Web-based Document Management

18 Jun, 2004 By: Cadalyst Staff

Puget Sound Energy adopts eQuorum’s ImageSite to control AutoCAD and MicroStation files.

In 2003, PSE (Puget Sound Energy) began a document management project to helpimprove operational efficiencies, engineering and construction collaboration, design data management, and mapping of as-builts to reflect completed construction activities. PSE and its service providers produce about 8,000 electrical and gas distribution designs and as-builts each year, all of which must be recorded in PSE's corporate mapping system.

PSE is Washington state's largest energy utility, providing electricity, natural gas, and a range of energy-related services to homes and businesses throughout the Puget Sound area. It serves nearly one million electricity customers and 650,000 gas customers.

Why ImageSite?
PSE needed a document management solution with advanced features for engineering that could be implemented easily and supported with limited IT (information technology) resources. The utility selected ImageSite, eQuorum Corp.'s engineering document management system, after an extensive evaluation and competitive procurement process.


PSE needed a system capable of supporting the more than 2,500 PCs on its network. The effort required to instal, maintain, upgrade, and troubleshoot traditional thick-client software led PSE to favor Web-based solutions. However, most document management solutions on the market today are principally client-server, with only a subset of features available through a thin Web user interface. ImageSite, on the other hand, offers a completely Web-based solution with no client software to install or be pushed down from the server.

ImageSite also integrates with MicroStation and AutoCAD, both used by PSE.

Project Collaboration
PSE and its service providers have engineering staff spread throughout the utility's service territory. The ImageSite engineering collaboration tools will help reduce spending on travel and printing. The online conferencing feature allows multiple users to securely log into a conference, view a design simultaneously, zoom into specific areas, and create an audit trail of decisions made. Engineers not familiar with AutoCAD or MicroStation can view an active design online in a conference, mark it, up and return the document with its modifications to the user. These features are contained in a single user interface, unlike competing products that require a separate module or application for conferencing.

Document Distribution
ImageSite provides Web links or URLs that let users launch e-mail messages that drive the e-mail recipient to a document, markup, folder, document set, saved search, or a variety of other contacts points within the ImageSite repository.

This feature, called a Vectored URL, eliminates the printing and distribution of paper copies, reduces network traffic, and saves disk storage space because users no longer need to store copies of CAD files on their PCs. By directly accessing documents on the Web server, users receive the most up-to-date document version. In addition, because documents never actually leave the repository when distributed using this method, they remain secure and can only be accessed by individuals who have appropriate security rights.

Here's a typical example of how PSE uses ImageSite. Someone in the mapping department gets a call from an in-house user asking for a copy of an as-built. The mapping person looks it up in ImageSite, creates an e-mail that contains the document link, and then sends it to the user making the request. In the past, it would have taken several days to searchfor the record, make a copy, and then mail the copy. In addition, once users are aware of the system and how to use it, they can look up the as-built themselves next time.

ImageSite's encapsulation tool provides a self-contained, secure mechanism for distributing documents outside an organization's network. When creating encapsulations, users can enable features such as redlining and printing, as required.

Typical Utility Design/Construction Workflow
PSE follows a typical utility workflow when adding new customer connections to its network. This involves gathering appropriate customer requirements, performing engineering and design work with reference to the current network and base-map inventory, performing the construction work, energizing the new connection, and updating the base map to reflect the as-built construction.

Many utilities, like PSE, want a simple, easy-to-use interface to allow nontechnical users to find engineering as-built documents that are energized, but not yet mapped, in order to avoid potential construction problems.

Figure 1. PSE uses Autodesk's MapGuide to display spatial components.
For PSE, a key requirement was to integrate the work management information stored in the utility's SAP/R3 system with engineering content stored within ImageSite, using a map-based spatial interface for convenient navigation. PSE selected Autodesk's MapGuide to display the spatial component (figure 1).

eQuorum's ImageSite, with folder vector URL links, is ideally suited for this kind of application. Each project is logically stored in a folder within ImageSite. PSE can use the folder vector URL to direct users to the project folder that holds all of the relevant data, not just a list of documents generated from a search.

At PSE, users can view specific areas of the utility's service territory using MapGuide and display all designs, designs sent to construction, and projects constructed but not yet mapped. Users can click on color-coded icons to launch an associated ImageSite vector URL. The URL opens the ImageSite application in a browser session and takes the user to the specific document folder for that project.

The integration with the SAP Work Management system also lets users directly import SAP key attributes into ImageSite, providing valuable folder and document data and search criteria.

Other applications at PSE
PSE's corporate mapping system is raster based, using AutoCAD Map and Raster Design. The current map-viewing system doesn't let users print the raster maps to scale, but wide-format scaled plotting is an advanced feature provided by ImageSite. All users (not just CAD users) can now print to a desired scale through ImageSite's Web-based plot submission capability.

ImageSite allows a utility's architecture and facilities groups to better coordinate changes to its facilities. ImageSite's security capabilities allow only authorized users such as managers and directors to gain access to these sensitive documents.

Implementation Status
PSE loaded more than 850,000 historical engineering records into its system, providing instant online access to engineers, operations staff, and other enterprise users such as real estate, customer relations, contract management, and PSE business units. All active projects are in the process of being stored in the system.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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