Historically Enterprise had a team of people dedicated to retrieving and collating maps which were used by operatives to determine where buried pipes and cables were before commencing digging on site, Due to the large number of buried pipes and cables this process would involve logging into 5 different web sites and desktop applications entering the same set of coordinates and saving each map individually a process which a seasoned team member could complete in 10-15 minutes per job.
It was identified that having a team of people dedicated to carrying out the highly repetitive task of generating the maps was not an efficient use of time or budget. After looking into available solutions NDL were identified as the best fit for providing the automation of the web sites and applications that we needed. We used the software provided by NDL with our own custom written C#.net interface and C# Asp.Net MVC 4 portal to automate the generation of the maps. The end result was that instead of entering the coordinates into 6 different web sites and manually retrieving the maps a user could enter the coordinates into our portal which would then use the interface to NDL to generate all of the required maps from all providers and save them into a network location for the user to access.
The end result was that the manual work required was reduced from 10-15 minutes per job to 1 minute per job with the maps ready to be accessed in an average of 5 minutes, this allowed the team to focus on other areas of their work saving the company time and money.
Benefits of the system for the wider IT Department
Because many of the maps that were retrieved were coming from web sites which could be updated frequently we identified that there was a risk that a provider may update their web site which would break our automated process, while there isn't a way around this we found ways to make the changes to our system as quick and painless as possible.
The automation for each provider is split into its own assembly which is loaded at runtime by the core system, meaning that one provider failing does not stop the rest of the process, it also means that we could amend an individual providers automation script test it in isolation and deploy it to the live environment without needing to re-test the whole system end to end, combined with TDD and a robust testing plan this meant that if a provider amended their site causing a problem we were able to amend, test and have the automation working again within a few hours. Of course the system was developed in such a way that after the providers script was fixed the backlog of maps for that provider were generated and made available to the users.
Recognition & Awards
Initially the system was only used by the utilities division, however due to the success of its implementation within utilities along with the cost savings it is currently planned that the system will be rolled out to all departments within the company, taking the user base from 130 people to 2000+
In the summer of 2014 the development team was awarded the NDL "Most innovative project" award.
DB Development solutions is a registered NDL development partner.