Systra is a leading consulting and engineering firm in the field of transport infrastructure.
Under a previous guise of TSP Projects they worked on a large railway job that required the installation of around 400 PGMs. Because of the work involved, they pooled their resources with another survey company.
Normally they would have used pen and paper to record the PGM data. This leads to a labour intensive process of inputting all this data in Word templates and sending those to the other company.
Once checked, Systra then used SurvAid’s data transfer feature to send their PGM data instantly to their partners. Network Rail witness diagrams could then be generated with a few clicks.
Jimmy Pewtress had a chat with Survey Manager Ian Anderson to find out the details. Here’s the transcript:
JP: Today I’m talking to Ian Anderson of Systra (formerly TSP projects). I wanted to catch up because I know you made use a while ago of the feature where companies in SurvAid can transfer data between one another. So to start off with, I just wondered if you could give us a bit of background on what that job was?
IA: Yeah, the project we were working on was the Trans Pennine East of Leeds section, which is about 26 route miles from Leeds across to York.
It was a full new control network that we installed; primary, secondary, tertiary. Probably in total it was about 400 PGMs between primary, secondaries and tertiaries.
That’s quite a lot of a lot of witness diagrams we had to produce! So what we did was a collaboration between what we called The Alliance. We had TSP (as was) or Systra (as is) and Central Alliance working together to pool our resources. Due to the number of witness diagrams that we had to produce, it was useful to be able to share them with Central Alliance. It was very, very useful feature.
JP: If SurvAid hadn’t existed back then, there was no way of digitising all this. What would have been the process for you to log all the information about those PGMs and then share them?
IA: Historically we would have a Word document template that we used for witness diagrams. We would take a screenshot of the finished CAD drawings showing the PGMs, so it’s quite a manual process to pull all the information together, you know, check the screenshots of the CAD, or CAD up a sketch, whichever we had available, whichever we were using at the time.
Obviously we’d get all the photographs and all that kind of stuff and drop all that in. Then you’d have to refer to your field sketch, which you’d have carefully sketched in the field as well. So yeah, it was quite labour intensive to produce, which is why it’s useful to have everything on one app so you can just generate it on the go, as it were.
JP: So rather than drawing out sketches on paper in the field and things like that and then doing CAD drawings and what have you, what was the process like using SurvAid instead?
IA: It’s a lot easier. I mean, it does take a little bit more time on site, particularly if you’ve got to get all the dimensions and stuff in the right place and get everything right. But obvoiusly that data can be tweaked back in the office if needs be. It certainly makes the process easier and we can export the data in a format that Network Rail are happy with.
So yeah, it’s a very useful tool.
JP: And did you manage to do any kind of evaluation or comparisons as to what sort of time savings you would have accomplished doing it with the apps rather than the paper method?
IA: I haven’t put exact numbers on it but you’d looking at 30 or 40 minutes for one doing it traditionally, whereas you’re probably down to 10 or 15 minutes on site tops for it all using SurvAid. So there’s a significant time saving to be had.
JP: So probably across 400 control stations that would definitely add up!
IA: Yes. We installed them all in sections but even so, it’s still quite a time saving.
JP: So there would have come a point when it was decided to use the apps and SurvAid. What usually happens with things like this, and what we did with you guys was to trial it with one or two surveyors to start with just to get the hang of how it works and see what the capabilities and stuff are.
Then once you’re happy that it’s going to do the job that you want, you roll it out across the wider team and I was just wondering, what was the reception by the wider surveyors when it was introduced and how was the uptake?
IA: Yeah, from the Systra side of things it was pretty good. Obviously the field surveyors are generally the younger generation anyway, so they’re happy with anything that has a screen attached to it so yeah, they were all happy with it. We’re quite a small team so it didn’t take us long to introduce it to everybody.
But there was no problem picking up and running with it. We had a few hiccups with data transfer between the two companies, but after some discussions with yourself we managed to square it up in the end.
JP: Good stuff. And so what effect did those time savings and being able to not have all the time tied up with the back office processing affect on the teams? Did you manage to get more more done with the same amount of surveyors, or could you have different surveyors on different projects or how was it affecting you?
IA: Yeah, I think being able to do things quicker is a benefit particularly from site works point of view, being able to capture your photographs, sketches and everything at the same time.
Having it all georeferenced as well, you know, it saves you working out where you are in the world. So yeah, I think that was definitely some of the benefits.
JP: Ok. Thanks very much for taking a bit time out to go through all that today. It’s been really interesting and hopefully we will continue working together in the future.
IA: Absolutely! No worries.