How GIS Augmented our Operations
Prior to developing our first GIS system, we asked potential users many questions. Key questions included: Are they experts with computers or non-technical users of data? What data needs to be accessed and what conclusions will be drawn? What methods will be used to search for the data? How do we keep proprietary information safe? What types of automated analysis would help? Once we had these answers, our goal was to create systems with current and relevant data that were also scalable to incorporate new ideas and solutions.
We standardized on the ArcGIS software provided by ESRI. Using the ArcMap and ArcServer software, we cataloged our land holdings (owned and leased property, tenants, easements, and tax parcels) into a single database and published the data internally to a web-based application called VMap. With the new database and application, we were able to leverage further internal databases and files related to land management. For example, in the web app, we linked approximately 100,000 pages worth of documents to our properties. We launched VMap with approximately 30 initial users. Today, VMap has well over 300 users.
Over time, we’ve continued to develop and incorporate additional datasets as well as build additional data focused web applications. Examples of these datasets and applications include imagery, transportation, geology, exploration, and mine planning.
With the recent introduction of mobile applications to the ArcGIS platform, our focus is collecting data in the field as well as sharing data with stakeholders who work in the field. Several examples include:
• Environmental groups use electronic surveys to document facility audits and tenant inspections. These surveys are synchronized to a web application so that managers can utilize operations dashboards to evaluate the responses and detect trends.
• Geologists are collecting geologic structural data related to mine planning and quarry development on tablets.
• Plant Managers are accessing electronic mine plans to guide mine development and evaluate the quality of the materials from geologic models in real time.
At one facility, our permits require the management of invasive plant species. Using GIS, environmental and operations personnel developed a system of integrated applications that allow the manager to assign work assignments which are sent directly to the team member’s mobile devices. Team members then complete an electronic survey in the field which documents the invasive species they are targeting, the methods used to control the species, and volumes of materials used. Following the survey, the team uses a data collection application that tracks and records the areas treated. The field assignments, data generated, surveys, and track logs are synchronized back to an operations dashboard so that managers can quickly analyze the species targeted, areas treated, and the volume of chemicals utilized. This integrated system of applications greatly improves the accuracy and timeliness of required annual reporting.
Utilizing the available mobile applications, we’re replacing time-consuming processes that utilize paper checklists, forms, and maps with streamlined processes that collect uniform data electronically and map features in real time. These efforts have eliminated redundancies and created significant time savings.
GIS has allowed Vulcan to create consistent and comprehensive data and mapping systems that link our land assets, resources, and day to day operations geographically. GIS technology continues to evolve quickly; however, it remains a robust and easy method to collect and share data as well as provide answers and solutions to a wide audience.