New Cutting Edge Technology Cuts Vegetation Management and Line Maintenance Costs

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By Carl Jones

Predicting and managing line maintenance costs with tight budget constraints, staying within budget and trying to cut costs is almost as difficult as managing vendors and predicting where maintenance surges might cause unsustainable resource requirements.

The utility market has long struggled with trying to work within planning guidelines and budgets to predict long-term maintenance commitments. “We took a much closer look at the problem and created GeoTransTrac - THX Car, an advanced Environmental Management Solution. We determined that by adding immersive and 3D visualization and integrating 3D terrain mapping, geospatial satellite imagery, video, LIDAR and 3D interactive simulation technology, that we could deliver a valuable solution that has been long needed: the ability to visualize the “as is”, “what if” and “to be” environments for making accurate predictions and decisions faster, responding quicker and engaging resources sooner to lower maintenance costs to improve work process efficiency,” stated Carl Jones, CEO, CADRE Solutions Group, LLC, a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned/Small business that specializes in geospatial and 3D interactive technology. Jones is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran with years of advanced technology and process re-engineering experience.

CADRE and its vertical integration partner, NVision Solutions, Inc., are experts at creating interfaces with client / vendor applications and creating custom technologies, such as GeoTransTrac - THX Car.

In its simplest form, the GeoTransTrac - THX CAR solution converts mountains of current and archived data into useful information and displays it in a user-friendly interface that is easy to use for managing complex data environments.
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By enabling technologies that optimize business performance, utilities can quickly realize Return On Investment advantages for their current technology investment. This also leverages the ability to lower total cost of ownership, accelerate performance and predict future budget requirements with trending analysis, viewing decision support information from historical baseline data related to growth patterns, changing terrain patterns, climate changes and other environmental change drivers.

The Department of Defense has spent a lot of money on developing highly sophisticated intelligence, asset tracking and terrain mapping technologies using companies such as CADRE Solutions Group.

These visionary companies, which have both commercial and Department of Defense (DoD) technology skills, can leverage reuse of their GeoSpatial technology coupled with widely available imagery including aerial photography, video technology, 3D terrain mapping, business intelligence, data warehousing, and integration to provide cost efficiency at affordable rates for utility market customers.

Geospatial visualization enables otherwise disparate data to be integrated along with asset tracking of hardware, resource deployment, task order creation and tracking for optimizing performance.
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The result of the CADRE/NVision team’s extensive efforts leads the way to the next generation of enterprise data management and decision support. It includes enhanced 3D visualization, decision support based on a combination of spatial data and business data with output in an easy to understand contextual interface based on user roles from management level to technician. CADRE has also sought the expert advice of a Southern Company Services Cost Efficiency Team to evaluate the proposed GeoTransTrac - THX Car solution.

The outcome can effectively deliver enhanced visibility for tracking and monitoring vegetation management initiatives in a way that converts complex data into timely information. In turn, it accelerates financial performance by integrating several data components into a visual executive interface that is fast, responsive and informative for both user and contracted companies.

Resource utilization activities can be assigned and work performance tracked to better manage and expedite deployment of work crews, facilitate compliance of detailed planning mandates and manage other related requirement activities.

In addition to tracking and monitoring for vegetation management, GeoTransTrac - THX Car is being positioned to overcome other maintenance obstacles, such as providing asset management and location information that was previously available but unreliable-especially on older lines or tracking diverse network infrastructures.

GeoTransTrac - THX CAR enables multiple files to be easily managed, stored and queried for visualization, analysis, reporting, maintenance and performance tracking.
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Hundreds of design configurations of steel towers, pole structures and designs of cross arms, insulation, foundations, conductors, spacers, etc. have always created major issues that impact budget predictability.

Future technology enhancements to GeoTransTrac - THX Car will enable conditional based maintenance data to be archived and retrieved for determining the wear-life expectancy of components and line assets. This will enable managers to predict asset failures based on stress/wear life expectancy data and thus, schedule preventative maintenance tasks. This same physics-based performance data can also be simulated for training using 3D interactive technology and integrated with detailed data, drawings, maintenance information, parts numbers, etc.

Condition of line sections that previously varied depending on the changing environmental conditions and the extent of past maintenance work can now be monitored using Geospatial visualization coupled with video, LIDAR and static aerial imagery.

Aggressive corrosive and other coastal or geothermal environments, which can accelerate the aging process, can now be triggered using Executive Interfaces for conditional based maintenance monitoring.

GeoTransTrac - THX Car enables repeatable processes to be deployed for reducing administrative efforts, workflows and other documentation such as issuing Task Orders and contract management.

By accurately tracking the diverse physical conditions, transmission line components and maintenance work activities, utility companies can gain process efficiency and lower the huge cost associated with redundancies, re-work, dwell time, queue times and other direct overhead costs. GeoTransTrac - THX Car gives a new meaning to “preventative maintenance” through real time and near real time visualization, analysis and proactive inspections.

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GeoTransTrac - THX Car also provides visualization for routine maintenance activities, such as clearing vegetation, line patrol inspections and GIS mapped access to new and old road maintenance that are ever changing and unpredictable.

Due to the need for mass data collection, storage and data warehousing of GIS, and terrain data with other archived information, GeoTransTrac - THX Car is maintained as a total vegetation management solution, using a “data-mart” warehouse infrastructure for archiving, query, analysis and reporting to an Executive Interface digital dashboard.

As most utilities might experience, due to legacy system development and aging databases, much of their information is often spread over numerous, separately maintained and disparate databases. Additionally, large amounts of valuable information can become lost or buried in paper document files and drawings spread across a wide area of storage locations.

“The GeoTransTrac - THX Car solution facilitates the everyday requirements of an engineer’s job associated with finding, analyzing, and producing documentable outcomes related to the complex task of planning, building, and maintaining the Nation’s most critical infrastructure. The advantage of this system is the automation of mundane data management and analysis, thus, freeing up engineers to focus on the more complex issues they are faced with on a daily basis. GeoTransTrac - THX Car can provide responses to queries in a matter of seconds, where in the past it might have taken hours or even days,” stated Craig Harvey, also a former U.S. Marine and CIO of NVision Solutions, Inc.

About the Author: Carl Jones is the founder and CEO of CADRE Solutions Group, LLC. Jones served in the U.S. Marines in Vietnam and founded CADRE as a CCR Registered Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. Before establishing CADRE, Jones served as an Executive Director of Business Development with Intergraph Corporation, a $600 million technology integrator and global leader in developing GeoSpatial technology. “My vision for developing CADRE is to provide meaningful technology jobs for our disabled troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” states Jones.

Additional GeoTransTrac - THX Car Features:

  • Enables users to create facilities of power lines to plot out the areas and layout of actual power lines according to a geographic region;
  • Functionality to change the symbols and the layouts for all the facilities of the system (towers, segments, etc.);
  • Plotting proposed transmission lines;
  • Takes into account defined exclusion zones;
  • Distances and Angles can be calculated on-the-fly;
  • Vegetation Management and Right of Way (ROW) Management;
  • Allows various imagery to be viewed with towers and transmission lines;
  • Can view single and dual video (oblique/vertical);
  • Video player shows position on the map as the video is playing; and
  • Can zoom in/out and pan around during video play.

Task Order Creation

  • Task Orders capture the current map and tower information as well as location information and prescription information and stores it in a universal format (pdf).
  • When a user sees a problem area either in the imagery or the video they are able to define
  • an area of interest and create a task order.
  • Task Orders capture a snapshot of the map as well as a user defined prescription (for example: Trim trees on EAST side of ROW).
  • Users can pre-define common prescriptions to make task order creation even faster.
  • Task orders are automatically named based on tower information.
  • Task Orders can include defined Exclusion Zone information, i.e. private property, school zones, etc.

Tower Inventory

  • Picture Inventory of all towers in a transmission line tied to geographic tower locations.

Inspection Photos

  • Inventory of photos taken of points of interest along a current transmission line; and
  • Geographically enabled for easy visualization.

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April 2015
Volume 19, Issue 4

Utility Products Topics

Transmission & Distribution
                       Vehicles & Accessories
Tools & Supplies   Safety
Line Construction & Maintenance   Test & Measurement

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