Project Summary

Project image thumnail
Project image thumnail

Design, Build, and Production Support of Utility GIS

Design, Build, and Production Support of Utility GIS

Project Problem

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) maintains millions of data items in the form of records, geometries and attributes related to their electric, gas, and land base facilities. The data is stored in a map-based records tracking system. Challenges included moving the mapping records from AutoCAD to ArcGIS, building and testing an ArcGIS/ArcFM Enterprise GIS, and ensuring data quality after production implementation.

Project Solution

Great Arc utilized Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) where appropriate to support and augment NIPSCO’s overall GIS efforts.

**Normalize and correct AutoCAD data elements **

The AutoCAD based mapping system had been in production for several years supporting daily data maintenance of facility records. However, the application implemented no data validation or data integrity rules and therefore allowed the data to become extremely inconsistent over time. These issues created a major challenge for the migration application which could not predict every variation as the data was moved into an ArcGIS Geodatabase which was designed with built-in integrity rules.

Great Arc built a data cleanup and standardization tool. The application corrected and normalized data items where possible. Errors that could not be address automatically by the program’s algorithms were logged to a manual data cleanup report. The tool was executed on each of the over 2000 AutoCAD DWG files prior to shipping each file to the migration vendor. The application was built using AutoCAD’s VBA Integrated Development environment and the AutoLISP Application Programming Interface.

Extract and Report statistics AutoCAD data elements

A key validation for any data migration effort is to ensure that each source data item is moved to the target database. However, AutoCAD provided no out of the box solution for gathering feature counts and data item statistics for each of the DWG files making up the system.

Great Arc created a VBA AutoLISP script to report data item counts and statistics. The script was executed on each file before being sent to the migration vendor. The report was then compared to the statistics of the returned ESRI Geodatabase to validate a full and complete migration.

**Prepare Sample Data **

Great Arc created scripts in ArcObjects VBA to extract and transform AutoCAD data into ESRI Shapefiles which could be used to support application development activities.

Create Polygon Buffers of Line Facility Features

NIPSCO was responsible for submitting polygon buffered ESRI Shapefiles of their underground gas and electric facilities to the state wide call-before-you-dig agency every quarter. The ArcMap-provided out of the box buffering tool could not be used to buffer all of the features in the Geodatabase. The ArcMap tool was unable to handle the amount and size of the dataset and would either crash the application or simply fail to finish. A manual solution was used to select small segments of the entire area, buffer the segment using the out-of-the-box tool, then merge and dissolve the resulting polygons into the final deliverable file. Due to the hardware performance limitations and the larger number of manual steps and QC steps required to complete the task, the process require a single fulltime resource for five business days.

Great Arc created a tool in ArcObjects VBA to buffer linear features which reduced the manual intervention to approximately 20 minutes with four to six hours of machine processing time. These results were achieved in VBA code by looping through and buffering the entire feature class in 500 record segments. The code then automatically merged the buffered result of each segment into the final deliverable file. The advantage gained was due to VBA’s ability to force memory resource cleanup at the end of each segment so that the machine resources were available to process the next group of 500 records.

Analyze and QC production data

NIPSCO leverages a high degree of return on investment from their GIS. In order to achieve this, data must maintain a high level of completeness and consistency. Great Arc built a set of automated reporting tools in ArcObjects VBA to test the viability of the data set. Rule violations or data inconsistencies which may impact the success of any business process or use case were logged to a report for manual data cleanup. The tool was executed on a weekly basis.

Rapid Prototype and Proof of Concept

Some automation tools and applications for ArcGIS were more appropriate for the ArcObjects .NET platform as opposed to VBA. However, Great Arc used VBA at NIPSCO in support of building .NET applications. Most of the tools which were ultimately deployed as .NET solutions were first prototyped using VBA allowing the client to validate the proof of concept and verify the correct and desired outputs. VBA was an ideal platform for rapid development which provided an efficient method to prove and finalize a design before building the code in the more complex .NET environment.

Production Support and Maintenance

Great Arc helped NIPSCO support the GIS in production data maintenance mode. Users of the system commonly requested special reports and data extracts or required assistance in identifying and correcting a unique problem. Great Arc employed ArcObjects VBA in order to satisfy these support requests. VBA allowed for the rapid development of these unique solutions.



  • ArcSDE
  • SQL Server
  • ArcObjects
  • ArcGIS
  • ArcFM
  • Autodesk Map