IPL Moves Toward a Paperless Enterprise

When Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) decided a GIS mapping solution would enable the utility to better serve its 420,000 customers with accurate, up-to-date maps, IPL conducted a feasibility study to determine the best type of system for the company. Indianapolis Mapping and Geographic Information Systems (IMAGIS), a non-profit organization that maintains a computerized base map of Indianapolis and Marion County, put together a GIS land base and completed the feasibility study in 1989. IMAGIS recommended an automated engineering AM/FM/GIS system that would provide up-to-date maps in a reasonable period of time and eliminate IPL’s rapidly deteriorating cloth maps.

In March 1991, a project team, with members representing engineering, information systems, and transmission and distribution came together to create the AM/FM/GIS pilot area. Since IPL was new to the AM/FM/GIS conversion process, vendor support was critical. The team issued RFPs to help select consultants for hardware, software and conversion, which lead to the selection of Intergraph Corp. for project management services and Intergraph’s FRAMME software.

“When IPL finally reached the conclusion that a project team was necessary to design the system, we knew that AM/FM needed to be the first step. But it couldn’t be the whole focus, because mapping itself would not justify doing a project of this size,” said Mauri Kiel, a member of IPL’s work management team and a former member of the AM/FM project team. “The implication of potential work management applications and circuit analysis was really important to getting this process off the ground.”

Implementing the System

In 1992, the project team became involved with the first phase of the project and began conversion with a three-square-mile pilot area in Indianapolis. The project team finalized the pilot project with a report to management recommending full implementation. Full implementation began in late 1994, and by December 1997 the entire conversion was completed.

IPL converted 1,826 section maps of its service area, digitizing nearly 1 million features with 10 million data fields. When IPL began implementing the technology, the utility had up to 22 different map products for each of the 1,826 maps. In addition to collecting map data, IPL collected whole information data sets, transformer information and circuit information. IPL captured most of the data for underground records from newly converted maps.

More than 63 steps were involved in converting each map. IPL broke the service territory into 11 areas-10 of which were in the one county IPL primarily serves. When the project team started, they were converting about 10 maps a month;, by the time they finished, the conversion rate was at more than 50 maps per month.

New Work Order Management System

Although not much production data was available in the beginning, once the maps were converted, data was immediately put into production. As early as 1995, work orders for areas that were already converted had to be entered directly into the system.

IPL’s work order management system is an integral part of FRAMME. Dave Lange, an engineering technician for the conversion effort, set up the actual forms the engineers use for fieldwork. Previously, IPL would create a paper document to go to the field. When the form came back, the drafter would make any necessary changes, input them into the system and post the work order. “The benefit, at that point, stemmed from the fact that we could update map products quicker and generate much cleaner map products than before when we were using maps that were actually starting to deteriorate,” said Lange.

By May 1997 no data went into paper maps. Everything was going directly into AM/FM/GIS. IPL still provides some paper map products to a few service areas, but as far as engineering is concerned from May 1997 IPL has been effectively 100 percent AM/FM/GIS.

Windfalls

As with any project of this magnitude, there were both expected and unexpected windfalls. At one point, the team discovered the property records division was keeping underground records separate from the AM/FM/GIS. The team was able to eliminate this database and absorb the records into AM/FM/GIS. More recently, IPL uncovered street light records that were being kept on paper and in a couple of different databases. IPL now holds that information in AM/FM/GIS. IPL credits the AM/FM/GIS conversion with streamlining all of its record-keeping and discovering unnecessary paper-pushing that goes on in day-to-day procedures. Besides eliminating unnecessary records, the new AM/FM/GIS system streamlines other aspects of the work order process. Now that IPL is fully automated, the background land base does not have to be redrawn for every work drawing. This saves a great deal of time when the need is simply to place facilities or show maintenance.

In the past, IPL spent thousands of dollars protecting paper and cloth maps by periodically microfilming them. With the advent of the digital data this critical information can be backed up on a daily basis, a far more cost-effective practice.

Extending Automation Technology

Since becoming fully automated, IPL has noticed another need: a viewing tool for other users outside of engineering. Due to cost and ease of use, Intergraph’s Field View and GeoMedia Web Map products are slated to go on desktops not supplied with FRAMME in the engineering department, construction areas, marketing organizations and customer service.

The conversion has reaped significant benefits for IPL. “I think the biggest potential here lies in the ability, as we become a deregulated industry, to better serve our customers and to keep our customers in the future by providing them with better service,” said Kiel. “Some of the applications that we are implementing now will help us retain that competitive edge as a company so that we can drive the cost of our business down, keep it streamlined, and serve our current and future customers better.”

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