Using Mobile Apps for Field Operations in Water and Sewer Utilities (Case Study)

This case study shows how the Smith Brothers Group improved the efficiency of condition inspections and field data collection by 30% with the GIS Cloud mobile apps for water utilities.
mobile apps for water utilities
The Smith Brothers Group operates in Australia and works on various water and sewer utility projects for local government units. They also offer services for the pipeline, electric utilities, and real estate sectors. The company was recently acquired by the real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield.
Keep reading and learn how to empower your field operations with mobile apps for data collection and tools for monitoring fieldwork.


Tackling Challenges in Water & Sewer Utilities

When working on water utility projects, the Smith Brothers need the accurate location of underground and above-ground assets and infrastructure. That is where the GIS Cloud solution steps in by enabling the field workers to capture critical information live, via mobile devices and also allow access to critical information about a particular site. The projects they work on range from local Councils/Municipalities to Government agencies.

Our capabilities increased in the areas of data collation and accuracy. Also, our clients are increasingly using their data in useful ways.  — Michael Dew, Manager

The main challenges where the GIS Cloud solution delivered results:

  • Improving methodology in workflows on-site and the office
  • Accurate reporting of confirmed infrastructure and its specifications
  • Collation of confirmed asset information on an accurate large scale.


Upgrading the Field Workflow with Mobile Apps

At the start of each project, the Smith Brothers consult with clients to get a better sense of the targeted outcome. The requirements will depend on the client; however they usually collect location data and assess the condition of these assets:

  • Manholes
  • Hydrants
  • Backflow & Isolation Valves
  • Waters meters
  • Water Mains
  • CWMS infrastructure

Depending on the asset type and the client requirements, they design a custom mobile form for the Mobile Data Collection app. The app allows them to map a large number of utility assets, and it replaced the paper-based methods for field data collection. Locating, aggregating, and searching through paper survey forms to detect and inspect the condition of a single asset is a thing of the past for Smith Brothers. The app also works as a water utility condition assessment tool.
mobile apps for water utilities
An example of a Mobile Data Collection form for a water and sewer utility project
When the form is done, they roll it out to the field operators. The MDC app makes it easy to share the forms to the worker’s mobile devices with the option to manage permissions. It also enables the operations manager to organize teams only to collect new asset data, or to update existing records.
When mapping or inspecting the water utility assets they record:

  • Asset Conditions
  • Asset Documentation
  • Asset Images
  • Asset Location

The MDC app helps in providing a simple user interface that is customized by us, so our operators are collecting information in a logical order as per our clients’ requirements.  — Jason Harris, former Site Manager (now Director at Harris Plumbing and Drafting)


Monitoring Progress and Creating Reports

When the field operators collect the field data, it instantly shows in the Map Editor as a point, line or polygon (depending on the project). This allows the managers to supervise fieldwork in real-time and react immediately if the collected data is not of adequate quality. The clients can also be part of the workflow and monitor the incoming field data by using the Map Viewer.
The Map Editor also provides a way to monitor progress for each field operator and create reports to track productivity.
When the Smith Brothers finish the project, they use the Map Editor to produce reports and maps for clients. The clients then integrate the data into their GIS system.
mobile apps for water utilitiesUnderground services project for the City of Tonsley. View map >>


The Results

The field operations team noticed a massive improvement in the reduction of paperwork. Generally, a field operator needs to check the paperwork many times a day. With the GIS Cloud platform, all the necessary data is on the mobile app where they can instantly check their location and the status of the infrastructure in the recording process.
The GIS Cloud solution also improved the efficiency of the complete field operations workflow. In the words of Michael Dew, manager at Smith Brothers:

I would say the time is reduced by 30% in the workflow process of current tasks.

Interested in trying out the GIS Cloud mobile apps for water utilities? Sign up for the free trial. You’ll have 30 days to test the apps and see if they fit your field workflow. If you want someone to show you around and propose a possible GIS solution contact our sales consultants.