArcGIS platform. Then then can a spatial analysis on the data and focus on those manholes that are most likely to create a problem.

That’s what smart inspection is all about — creating the ability to take a huge number of assets to inspect and figure out the best place to deploy your very valuable resources.

A User Conference Preview

Come to the Esri User Conference to see how our customers have put smart inspection into practice to save money, improve performance and keep things running smoothly for customers. Here are some highlights:

Hear Spoon River Electric Cooperative use smart inspection of Vegetation Management, PG&E automate their regulatory inspections with GIS.

The City of Riverside believes that street lighting is critical for its customers. Learn about their GIS street lighting app.

Fairmont Municipal Corporation figured out which cables to reinforce with silicon injection using GIS.

Marathon Oil used aerial surveillance integrated into their GIS for real smart inspection of their pipelines. Vilnious Energia used thermal photo maps on their district heating system.

All great stories.

So if back in the old days, when I was worried about manhole inspections, we could inspected the right manholes at the right time using the right device with ArcGIS.


To learn more about the Esri International user Conference visit esri.com/UC.

Originally published at blogs.esri.com on July 9, 2015.

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