How a 5000 Manhole Job Led to 100% Faster Manhole Card Processing For Severn Partnership

Severn Partnership are a market leading survey company with multiple areas of expertise. One of those areas is utility mapping, and this often requires the production of manhole card deliverables to their clients.

Historically they collected manhole data on-site to produce using a pen and paper. Transferring the data from hand written notes to the CAD drawing and manhole card templates was a labour intensive process back in the office.

Winning a large job to survey 5000 manholes prompted the discovery of SurvAid. Using our Manhole Inspection app to capture site data on mobile devices and upload it to the cloud meant it was instantly available to colleagues back in the office via the SurvAid web portal. They could then produce manhole cards to their own template with a few clicks.

This resulted in being able to produce double the amount of manhole cards in the same time vs the paper based approach.

Jimmy Pewtress sat down with Project Manager Connor Davis to find out more.

Watch the video or read the transcript below:


CD: Hi. My name is Connor Davis. I’m a project manager from Seven Partnership. I’ve got approximately seven years experience in the survey industry, and mainly specialize in utility detection surveys.

JP: That’s great. Could you give us a bit of background on Seven Partnership as a whole and then the areas where you use the SurvAid software?

CD: So Seven Partnership, we provide geospatial solutions across a wide range of industry sectors from rail, guided transport, highways, aviation and utilities. We’re operating as a market leader when it comes to mobile mapping and geomatic surveying, and we try to utilize the latest technology when it comes to ensuring that our data is collected safely and efficiently and also accurate at the same time.

As I said, I specialize in utility detection surveys with Seven Partnership. I’ve been surveying the underground at airports throughout the top of Scotland, all the way down to nice beaches down in Cornwall in the sunshine in the summer.

SurvAid, we mainly tend to use at Seven Partnership to create our manhole inspection cards when undertaking utility detection surveys.

Manhole Inspection cards are a really important part of utility detection surveys. It helps our clients to actually see on site what’s going on underground inside each cover, and being able to provide them a nice, accurate level of detail as to what’s going on is great.

JP: OK brilliant. And checking back through our correspondence I know we’ve been working together since 2020. If you’re able to cast your mind back to before then, how would you collect all the information on site that you would then use to generate those manhole cards?

CD: Before on site I spent many a year as an assistant with a pen and paper and a tape measure, noting down, doing a sketch of everything, writing the directions of everything, which obviously took a very long time, and if your artwork skills weren’t very good no one would be able to interpret what you’ve written. Then that data would have to go back to the office and either myself or someone else would have to type that up.

So they transfer everything from the paper copies into AutoCAD. This was highly labour intensive. It took a long time to copy stuff over and again, if there were discrepancies in your artwork and some of your notes, people couldn’t read it, again that would cause more time delays and and could basically affect the data’s quality.

We obviously don’t want to be sending out data to clients that is not a high quality.

JP: Agreed. Do you have any idea of roughly how many manholes per month that Seven Partnership would need to record?

CD: It varies on projects month to month. In general, we could end up documenting anywhere between 300 and 2000 each month. It all depends on what our clients want and what projects we’ve got ongoing at the time.

If I were to take the previous methods of documenting manhole cards through paper copies, I’d be able to probably document and transfer across about 50 manhole cards a day.

However, using SurvAid I can double that and copy across and process upwards of 100 manhole cards a day, making it a lot more time efficient for our clients and also saving our clients money at the same time.

JP: OK, and so what does the the workflow process look like now using SurvAid as opposed to the good old days of pen and paper?

CD: So SurvAid has made stuff as I said, a lot more streamlined, a lot more reliable and a lot more efficient.

Our guys out on site can take the SurvAid app. It’s really easy to train them. They can learn the software within a couple of hours, playing around with it. The data can then be sent back within seconds, having it being uploaded to SurvAid’s server where I can access it, check it, make sure they’ve done it right.

If they need to make amendments on site, they can do it straight away. It also means that we automatically generate our manhole cards. So as I said, nothing is typed up any more. There’s less risk of error with things. If I’ve noted something down on paper, someone’s got to type that up, there’s a chance that they could type it wrong.

However, with SurvAid, everything is done through the tablet and minimizes the chance of error for our clients.

JP: Sounds good. I know you said it pretty much doubled the amount of manhole cards you can do in a day. Has there been any comparisons on any of the large jobs that you’ve done to compare how it works with SurvAid against the old ways of doing things?

CD: When we first started using SurvAid, our initial reason why we wanted to do it is because we won a very large scale project at a major city in the UK. This involved utility survey across nearly ten miles of highway, which was probably around 5000 manhole covers I think we lifted over the entire extent of it. Through a city center, a very, very congested drawing, as you can imagine.

And we wanted to try and speed that up for our client because if we were going to go around and document 5000 manhole covers on pen and paper, it’s just not a cost effective way of doing things.

As I said, the increased chance of getting something wrong could be catastrophic if they’re going to go and break ground and we’ve got something wrong on our drawing. We want to make it as accurate as possible for the client.

So, by having SurvAid, it enabled us to halve the time we spent processing the data for them so we could turn it around a lot quicker.

JP: Excellent. And back at the early days when we started working together, I know you opted to have your own custom version of the app made, and I was working with yourself and some other surveyors to build the initial version, and then you field tested it and we went back and forth with feedback until you were happy. When the time came to roll that out to the wider company, how was it received by the other surveyors that hadn’t been familiar with that process before?

CD: Very well. Probably the best way to sum it up, it was something that a lot of our team had requested for a while, getting away from the paper cards into a more digital way of documenting things. And it was something I was keen to implement as a project manager, having seen it working up through assistant levels and surveyor levels.

We initially trialled versions of software and sent teams out to test the app. It took a few weeks to tweak it and get it to how we wanted to get, how we want it to be.

However, now I feel we’ve got an application that more than suits our needs and should we also need to tweak anything or change anything more to tailor things more to our clients, we’re not limited to one thing, we can still modify and change things.

SurvAid have got a really reliable customer service where I know that I can contact them and they can provide me the changes that I need, to provide the benefits onto our clients.

JP: OK, and lastly then, what has been the effect on you and your team of this increased productivity? If you can do double the amount of manhole cards in the same amount of time, does that then free up resources and surveyors to do other jobs that they they would normally be spending doing CAD drawings and things like that?

CD: Absolutely. Yeah. So what it hasn’t changed much in terms of the site work. It still takes the same amount of time to document those covers on site as it would do with pen and paper.

However, because it’s half the office processing time, we’re able to again process more work during the course of a week. If a job would have taken five days to process, we can now process it in about two and a half days, two days, and also have those spare days to either provide more training for people or to process other projects for our clients.

JP: Well, that all sounds really good. It’s nice for me to hear that SurvAid’s having such a useful effect on your day to day operations.

So, thanks very much Connor for taking the time out to have a chat today. We’ll leave it that and I look forward to carrying on working in the future and maybe will improve the app even more.

CD: Yeah, thank you very much. Thank you.