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Why Facilities Management Needs Laser Scanning

by Kevin F. & Cindy on May 27, 2014

In utility plants, especially older facilities, one of the main complaints we hear is that those planning renovations or improvements do not have good enough documentation or asbuilt drawings.  Often, the best documentation on hand is simply a person or team of people who have been working in the plant for years and have most of the knowledge stored in their paper files or, worse yet, simply in their memories.  3D laser scanning can help with these difficulties.  
 
There are a variety of ways to do this, but, generally, the first step is to scan the interior and exterior of the building.  With good pre-planning and forethought, the resulting data can be formatted and presented in a variety of ways that are readily usable and helpful to nearly anyone who needs it.
 
The data can be used in a number of ways, but one of the quickest is to make data usable is to simply make a by-product of the scan - the processed 'point cloud' data - available through a 3D viewer.  This allows for 3D viewing of the scanned area as if the person was actually there - whether that person is an architect, a maintenance person, or a planner.  The viewer also allows for dimensioning and ability to mark-up areas of concern then email it to the designers or other plant employees.  From that point, the data can be extracted and modeled.  This process can be done in phases based on priorities. Examples of what can be modeled or extracted include pipe runs, valves, and equipment.  The resulting final data can be presented in an AutoCAD format or even or imported into a GIS system.
 
Beyond that, the data can be further organized by dividing out the extracted and modeled areas into utility types or systems.  Attribute data can be added to virtually any system components (e.g., the various elements of a piping system) to increase the detail and value of the data for a wide variety of purposes.  Types of attributes that can be collected and included in a system could include model or serial numbers of valves, last inspection date of monitoring equipment, pipe sizes, and equipment manufacturers.
 
Additionally, if equipment or new construction occurs after the 3D laser scanning has been completed in the field, the specific areas that have changed can readily be isolated and rescanned, and the modified areas melded into the existing data.  The entire plant does not need to be rescanned.
 
The data gathered and the information resulting from a scanning project can be used not only for construction and documentation; it can also be used for a wide variety of other purposes such as safety training, calculations related to the many aspects of construction projects, documentation for regulatory purposes, and even during the bidding process.
 
To summarize, 3D laser scanning is an extremely versatile and valuable tool that has the potential to provide a wide variety of benefits related to the maintenance, operations and planning aspects of a physical plant.  This technology is constantly evolving and becoming more powerful.  We are excited about the possibilities this creates for our clients and the new opportunities it provides.