5 Steps to Maximize your gINT and HoleBASE SI Geotechnical Data Archive.
Companies often believe their historic project knowledge gives them competitive advantage but, at the same time, make it difficult for staff to access and use that information. Fortunately, there are five simple steps that can be taken to ensure the maximum benefit is gained from this valuable resource.
Step 1: Centralize knowledge
A central records system ensures companies know where all of their data and information is located.
Centralized systems often only include basic data, such as project information, date, location description and the project manager and perhaps some financial data. However, engineering data is often to be found in another part of the network.
This includes some of the engineering data – such as the job type, exact location and the geological and geoenvironmental conditions – and can turn a centralized system into a powerful tool for the site investigation team. This data can be filtered and viewed together, rather than having to rely on memory and a lot of searching.
Some companies use Excel, which can work but is also restrictive, in terms of functionality. A map-based system adds a whole new dimension, although it is essential that the needs of engineers are considered.
Step 2: Ensure teams are spatially aware
Keynetix has seen many mapping systems over the 20 years it has been helping organizations manage their geotechnical data.
‘Low tech’ solutions include sticky dots in a road atlas and pins on a map on a wall. Both work for very small teams but pins can fall out and dots can come off, reducing the reliability and value of the system.
‘Medium tech’ solutions, such as Google Earth, can take spatial awareness to the next level and some companies have created a KML that enables project lists to be viewed in Google Earth’s 3D viewer. However, the KML file production must be kept up-to-date for it to remain useful.
‘High tech’ solutions, such as ArcView or a GIS system, are common in large organisations that have the budgets and skill levels to use these powerful and complicated systems. These systems take spatial awareness a step further, as they allow project location information to be combined with many other datasets. This can also be their downfall, however, as they can quickly become corporate ‘jack of all trades’ systems.
Step 3: Include the most important information on the map
Regardless of whether it is a pin on a map, or a point on a computer screen, each ‘dot’ will have data attached to it about the project (called Meta Data) similar to an Excel spreadsheet. The most important information is the: “Where can I find more about this project?” field.
When Keynetix and Mott Macdonald started the HAGDMS project, a large online geotechnical data management system for the Highways Agency (now Highways England), the brief was to locate every geotechnical report on a map (and the office where it was held) and make it available to its large geotechnical team. This was the 80/20 rule in action, as the team immediately knew what regions it had information for and where to find the reports.
This system has been so successful that Highways England has funded the expansion of the system every year for the past 15 years and it now covers all aspects of geotechnics, flooding and drainage for the network and there is currently more than 3TB of data available to clients.
Fortunately, the technology behind this incredibly powerful system is now affordable to most organizations, regardless of size.
Step 4: Remove the concept of a geotechnical archive to improve desk studies
Archiving data normally means changing its physical location: for example, putting paper documents into an archive box or on a library shelf or moving files from the server to a back-up device.
Archiving is usually done at a set time period, say 12 months after the job has finished, or to free-up space on the server or in the office. Operational and technical information is usually archived together.
But there is no reason why the geotechnical knowledge gained during a project has to be archived (or worse, deleted).
A multi-project geotechnical data management system should allow projects to be marked as ‘archived’, changing their status and nothing else. The beauty of this approach is that data never needs to be moved and in effect, it removes the need for physical archiving. The live system contains all the data from historical projects and there is no archive.
If the geotechnical management system takes advantage of web mapping services, then all project data and national datasets can be viewed in the same system used to log current projects. This means there is no learning curve for staff using the archive system.
Step 5: Ensure easy access and no learning curve
It may seem obvious that giving every member of the site investigation team access to the company’s knowledge means giving them access to information and ensuring that they know how to use (and get best value out of) the system storing the data.
GIS should stand for “Get Information Simply” but, more often than not, corporate GIS systems are difficult to use and companies restrict access. It is therefore important to aim for a system with a zero learning curve – one that is as easy to understand and use as pins on a map on the wall.
A powerful system that takes no time to learn may seem an impossibility but, if it is based upon a system already being used by staff, then additional functionality can come with a zero additional learning curve.
Southern Testing gain competitive edge by unlocking data
Unlocking a company’s geotechnical archive by taking these 5 simple steps can make data more valuable and increase competitive advantage. Importantly, teams will be happier and more efficient.
We work with companies like Southern Testing who is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2017. Their database now contains records for over 35,000 ground investigation projects.
This allows a unique insight into the likely geotechnical, geological and environmental characteristics of land, based on ‘factual borehole and trial pit records’, rather than reliance on just published or ‘anticipated’ conditions.
Such a wealth of data is instrumental in tackling the opportunities and problems that new projects may present. Their previous historical database was becoming dated and an alternative more visual map based solution was required.
“HoleBASE SI has enabled us to simply and quickly visualize our historical data, this combined with the live British Geological Maps and borehole archive as well as numerous other Web Mapping Server (WMS) feeds which HoleBASE SI can show has turned our historical data into a truly powerful resource.”
Start transforming your geotechnical archive today
Our aim with this blog post is to make you more efficient and help you maximize your competitive advantage and we hope it have given you some ideas to move your archive forward. If you have any questions or would like our help please use the form below.