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Case Studies

Case Study: Managing Critical Drawings: Our Take on Central Arizona Project

Infrastructure as intricate as Central Arizona Project’s (CAP) involves complex drawings that need to be continuously monitored and updated.

In order to maintain the security and integrity of these drawings, CAP recently developed a customized “Vault Professional” – a world-class Engineering Document Management System (EDMS). The ultimate goal was to augment, automate and accelerate the process of updating and maintaining these critical drawings.

Of course, each piece of infrastructure had its original design/build documents. But now, CAP needs to update those drawings as they work on system upgrades and field repairs/replacements. Anyone who modifies one of CAP’s physical assets needs to capture these changes so everything is well documented for future needs. A further complicating factor? It’s not uncommon to have the same drawings used at the same time for a number of different projects or asset modifications. Without careful management, chaos can easily ensue, especially when dealing with multiple revisions to the same drawing.

This can be a very complex task, and it is a compelling reason to convert hand drawn scanned historical engineering record tiff files into AutoCAD files to help organizations efficiently manage and edit record drawing information as they go through the design process from first revision to the next completed historical record drawing release.

So, you can only imagine the documentation needed by the CAP, a canal system that feeds 1.5 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona every year through 336 miles of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines.

Fortunately, CAP was able to surmount these challenges by implementing a multi-layered approach to gain CADD workload efficiencies. First they started with reinventing their CADD standards and industry standard techniques used on project workloads, then they embarked on a TIFF to AutoCAD conversion process in 2014. These items changed their approach on how work is traditionally performed with both CADD files and older scanned hand-drawn drawings typically found within the utility operations and maintenance sector.  Then CAP custom designed an Autodesk Vault Professional System that went live in 2017 to allow for electronic workflows, improved collaboration between projects, transparency into project status and finally to help better manage their dynamically changing record drawings.

Utility companies traditionally work with a large volume of older historical engineering records consisting of scanned engineering drawing documents or TIFF files in their everyday workloads. By prioritizing these conversions based upon on-demand project needs, CAP has created substantial and repeatable CADD editing efficiencies and also improved their future outlook for improved workload performances. CAP’s decision to convert any TIFF file that will undergo project edits, has played a significant role on their overall ability to provide up to date historical record documents to the field in an expeditious manner and remain agile during concurrent project workloads.

To discuss the process in more detail, Holly Forden, CAP’s Drawing Services Supervisor gave an interview in which she discussed the challenges confronting CAP, how they challenged the status quo within the utility operations and maintenance industry by converting scanned documents to AutoCAD files, implemented Autodesk Vault Professional and changed away from the traditional way CADD and TIFF files are managed and edited, and ultimately, the benefits that it has yielded for them.

Central Arizona Project

CAD/CAM Interviewer: What are some of the greatest challenges CAP has come across in engineering drawing management?

Holly Forden: Central Arizona Project (CAP) was facing the typical challenges that most established operations and maintenance industries are confronted with today: aging infrastructure and increased repairs and replacements on assets that directly impact historical record drawings. When the demands of an aging infrastructure increases, so does the amount of workload placed upon personnel to keep critical historical record drawings up to date in an expeditious manner. Typically, and industry wide, staffing is not being increased to match these escalating conditions. Finding innovative solutions to augment, automate and accelerate workload efficiencies, while maintaining quality and document integrity is becoming a constant requirement to remain successful in the utility operations and maintenance sector.

CAD/CAM Interviewer: How has CAP dealt with these challenges?

Holly Forden: We started with a multi-tiered approach, first by applying substantial productivity gains by implementing innovative CADD (computer aided design and drafting) techniques and simplifying previous CADD standards.

To manage TIFF documents that required editing within competing projects, we knew that we would have to move away from our prior raster image editing practices to a more progressive vector editing approach. Converting our scanned hand-drawn documents to AutoCAD files based on project needs would be the best solution. At that time, we began to research file conversion firms within the United States that could help us convert our scanned TIFF files into AutoCAD drawings.

One criteria that needed to be accomplished was that whoever performed the conversion process, matching our improved CADD Standards would become a requirement. CAD/CAM was a solid choice, not only could they convert our files quickly and accurately to our standards, they are also certified by the Department of Defense for security.  That checked off an important area of concern for us, the security of our critical infrastructure documents remains paramount in our department’s endeavors with any external resources we work with.

We then implemented Autodesk Vault Professional into our daily engineering business practices and integrated it with our existing enterprise document management system.

CAD/CAM Interviewer: Can you walk us through the biggest contributors to successful file conversions?

Holly Forden: The return on investment is continuous when we look forward at our total efficiency gain that is produced after a TIFF file has been converted into an AutoCAD file. We are able to work share that file across multiple competing and concurrent projects and manage the changes back to the historical record drawing accurately and effectively. If we did not perform the conversions, our projects could be delayed until final record drawing approvals occurred per project or information could easily be inadvertently overwritten.  Managing change to multiple copies of the same Tiff file by different vendors or editors performing concurrent work is an impossible task to perform or it results in significant project delays. By using an AutoCAD file, we have more versatility in how we manage and track changes back to our source files, we gain critical speed to make changes quickly and accurately to the last historical record drawing release.

CAD/CAM Interviewer: Can you share how these changes have contributed to your business growth?

Holly Forden: The culmination of all of the improvements we have made has doubled our capacity to process workloads with the same staffing levels. We now have the ability to proactively manage work on concurrent designs, as-builts and record drawing lifecycles while maintaining a high quality and integrity level on each document. The total impact of our ingenuity has allowed the ability to resource workloads at a greater level, break away from traditional workflows and apply a greater detail of resource allocations than that of industry standard approaches.  All of these efforts allow the Drawing Services Department to excel in customer service and explore opportunities to engage deeper into design projects, lead our external consultants during project activities and develop deeper engineer-designer relationships.