Managing large scale construction projects and tracking assets across multiple locations requires clear communication and accurate data. Without both, your chances of accidentally bursting a pipe or severing utility cables rises sharply.
Geographic information systems (GIS) offer the platform to collaborate with multiple workers on a map with several customizable layers and icons so users can pinpoint the exact information they need, visualized how they want.
This guide is designed to describe the capabilities and benefits of a GIS and help you determine the features you need.
Here's what we'll cover:
What Is a Geographic Information System?
Common Features of Geographic Information Systems
Common Integrations With Geographic Information Systems
Benefits of Geographic Information Systems
What Type of Buyer Are You?
A GIS is a platform for managing and tracking information and assets spread across a geographical area. Because of its versatility, a GIS is used by several types of organizations.
The system is most valuable when used collaboratively so that multiple people can add and edit accurate asset and location details. In this way, a GIS serves as an evolving repository of asset data.
A view of underground water pipe system in ArcGIS from ESRI
Utility companies, municipal and county governments, civil engineers, cartographers, health organizations and even schools are using GIS software to visualize information combined with geographic data.
At its core, a GIS offers a customizable map interface to overlay assets and other details, but it also offers multiple ways to edit and manage the data. These capabilities may include:
|Web mapping||Create, edit and share geographic maps and add multiple unique layers, each with customizable data for a specific type of asset, such as water pump locations or linear assets. Most modern GIS products store maps in the cloud and are accessible from any web-enabled device.|
|Data visualization||Notate maps in various ways, using icons to display different types of assets and locations, color coded areas, text labels, legends, topographical layers and more. Maps can be layered to view different kinds of data simultaneously.|
|Asset management||Embeddable details for each asset label, including information typically stored within a maintenance-focused system: age, type, materials, repair history and remote or on-site condition readings.|
|Work order management||Trigger work orders for assets on the map with associated location data included so field technicians know exactly where to perform the task.|
|Routing||Fleet vehicle routing capabilities help field workers get to a job location quickly to save time and prevent more costly repairs.|
|Analysis and reporting||Generate reports and visualize data to answer important operational questions about the health of assets, efficiency of field workers or which area generates the most work requests.|
Integrations play a big role in the value of a GIS. Whatever your specific use case, it's important to evaluate vendors by the system's ability to integrate with software you need, such as:
GIS users can experience several accuracy, efficiency and cost-saving benefits, such as:
More accurate location information. A primary benefit of using a GIS system is removing the guesswork from locating a buried asset, such as a water pipe or cable, so that crews don't accidently damage critical infrastructure.
Quicker response to failures. A GIS with GPS enabled helps governments and other organizations dispatch workers who are nearby and have the tools necessary to complete a task. Routing assistance makes sure the field worker can reach the site of a failure as soon as possible to minimize costs and damages.
Evolving platform for data. As work orders are completed and new assets are installed, data is added to the GIS platform. Over time, it becomes a valuable repository for data that can be utilized for years.
Depending on your organization's specific use of the GIS, you'll find some functionality more useful than others. Inquire about demos for these features to make sure they're easy to use and scalable for your business.
Government organizations with road crews need to identify road problems quickly. Social media integration allows the public to be your eyes and ears for roadway issues, so make sure the system can import and process various types of data to catch problems as soon as possible.
Utility companies want to track distribution infrastructure and replace pipes before a leak occurs to avoid costly damages. Evaluate asset management capabilities—they should alert companies to infrastructure that is due for inspection or repairs.
Civil engineers must use all information possible to plan new roadways or structures, and a GIS can help by displaying easements, topography details and other geographic data that could hinder construction. Ask vendors about the types of map layers available and how they interact.
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