4 Technologies Proven to Stretch Budgets

It’s tough to get the most mileage out of your budget. Let’s take a look at some innovative technologies that can help you get the most out of what budget you have.

1. Predictive pipe analytics

Pipes break. It’s a fact. Knowing which ones will break and where is the challenge. By using an algorithm-based technology that helps predict pipe breaks, predictive pipe analytics help you verify you are spending the right amount of money in the right place at the right time. This approach can lower your projected capital costs for managing your pipeline by as much as 50 percent.

Since the technology relies on accurate data about your pipes, you have to clean up your data. Why? Because it is often incomplete, missing, assumed, incorrect or limited.

“What’s great about this approach is that it takes out the guesswork,” said Dave Hutton, SEH civil engineer. “And it helps you plan ahead and make the most of your budget. Our team knows what data to collect, in what format, and how best to clean it and organize it for future use.”

When combined, information like pipe purchase date and geographic location can give a better picture of when you’ll need to replace them. This approach can also save you from purchasing expensive asset management software and gives you better information to take to stakeholders.

Recently, SEH held a seminar detailing this approach to utility pipe management. View the seminar here.

As managers start to use these new technologies with their GIS systems, it’s important to keep it all organized. And it’s important that the people in the field can access it.

2. SmartConnectSM

Access to the right information is everything. The evolution of mobile, internet and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology has made access to an organization’s geospatial data possible from the field or the office. Decisions can be made in real-time and people are connected across time and space.

SmartConnectSM is a web-based mapping system that integrates your geographic information into a centralized management system. Access to this information makes field crews, office staff and leadership more efficient and better informed during the decision making process. A centralized GIS makes it easier to catalog and share institutional knowledge between outgoing and incoming staff.

SmartConnectSM software easily connects field workers, managers and the data that matters to make important decisions.

“GIS is no longer just a map. It’s a platform to solve organizational problems through better management of geospatial information. Whether from the field or the office, a user can easily access data critical to their work,” says Andrew Niederhauser, SEH GIS manager.

In the Twin Cities, a GIS application was used by local government to streamline the environmental process for a major light rail extension. SEH brought together various sets of data, formats and processes into a centralized, reliable and intuitive application for staff to view the project status and collaborate with stakeholders.

Developing a GIS is just the first step. Organizations are now using GIS as the backbone to their operations and maintenance activities as well as their capital improvement plans. This approach allows an organization to better understand resources and their condition, rank priority projects and develop actionable plans.

Technology is also making it possible to actually walk around a facility, without leaving your desk.

3. 3-D laser scanner

What if you could explore your facility from the safety of your office and make many of the important decisions you need to? With new 3-dimensional scanning equipment, you can.

The equipment transforms your facility into tens of millions of data points, creating a completely measurable as-built drawing of it. And it’s extremely accurate.

3-D laser scanning equipment can take 360 degree measurements with great accuracy. © 2016 Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. All rights reserved.

With traditional drawings, information gets left out. And then teams have to go back to the site and measure again. This costs both time and money.

“With a 3-D laser scan of your facility, anyone doing design work on it is going to make smarter design decisions,” says Luke Pederson, SEH technician. “It’s much better than sending a team out to take measurements with a tape. All the guesswork, and risk, is gone.”

They’re also safer. There’s no need to climb ladders or scaffolding anymore. The scanner easily maps out the entire area around it.

In one example, SEH was able to assist a private international company by taking a 3-D scan of a facility it was refurbishing. Rather than fly the design team across the country, SEH scanned the facility with the laser scanner and was able to send the data overseas.

4. Pipe assessment technologies

When water mains and sewers leak, it’s no fun for anyone. With sewers; you might have backups, wastewater treatment problems and groundwater treatment costs. With water mains, you can lose water into the ground. And it’s expensive to convert back to drinking water. It also damages pavement and interrupts service. Fortunately, electricity and sound can help pinpoint leaks in sewers and water mains.

“If a pipe leaks water, it also leaks electricity,” says Former SEH Project Manager, Paul Pasko.

By sending low voltage electricity through non-metal pipes, cities can better pinpoint where and estimate how much ground water is leaking into a sewer. This is a great supplement to closed circuit television inspections. Because unlike television, the amount of water estimated by electricity is repeatable and can be measured, even during droughts. Electricity can also provide quality assurance and control after pipes are rehabilitated.

See how it works.

The City of Golden Valley, Minnesota, is using low-voltage electricity to help locate and quantify cracks, fractures and defective pipe joints in the city’s sewer system. © 2016 Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. All rights reserved.

A way to test the integrity of your water main is with sound. Sound waves are sent through your pipes and analyzed. Since nothing goes into the pipes, your water mains can stay in service.

“Sound waves travel faster down thicker-walled pipes,” says Pasko. “So, when those waves speed up, it shows us defects in a pipe wall’s structural integrity by revealing its thin spots.”

Here’s how one city used sound to measure the integrity of its water main pipe.

The City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, is using acoustics to measure water main pipe integrity, and to help prioritize water main repair and replacement projects. © 2016 Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. All rights reserved.

Both methods can be completed with minimal disruption to the area around it.

About the Experts

Dave Hutton

Dave Hutton, PE, is civil engineer, problem solver and utility pipe health forecaster. Contact Dave

Andrew Niederhauser

Andrew Niederhauser is a GIS manager, troubleshooter and proponent of connectivity. Contact Andrew

Luke Pederson

Luke Pederson is a wastewater engineer and visionary technology advocate. Contact Luke

Paul J. Pasko III

Paul J. Pasko III, PE, is a civil engineer, project manager and pipe health specialist. Contact Paul

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