The Anderson County, SC Public Works Division faced a familiar operational challenge: Roads and Bridges is the only department using state-of-the-art asset management. Building and Grounds uses an older system to record the work they perform, but not the cost of that work. The Solid Waste Department tracks contractor costs, but not its own labor and equipment. Storm Water staff tracks only regulatory items, such as permits. Inspections are conducted on some assets, but not others.
“The most resistance at first came from engineers heavily invested in the old system,”Holt Hopkins, acting public works director explained. “But they quickly saw the benefits the visual mapping concept has over the tabular format and how smoothly the system interacts with our existing GIS information.”
“There were eight or ten different formats people were using to track their work,” Hopkins. The first step for the 200-employee division was to get everyone on board.
Other personnel were hesitant because they didn’t feel computer savvy or because they had never been required to record their own time. There was also widespread concern that learning a new system would be overwhelming.
Hopkins and the management team decided that phase one of implementing Cartegraph would be dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition for employees. The first step was to purchase 82 iPads and distribute them to all the crews. “They’re simple to use,” said Hopkins. “All they see is what’s on the iPad and it’s a lot less intimidating.”
“The data is more accurate because it’s recorded on the spot by those who did the work.”
In an effort to devise an uncomplicated training tool, they came up with an idea to create an asset called “flags.” Anderson County maintains 60 flags—not only county, state, and U.S., but flags of every country represented by the county’s businesses. “The flags are important for putting on our best face for our industry,” said Hopkins. Rather than sending out personnel specifically to inspect flags, Cartegraph made it easy to send a task notice to anyone near a flag location.
“Flags are a simple asset that everyone can understand and judge the same way,” said Hopkins. “They could easily see how tasks and assets work together and grasp features of the program, such as modeling and deterioration curves.” The system was set up with images so workers could identify the international flags. They would record conditions such as fading colors, torn edges, and tattered ropes.
This training not only got personnel accustomed to the system, but also demonstrated the value of sharing information among departments. For example, the county has added a field to the pavement inspection form asking road crews to rate the amount of litter on the road being inspected.
“It has nothing to do with road maintenance, but it’s a huge help to the Solid Waste Department in keeping the community clean,” said Hopkins. “The solid waste manager can turn on his filters and see color codes for litter conditions from ‘excellent’ to ‘severe’ on all county roads in one glance.” This saves costs for one department without adding costs to another.
Anderson County has also realized efficiencies by having crews enter their time in the field as they complete the work. This has saved thousands of dollars in time spent by supervisors who previously entered employees’ hours. “The data is also more accurate because it’s recorded on the spot by those who did the work,” added Hopkins.
With the success of phase one, employees are ready to tackle phase two: entering the inventory of all of the assets maintained by the Public Works Division.