We are constantly seeking new ways to improve the way work is performed. A recent Ulteig innovation involves the integration of 360-degree video with GIS. We call it 360 VMI: Video & Mapping Integration. We’re using 360-degree cameras to collect videos of project areas by attaching the camera to a vehicle or walking down a corridor.  This video is then integrated into our web mapping system to allow the user to click on a map and start the video at the time stamp of that exact point. This application reduces the number of return trips to the field and gives us yet another innovative tool to communicate more difficult design situations with our internal staff and clients. Because innovation has no finish line.

6 tips to get the most out of Geographic Information Systems

Ulteig has a long history of providing centralized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) solutions to support our key Lifeline Sectors® of Power, Renewables, Transportation and Water. These GIS solutions are invaluable to the success of our projects. GIS technology supports engineering projects by combining the visual benefits of mapping with the power of a database.  The technology contributes to data asset management and project status tracking, and enhance communications between stakeholders throughout the project.

More Efficiency, Less Cost

One of Ulteig’s benchmarks for the value of GIS is a project developed for a Midwest electric utility company. This project received a National Recognition Award by the American Council of Engineering Companies for its design excellence.

While the designs developed by our engineering team were very accurate and met the client’s expectations, the team felt the project could be more efficient. Using GIS-based databases, workflows and applications, the team completely revamped the process to improve efficiency and deliver additional benefits from a new workflow. The Ulteig project team created a plan to meet project requirements by using GIS in field mapping applications integrated with centimeter-accurate GPS antennas and efficient GIS workflows for client deliverables creation.

Drawing on our experience with this project and others, here are six learnings for using GIS on your next project:

  • Don’t be afraid to question a good process. We had a good process in place and met the expectations of our client, but we realized it could be even better with the use of GIS technology. Challenging traditional thinking led to the development of a revamped approach to energy distribution design. By utilizing GIS technology, we increased the efficiency of this particular energy distribution design project, and now we look forward to leveraging GIS to other projects involving other industries to enhance project efficiencies. At Ulteig, we are continuously seeking new ways to shorten project timelines and enhance real-time project updates with fewer paper markups and corrections.
  • Choosing the right hardware and software is imperative. In incorporating GIS technology into the project, our Midwest Electric Utility team at Ulteig carefully considered the hardware and software with an eye toward efficiency. Of course we wanted to obtain the right data and of course we wanted to obtain as much useful data as possible. But what about the most relevant data? And what about data that can easily be shared and combined with data from other sources and make the entire work flow smoother? So, again, with an eye toward efficiency, we combined ESRI Collector for ArcGIS with Trimble survey-grade GPS receivers connected to ruggedized tablets to collect field data. The data created became an interactive inventory-map of the client’s existing utilities (poles, transformers, junction boxes, etc.), which was accurate to the centimeter and provided the data necessary to begin and carry out the design process. Pictures also were taken and attached to the collected features for later reference. Through integration with the utility’s GIS, the team could overlay available GIS data from city, county and utility databases. Using the collected existing utilities data and background data from other entities, we created a better design within the GIS application.
  • Leverage cloud-based web services to share real-time data. Leveraging cloud-based web services made it possible to share real-time design and right-of-way (ROW) easement acquisition data and project updates among all participants. This eliminated the need for redlined paper maps and minimized time-intensive conversations about design corrections. The inventory database and project updates were immediately accessible to designers, field engineers, surveyors, ROW agents and project managers, all connected by the application and its data, keeping all participants informed and on the same page.
  • Communicate early and often with key stakeholders, such as landowners. By proactively communicating early and often with landowners about acquiring easements and informing residents of proposed new equipment, we built trust. This was essential to the project’s success. To facilitate this communication, we created landowner communication maps. Live ROW and distribution data was incorporated into these maps, which allowed adjustments to be made on the fly when there were design changes or landowners refused easements. ROW, survey and design could use GIS to collaborate as a single team instead of independent silos. Addressing landowner concerns early in the process allowed for adjustments and prevented unnecessary and costly construction delays.
  • Leverage technology to better manage your time. All construction projects are driven by the proper management of time. Good time management can increase efficiencies, improve consistency and reduce costs. The Ulteig team developed a proprietary scripting process, which created final design PDF maps, ensuring a consistent and cost-effective product. The interactive GIS applications used throughout the project not only kept a constantly updated and accurate inventory of existing utilities, but also decreased in-field survey and in-office design time.
  • Never reach the finish line. Continue to find new ways to improve the way work is performed. For example, Ulteig recently added the use of 360-degree video cameras to collect videos of project areas by attaching the camera to a vehicle or walking down a corridor.  This video is then integrated into our web mapping system to allow the user to click on a map and start the video at the time stamp of that exact point. This application reduces the number of return trips to the field and gives us yet another tool to communicate more difficult design situations with our internal staff and clients.

Benefits of a GIS App

In summary, GIS has become a critical part of the Ulteig planning process. It’s a technology that we believe should be considered for most projects. Here are the benefits that we’ve identified:

  • Creating interactive inventory-maps
  • Sharing updated data in real-time with staff in the field and in the office
  • Decreasing survey and design time
  • Flexibility to scale data to the project parameters
  • Eliminating separate copies and versions of designs and data from a centralized database
  • Referencing facilities data such as size and type, and pictures from the office
  • Increasing accessibility to data
  • Tracking the status of design, construction, and easement acquisition
  • Connecting with intuitive modern smartphone apps and web apps

The Bottom Line: Consider GIS to Enhance Your Next Project

GIS technology is one of many innovative surveying services that Ulteig tailors to meet the unique needs of our clients. Our team uses the most advanced GIS software in the industry to provide customized geospatial solutions built around your business requirements. Ulteig’s wide-ranging GIS solutions range from data collection and custom mapping to GIS server solutions and technical support for utilities, commercial organizations and various levels of government. Our GIS service offerings include:

  • GIS Implementation Planning
  • GPS utility data collection
  • As-built document scanning and map data integration
  • Web and mobile GIS applications
  • ArcGIS Online Setup and Training
  • Site Selection Analysis 
  • 3D Modeling

If you’ve wondered if GIS should be incorporated into your next project, contact our GIS team at Ulteig. We can help you better understand the advantages of GIS both in the planning and building of your project, but also for the long term, when your project will need maintenance, retrofitting or repowering.

By Dan Haglund, Distribution, Ulteig

Dan Haglund is Ulteig’s Distribution Design Supervisor as part of the Field Services Team. He has more than 20 years of experience in implementing GIS solutions. He takes pride in finding ways to utilize GIS in practical and beneficial ways to improve efficiency, communicate better, and effectively manage projects.

Amid COVID-19, businesses are learning to operate in a “new reality.” Employees work remotely from home. Corporate travel has been reduced or eliminated, and face-to-face meetings now happen over video calls. Even conferences, trade shows and workshops have been canceled, postponed or are being hosted virtually through the end of the year.

This void comes at a time when industry leaders are eager to share knowledge and strategize with colleagues and clients about critical trends and innovations that could help shape the national conversation. Recent research from McKinsey & Company suggests that “without fundamental change, it will be difficult to return to the attractive industry performance that has historically prevailed.” The COVID-19 nationwide stay-at-home order triggered a digital transformation that created new opportunities and channels for collaboration and sharing information.

 Many industry leaders, including Ulteig, are leveraging digital channels like podcasts, blogs, and social media to spark conversation and drive change. As partners are looking to learn more about Smart Transportation, SCADA, Grid Mod, DES and other Lifeline Sectors® solutions, we want to make it easy to share with industry colleagues. In the past few weeks, Ulteig experts have covered topics on:

Ulteig’s eight-part Podcast series on Energy & Infrastructure spans our Lifeline Sectors® of Power, Renewables, Transportation and Water. Each episode offers thought-provoking and engaging conversations with key industry stakeholders on technology, innovation, policy and funding, along with some lively discussion on issues facing our industry. Our Connections Blog helps keep readers up-to-date on industry trends, topics and events.

No one knows when this pandemic will be over, or what the new normal will be. One thing’s for sure: Ulteig will continue sharing innovative solutions with the industry at large, identifying and commercializing innovative concepts that could profoundly impact our Lifeline Sectors®.  

Keeping lines of communication open is key to controlling costs and managing construction schedules in today’s social distancing/working remotely environment. Ulteig engineers are regularly onsite with our clients to collaborate on project details and work through design challenges in person and look forward to working that way again soon. In the meantime, we’re providing our clients with complimentary online access to their project information, anytime and anywhere, whether they’re in the office, in a trailer, or onsite.

To increase efficiency, improve quality and reduce risk during this pandemic and going forward, Ulteig engineers are working with clients utilizing the BIM 360™ cloud-based document management system. By leveraging this software internally and externally with our clients, we are able to collaborate throughout the design and construction of projects with computer-aided design and drafting (CAD) schematics, drawings and documents through the BIM 360™portal on a computer and/or through an app on a tablet or smartphone. Using this collaborative system virtually eliminates the need for communicating via emails on a project. This unique value-added benefit gives the client’s remote team instant access to designs, project details, and documents while reviewing construction plans (with versions, edits and times clearly marked) whenever and wherever necessary to keep the project flowing and their staff working effectively.

What if a client uses a different cloud-based system?

Ulteig has found that BIM 360™ platform is a great tool for design coordination and collaboration as it allows our clients, as well as other required organizations access to project information quickly and efficiently without additional fees or licenses subscriptions.  Clients may already utilize a different platform like Procore®, SharePoint®, or, which Ulteig has and is willing to support to ensure collaborative page turns and quality reviews.

Creating technical solutions to meet current business challenges

Ulteig engineers use BIM 360™ to organize, distribute, and share documents with project teams in real-time. By using this cloud-based management platform, our engineers can circulate designs and collaborate with project stakeholders anytime and anywhere to help keep everyone in sync throughout the project.  

Author: Chris Smaaladen, PE, M. ASCE, Technical Manager

Developing and maintaining effective partnerships has been at the cornerstone of Ulteig’s identity for more than seventy-five years. With today’s rapidly changing marketplace, Ulteig remains steadfast in our commitment to providing the solutions and innovative ideas you need to navigate through these tumultuous times.

Social distancing and stay-at-home requirements have forced trade show cancellations and travel plan disruptions. But while in-person meetings and events are not taking place, vital industry conversations must continue. That’s why we’re introducing a new Energy & Infrastructure” 8-part podcast series. Our goal is simple: to inspire you, through new ideas and conversations, to think differently about industry challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting financial crisis.

The new series, spanning our Lifeline Sectors® of Power, Renewables, Transportation and Water, offers thought-provoking and engaging conversations with key industry stakeholders on technology, innovation, policy and funding. There will also be lively discussion mixed in about the latest hot button issues facing our industries.

In our first podcast, “Lessons Learned from 2009: Be Prepared for a COVID-19 Infrastructure Stimulus Package,” Aaron Lauinger, Market Director at Ulteigexamines infrastructure investments in 2020.  This discourse addresses how stimulus funding could incubate and modernize infrastructure or be lost or exasperated if companies do not prepare ahead of time. The stimulus’s potential impact on transportation, water, and renewables sectors is also covered.

The second podcast continues the discussion of COVID-19 with special guest Dan Whitten, VP of Public Affairs, SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), as we focus on what a repeat of the 2009 ARRA Renewable Tax Credits would do for the industry (as 09 ARRA catapulted renewables) and SEIA’s strategy for federal stimulus. Future podcasts will include discussions with industry leaders on smart grids, battery storage, USACE stimulus flooding and much more.

Ulteig remains committed to being a thoughtful and innovative partner for our clients. We hope the Energy & Infrastructure podcast series provides the insights and creative ideas you need to overcome the COVID-19 crisis now and afterward as we face what will more than likely be a changed landscape.

Click here to listen to the current podcast or download it through AppleGoogle Play, or Spotify.