Monday, March 30, 2009

GIS Databases Negatively Impacted by As-Built Problem

I just returned from Dallas, Texas this week where I delivered a seminar discussing data to design workflows and CAD/GIS integration. During the seminar, which was hosted by Expert Computing Solutions, an interesting discussion on the topic of the as-built backlog arose. Recall from one of my previous posts that the as-built backlog refers to the delay between when infrastructure has been constructed and when information about this construction is entered into GIS and records databases. According to seminar participants, that delay ranges anywhere from a few months to several years. Some participants revealed an indefinite delay; in other words, their databases were never up-to-date!

So, what are the problems of such a delay? What are the consequences of not having an up-to-date GIS database? Well, the impacts are many; listed below are just a few…

Poor decision making: Out-of-date information about the type, location and other related attributes about the above and below ground infrastructure can lead to inaccuracies in predicating future repair and maintenance requirements which can lead to decreased infrastructure life expectancy and premature replacement.

Decreased efficiency: When work orders are based on out-of-date databases, field activities are impacted; for example, when crews are dispatched in response to a repair or routine maintenance request only to find that upon arriving at the field location that they have the wrong equipment, crews must make a trip back to the warehouse to retrieve the correct piece of equipment. The result is an inefficient use of resources with time, dollars and fuel all wasted.

Re-work: Re-work occurs when the information in the GIS database must continually be verified against paper as-built drawings simply because this as-built information had not been loaded into the database yet.

Data confidence: When users know that the corporate database is not current, confidence in the data can be eroded to the point where users stop relying on the corporate database in favor of their own records. The result is data redundancy and all its corresponding problems.

Insufficient budgets: When infrastructure budgets are derived from out-of-date databases, a budget shortfall becomes a real possibility, especially in areas of rapid growth.

Environment and public safety issues: Worse yet, when users trust out-of-date information, bad decisions can be made – decisions which can harm the environment, impact public safety and create liability exposure. For example, according to the National Post, trusting old design drawings proved to be a costly mistake, when a contractor ruptured a crude oil pipeline in Burnaby, BC almost two years ago. The result was a toxic geyser that spewed almost a quarter of a million litres of crude oil onto residences, streets and into the Pacific Ocean.

Inaccurate regulatory reports: The accuracy of reports on capital assets in response to regulatory requirements such as
PSAB 3150 and GASB 34 becomes suspect when based on GIS databases that are suppose to have a current inventory of above and below ground infrastructure but instead are potentially years out-of-date.

I’m sure the as-built problem generates additional consequences. However, given the above, can corporate GIS databases that are months or years out-of-date really be trusted? Caution is prudent.

If you know of other as-built related issues or have related comments, I would enjoy hearing from you…

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