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Honey, I Shrunk the Pharmaceutical Facility...

by Mike on November 24, 2014

… and put it on my thumbdrive*
It is incredible how technology has allowed us to compress space, time, and file sizes.  That has also allowed us to improve our procedures.  In fact, it’s the compression of the rate of physical change on corporate, college, and manufacturing campuses that demands new procedures to keep pace with technological advances (and get the most value out of them).
GIS, like CAD and other information systems, has always consisted of five main parts:
Most of these elements – hardware, software, data, and training - are standardized, off the shelf, and well understood.  One of them is not, and therein lies the most opportunity for customization and improvement:  The fifth element - procedures!
Information technology for construction and engineering documentation has evolved over the last twenty years to provide more ubiquity of place and time.  It has become more mobile, requiring less time to collect, compile, and disseminate.  Just looking at the example of cameras and photographic technology, the equipment is small, always with us, and capable of integration with email.
Likewise, aerial photo data collection has become an omnipresent, constantly updated commodity (Bing Maps, GoogleEarth, Beacon™, etc.)
A common operating picture (COP) is evolving, which borrows its procedures from social media, and the idea that data is posted once, for many too see, and respond to as needed. 
Media formats these days are built for speed – images (JPGs), PDFs, and CAD/GIS vector data are expected to be easily accessible by non-experts in either CAD or GIS – and all accessed through the web.  Using hyperlinks, we expect to be able to browse a map and have instantaneous transport to PDFs and JPGs providing details.
It’s JITi – Just In Time information. 
The “traditional” practice of providing “asbuilt” documentation on facilities projects by simply labeling a marked-up, red-lined roll of plans is no longer delivering the value that owners need.  New projects come too quickly, and technology is able to deliver so much more – and do it economically, too.
This is especially true in the realm of pharmaceutical manufacturing.  The nature of the product and research time cycle, and the degree, scope, and scale of specialized infrastructure required, demands that CAD files become not just a means to printing construction documents, but also a means of tracking changes during construction in the field, and recording the model of what was actually constructed for lifecycle maintenance and future project planning.
Fortunately, the increased demands on the timeliness and accuracy of site and facility information are being served by evolving techniques and procedures in collecting, storing, and distributing that information.  These techniques include:
  • Global positioning satellites (GPS)
  • Digital data collection of XYZ coordinates via terrestrial instruments (where GPS can’t reach)
  • LiDAR (3D scanning)
  • Digital photography
These procedures help facilities teams make the most of those technologies:
  • Maintaining a valid survey control network;
  • Exercising judgment in which techniques to use, and where/when; and
  • Using cloud-based technology to provide timely and ubiquitous dissemination of the data
Every day on some project somewhere, someone is burying a piece of infrastructure that may or may not go in exactly as planned (and in our experience, almost always goes in at least slightly differently).  Meanwhile, almost as often, someone else is planning or building something new in an area where uncertainty or even mystery exists regarding infrastructure that was built and / or buried in the vicinity.
Imprecision and uncertainty costs money – either today or eventually.  Present-day methods and practices of asbuilt surveying and construction record-keeping can and should be doing a better job for our industry.  However, real-world experience tells us it isn’t happening as intended. There is even room for cost-effective streamlining to do the job better for less.  All that’s required is a thorough understanding of the technology on both sides of the great divide – the divide between facilities delivery and facilities maintenance.
And yet, no one can afford to “overkill it” when it comes to data collection and dissemination – every bit must be relevant and accurate.
Creative solutions for land, infrastructure, and facilities projects help increase revenue, lower costs, and mitigate risks.  We need to use new procedures adapted to new technology to create value for our clients and solve their problems.  With the right combination of procedures and techniques we can provide an integrated approach to complex projects.
*Password-encrypted, of course.