Western Area Power Administration set to launch GIS-based T-Line Inspection Solution

Western estimates that about 150 people will use the T-Line Inspection Solution after its launch in March

The Western Area Power Administration in early March will launch its new geographic information system (GIS)-based Transmission Line (T-Line) Inspection Solution across its four regions in the West to help formalize the decision-making process for determining how to allocate system resources, Bill Bailey, project manager, Western, told TransmissionHub on Jan. 29.

The T-Line Inspection Solution is an application that all of Western’s inspectors will be able to access via handheld devices in the field to record details about a transmission line inspection in a common format, with standard language, and within a centralized database.

“What we wanted to do with the T-Line inspection project was to find a common approach across Western for our transmission line inspections and our data acquisition,” he said. “We wanted to have a consistent and repeatable process for doing that. Each region was doing something just a little bit differently that made it difficult for us to get our arms around the health of our transmission system because we were using different definitions for identifying our deficiencies.”

The T-Line Inspection Solution is part of a larger asset management program improvement project (AMPIP) that Western began about three years ago to bring together its specialists and create a standardized way to assess the organization’s physical assets.

Bailey expects that implementation of the T-Line Inspection Solution will benefit Western’s ability to, for example, meet reliability standards, plan its vegetation management programs, and respond more quickly to compliance audits.

“One of the biggest benefits will be formalizing our decision-making process for understanding how to best allocate our resources, so we know more specifically what area of the transmission system that we need to pay attention to,” he said. “And from a cost standpoint, we think it’s going to save money because it will be much simpler to support the product. We have one application; we’re all using the same type of laptops. Managing the application from an IT perspective will be much more cost effective.”

Bailey said that he also manages another similar project under AMPIP that is looking at common applications, common tools and a common approach for collecting information about Western’s assets within substations.

“[AMPIP] is all about optimizing the functional life of our transmission assets” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to have all this information in a repeatable format so that the analytics make sense.”

Western went through a formal process to identify gaps in its asset program in order to create a set of requirements for the T-Line Inspection Solution project and to hold a formalized solicitation process to find a vendor to develop the program.

CartoPac was the company that met our needs for those requirements,” Bailey said.

Fort Collins, Colo.-headquartered CartoPac builds enterprise systems and customizes them to its customers’ current workflows, architectures and technologies, CartoPac Vice President Scott Crouch told TransmissionHub on Jan. 29.

“We customized a large enterprise system for [Western] to incorporate their inspections into a single server in a single, centralized location,” Crouch said. “Essentially, we’ve been working to bring [Western’s] four regions together on one solution, one set of inspection forms, and one overall technology across the board, from servers all the way down to their handheld units for the field, and standardize that across the organization.”

The T-Line Inspection Solution gives inspectors “access to all details of the infrastructure,” Crouch said. “No matter where they are in the region, they can look at the attributes of a line, the structure, when a pole was installed, and previous inspections. They have access to the GIS database in a more human-readable form than the original GIS database format.”

Bailey noted that the T-Line Inspection Solution will give inspectors access to more information than they currently have available in the field, such as environmental hazards, landowner issues, and right of way issues.

One of CartoPac’s goals for the project was to make the T-Line Inspection Solution flexible, Crouch said.

“[Western] can extend the reporting on it, they can extend the workflows, and they can add in other inspections outside of the T-Line solution,” he said. “We’ve been in the process of training their GIS and IT teams to be able to do that. With all the work we’ve put in over the last few months in building the infrastructure, they have a solid base to expand upon and modify as they need to.”

Bailey said that in another phase of development, Western plans to interface the GIS database that makes up the T-Line Inspection Solution with Western’s current asset management and work management application, called Maximo.

“[Maximo] is where a lot of our analytics are located,” he said. “That’s why integration is important. We want to extract information that our inspectors are collecting and use that to run our analytics as part of our asset management.”

Last December, Western began working with CartoPac to fine-tune the application to Western’s specifications.

“We had a field trial earlier this month where our [subject matter experts] came together after the application was fairly complete,” Bailey said. “[We] went out to some transmission lines, walked through partial inspections, and used the knowledge from that trial to refine the program.”

Bailey said that the project team is satisfied with how the application looks and feels and has decided to freeze the application while they work on final testing.

“We’ll start a training regimen in February,” he said. “We’ve scheduled training at about eight offices where we’ll work with all the crew members, including people on the environmental side.”

All together, Bailey estimates that about 150 people will use the T-Line Inspection Solution after its launch.