Grace Under Pressure: Adept Document Management Helps Fuel Natural Gas Company’s Pipeline Modernization PlanCase Study
NiSource’s Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG) is a natural gas transmission company which owns and operates approximately 15,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines in 14 states. CPG is currently implementing an aggressive modernization program that includes installing additional horsepower and updating aging infrastructure.
Lead Designer, Mike Reed, explains, “We are implementing a long-term investment program to modernize our gas transmission system by replacing aging infrastructure to include approximately 1,000 miles of existing interstate transmission pipelines. We are updating and upgrading the compressor units along our pipeline system to enhance system efficiency and improve environmental performance. Also, we are improving our pipeline system reliability and expanding our inline inspection capabilities. In order to accomplish all of this, we need software in place that allows us to obtain the information of existing infrastructure in a timely manner.”
Demand for Documents Exceeded the Ability to Respond
Before CPG implemented a centralized drawing management system, the drawing requests were tedious. “All of our drawings were organized on the server in a particular folder by the facility and separated in additional folders by project,” says Reed. “So, in order to find a particular document you had to be familiar with the location on the server and then go into multiple project folders and start opening drawings in their native software to see if those were the files you were looking for.”
And for a couple of years, Mike was the only person available to do that intense document research.
“The time it was taking for me to go out and search on the server for the correct drawings and then review the files to see if they were the correct ones was immense. It could sometimes take several hours or days. The request for technical information was so great; we needed a way for not only me, but for everyone in the organization to be able to find the data they were looking for and access it quickly.”
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Stew
With so many complicated design projects underway at once, and no version control in place, duplication of design efforts was a constant problem. (In fact, upon implementing a document management system, CPG found thousands of duplicate files that had to be cleaned up!). Two designers working on the same drawing at the same time used to happen quite a bit. Recalls Reed, “In the past you would receive the same drawing where two different designers had worked on it for separate projects and you would have to open the files and compare to see which one was the latest revision. It would take a lot of time.”
Strict Regulatory Requirements Added Another Level of Concern
As a natural gas company, CPG is regulated by several government agencies, including PHMSA, Office of Pipeline Safety, and the Department of Transportation. CPG is required to keep certain documents and drawings updated and available to operations at all times and have the capability to produce those documents when requested. CPG wanted an easy way to maintain a set of drawing versions and an accurate method to track all the changes that were made to their station or facility drawings.
The Solution: Adept document management speeds up project completion to meet expansion goals.
Adept’s web-based document management client has enabled CPG users to log in, look up drawings quickly and print off what they need, all from one simple interface…all in a fraction of the time it used to take. And that means designers can get started faster, allowing CPG to keep pace with their aggressive modernization plans.
“With the click of a few drop down menus and a wild card search, you can get to the facilities files fairly quickly and find all the drawings and documents available,” elaborates Reed. “You can start your design a little quicker once you have done the research and found the legacy drawings needed. And with Adept’s viewer, there’s no need to switch back and forth between multiple software platforms, or even have the software loaded on the machine. CPG can view all the files available without leaving Adept. It’s an added convenience and time saver.”
And it’s not just design that benefits from the new search speed.
“It has made our engineering documents more accessible to everyone in the organization,” adds Reed. “Before, if someone wanted a particular drawing, they would have to send a request to our design group and someone would have to search for the drawing and have it printed and mailed, or create a PDF of the file and e-mail it to the requestor. Now everyone has immediate access to these drawings and can view the information with a single mouse click.”
Grace Under Pressure.
In November of 2011, Adept was put to its first big test at CPG. Mike tells the story…
“We had an emergency at one of our compressor stations and we needed to obtain some particular engineering documents and drawings very quickly to get station equipment information and specifications. That was the first time we discovered that having Adept allowed us to access this information easily and immediately. It was 100% faster to pull up the drawings and get what parts we needed to get the equipment back up and in service. Before Adept, it was taking us hours to find drawings. Now we can find them in minutes.”
Adept Workflow and Version Control Reduce Duplication of Design Efforts
When multiple people are working on one project, everyone has access to the files they need through Adept. “Instead of having to go on the server and find out where someone is keeping the files and which folders they are in, we now have a workflow where we are setting up our shared work spaces,” says Reed. “Everyone has access to those work spaces; they can see the status of the work at any time.” Files are checked in and checked out so everyone is working from “one version of the truth”.
No duplication of effort. Projects completed faster. Expansion goals met.
Adept Keeps Regulators and Auditors Satisfied
Adept allows all CPG users to access exactly what they need when they need it. If a CPG employee needs a copy of a drawing, they can go into Adept and print it immediately. “And that has happened on a few occasions, where operations needed a particular drawing and they were able to go into Adept and get it immediately…instead of having to call and make a request and then possibly have to wait a few hours or days to get the drawing they needed.” states Reed.
Advice for Fast-Growing Companies Evaluating Document Management Solutions
- Look for a Solution Designed for CAD Applications
“Some we looked at weren’t really designed for CAD – they were just plain document management systems.”
- Look Closely at the Viewing Capabilities
“With some of the solutions CPG evaluated, we were going to have to convert all of our files to either a PDF or a DXF format in order for them to be viewed by everyone. With Adept, you have the viewer that lets you inspect any type of file.”
- Consider Database Structure
“I would tell them to look at the type of database structure it has and what it can and can’t do.The reason we chose Adept, was the fact that it was a fairly simple database to work out of and it we were able to customize it. We could add fields to the database that had meaning to us, such as company numbers and document types. That was a big plus.”
Concludes Reed, “I highly recommend a document management system. I can’t imagine having to go back to the old folder system now that we have Adept. I have had this tool for about three years and it saves so much time and energy.”