Litchfield Council pushes data visualisation out into the field

A GIS map system enables workers to be notified on their iPads of maintenance issues

Stefan Jurkijevic, information manager at Litchfield Council

Stefan Jurkijevic, information manager at Litchfield Council

Litchfield Council in the Northern Territory is using GIS system MapInfo to visualise data from its Civica Authority system to help speed up the process maintenance work for field workers.

Using feature manipulation engine (FME) scripting from Safe Software, information manager Stefan Jurkijevic was able to integrate the Authority system with the GIS system.

This has enabled mobile workers to capture data, quickly locate physical assets, identify issues and schedule remedial works without having to travel back and forth from an office base.

The Authority system holds the council’s business critical data such as rates, payroll and accounting, as well as data on its physical assets such as culverts, road signs and roads. The council maintains 100 crossroad culverts, 7,000 driveway culverts, 6,000 road signs and 900 kilometres of roads.

Just after Christmas, Jurkijevic started rolling out iPads to field workers, with 12 deployed so far.

Jurkijevic said the GIS map updates every five minutes, and allows field workers to be notified on their iPads of maintenance issues that are recorded through the Authority system when a customer calls to make a complaint. Staff members at base, who take customer calls, can also view the details of planned maintenance works.

“If we send someone two localities [suburbs] away, it could be an hour round trip just for them to go out, have a look at something and go back [to the office]. So the efficiency really pays off when they can just go from job to job.”

Jurkijevic said the previous paper-based method of processing maintenance work meant that records were prone to getting lost in the system, with some customer requests recently found to have not been acted on since 2010.

“Now what we’ve got is a system where a call is taken, it is identified against an asset and it’s on the iPad within minutes of the call coming in.”

Jurkijevic said data visualisation is critical in helping staff understand asset performance and issues. Having everyday staff be able to tap into the data without any need for specialised analytical skills means they are empowered to make better decisions, prioritise maintenance tasks and communicate better with customers.

“We’ve got admin staff at the front counter who are now starting to become experts on assets, or at least sound like they are experts, and it means the ratepayer or the person complaining feels like they are talking to someone who knows what they are talking about,” Jurkijevic said.

“Often [customers] come to the counter, ring or email to ask about specific things. Previous to having all of this mapping is [admin staff] would have to rely on a technical person to come out and deal with that customer.

"Now people can identify, using colours and different things, where things are broken or where field workers are currently working and explain that to a customer. It really frees up the technical guys to get back out into the field and keep the work happening.”

Read: Pat Hanrahan’s mission to make data visualisation accessible to the business users, not a tool specifically designed for IT professionals

Jurkijevic is also testing an automatic tweeting system that takes data from its Authority system to post feeds on Twitter about its maintenance activities that could affect customers.

“It could literally send [information on maintenance work] to our Twitter site, with no particular details about the person, and it’s all based on the customer’s original call.

"As our admin officers are updating Authority [data], it can send out a live Twitter feed to actually let people know the location, depth, time and day of the particular flooding incident [that has caused a road block], for example.

“At this stage, we are just working out what our restrictions are because obviously we can’t tweet out everything; we have just got to make sure we don’t overload our Twitter feed and make it look like it’s too much information.

“But it stops the need of someone having to [manually] type that information out on Twitter.”

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