Practical Solutions for Collaboration: The Detroit Pilot
Michigan’s aging infrastructure needs significant maintenance and improvement to support new growth and investment. The formation of the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission (2016) and the recent legislation establishing the Michigan Infrastructure Commission (MIC) demonstrates the state’s concern for asset management and collaboration. The Commission reported a multi-billion-dollar requirement in annual updates for decades to come. The state of Michigan believes that the foundation of success in managing such a significant number of projects is cooperation between potentially conflicting projects during the design process and recognizes the benefits of establishing a program to address these challenges.
MISS DIG 811 is the state of Michigan’s Notification Center per Michigan’s Public Act 174 of 2013. Facility owners/ operators are required to be members of MISS DIG 811, and Sec 6a.(1) grants MISS DIG 811 the ability to establish reasonable procedures for the design process. The law was passed to improve public safety, protect the environment, and prevent the disruption of essential public services via the reduction in the occurrence of damage to underground facilities. We focus on this early through our Design Program.
Since the passing of Public Act 174, use of the Design Program has increased by 665%. The increase in notices to facility owners/operators has highlighted the volume of work taking place and the need for collaboration on projects. As facility owners/ operators began utilizing the program, they began appreciating the ability to share information with other designers and contractors working near their underground infrastructure and requested a space to share responses, images, and remarks within the system. MISS DIG 811 responded with enhanced Positive Response, a voluntary system that enables the user to attach images and remarks to tickets. In addition, MISS DIG 811 added the Near Ticket feature in 2017, which allows users to view all other tickets placed in the same area. Having access to this information allows them to determine the “who and what” of each project. But, greater communication is still needed.
The Detroit Utility Coordination Pilot was born out of the desire to expand the Design Program and enhance services to our membership. With our sights set on collaboration and a shared desire to improve our infrastructure, MISS DIG 811, our members, designers, and state and local governments need a platform to expand collaboration to fulfill the needs of our members and the recommendations made by the MIC, and we need it now.
The decision was made to pilot PelicanCorp’s WorksAccess cloud-based software solution within the limits of the City of Detroit and to expand our current design process to increase communication between multiple jobs. WorksAccess is a solution that allows for communication, collaboration, and scheduling of work; it has the ability to unite involved parties by providing a platform in which they can share excavation and coordinate schedules to reduce the number of road openings and associated costs through shared excavation prior to a dig ticket being submitted and ground being broken. It is expected that the pilot will provide MISS DIG 811 members with:
• Greater opportunity to share excavation costs
• Extended road life
• Improved utility design
• Reduced risk for utility strikes and damages through better design
• Improved community awareness of projects
The purpose of the pilot is to ensure that the system addresses the needs of the membership before being launched statewide.
With WorksAccess, users can upload and share project plans, communicate between projects, isolate challenges and opportunities with other projects in the area, and schedule and agree to shared excavation or schedule changes. The program is built on these basic principles:
• Job: A project with a defined location and description entered by a utility user
• Opportunity: Two or more jobs with similar start and end dates that do not overlap or are within 330 feet of one another
• Challenge: Two or more jobs with start and end dates that overlap and are within 330 feet of one another
• Exclusion Zones: An area which generates notifications designed to indicate specific constraints on work being permitted (e.g. a road moratorium or protected area)
Additionally, the program allows the designer to change visibility of a job based on the stage of the project, allowing users to manage whether it is for internal or public viewing. All jobs follow the same visibility hierarchy:
• Draft: for internal use
• Private: shared with the territory owner
• Public: shared with other organizations
From the main screen, users can select any of their jobs. This page gives a bird’s eye view of all projects/jobs the company has on the system and provides the ability to view attachments, opportunities, challenges, collaborators and conversations.
The system allows users to navigate through a list of jobs their organization has entered. All jobs can be edited and modified as needed to ensure that the project is defined correctly in terms of its geographic boundary, schedule, details and its visibility to other utility members. WorksAccess also provides the ability to start a conversation with other jobs that have been identified as being an “opportunity” or a “challenge” to the selected job. The conversations feature allows for multi-organizational discussion about each of the projects that conflict with each other and also allows for the uploading of attachments to support the collaboration.
The Pilot Committee and work group met several times during the pilot. As a result, more than 7,500 jobs have been loaded and 27 developmental requests have been made. Six of the developments were earmarked for after the pilot and seven to be further reviewed after the remaining 14 were developed and implemented. These enhancements include:
• Improvements to the mapping to allow easier differentiation between jobs. Different colors are now used for the primary job, its opportunity-related jobs, and its challenge-related jobs when displaying them on the map view of the Relationships section in the Job Details page.
• Improved clustering of jobs when zoomed out. This feature allows users to see where high concentration of jobs are located on a larger scale map.
• Improved job searching and list filtering to allow users to find projects they need more quickly, particularly when there are many active projects in the system.
• Identification of organizations that are Gold Shovel Certified. The system now allows organizations to flag whether they are GSS certified. Any jobs which present as an Opportunity or Challenge from GSS-certified organizations will be visible as well.
As a result of the work done during the original pilot period, the committee decided to extend the pilot three months to test an API for integration with the MISS DIG 811 ticket entry system, Newtin by Norfield, and greater testing of the collaboration tools. During the extension, the scope of the pilot is being further limited to an area three blocks to the north and south of E. Jefferson, from Woodward Avenue to Alter Road.