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Hyder Consulting Taps XPLORE PCs For Rapid Reporting
(Reprinted with permission from January 9, 2009 article by Laura Grock in GISUser.com)

With over 150 years experience, Hyder Consulting has grown from a Welsh engineering business into a multinational company with more than 4,800 employees globally. In Australia, Hyder has seen tremendous growth in the last five years, making it a major force in Australian engineering. With Hyder's growing reputation and track record in rail and road, traffic and transport planning, ecology, property, and tall building expertise (Hyder was the Primary Supervision Consultant for the world's tallest man-made structure The Burj, Dubai), Hyder needed to review its field operations to cope with demand.

With the increasingly time-sensitive nature of the industry, Hyder's GIS Principal Llewellyn Cain tried to find cost-effective solutions to help Hyder's field team remain competitive. After reviewing Hyder's field operations, Cain realized it was time for an upgrade. 

As Hyder's GIS leader, Cain is responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of mobile systems including Geographic Information Systems, Asset Management databases and field data capture systems. Since his field team was still dependent on paper and pencil, he knew he needed a rugged mobile solution. Cain's team also needed to take photographs and issue reports in MS Word. For dilapidation surveys, where up to 10,000 photos could be taken, the reporting process could take weeks. Cain's team needed a solution to reduce this reporting process by 50% or more.

"With new rugged and digital technologies available, we knew we had an opportunity to streamline our process and be a better consultant to our clients," says Cain.

In order to weigh the options available, Cain relied heavily on experience gained during his time with the Geological Survey of NSW who had trialed a number of products for field mapping in western NSW. Xplore Technologies rugged tablet PC was among those surveyed.

"As the conditions were similar for our needs we decided to trial the Xplore PC," says Cain. "We asked engineers to trial the unit and they were happy with it so we decided to purchase one."

With the combination of databases and the Xplore tablet, the reporting process was almost instant. Dilapidation surveys no longer consumed weeks of time. Consequently, Hyder soon purchased and deployed additional Xplore units finding a marked improvement in team response time.

"We currently have units in Sydney and Melbourne. We have also supplied tablets to clients in Melbourne where we are providing the engineering surveillance service. We also regularly rent more Xplore units for short term projects," says Cain.

To maximize its GIS options, Hyder developed applications in MS Access and uses ESRI ArcGIS, and ArcReader in the field. According to Cain, the Xplore tablets are set up on the Hyder network and operate just like a normal Hyder laptop. This allows them to be connected to the Hyder network and accessed from anywhere to be used in a variety of tasks from site surveillance to environmental scientists doing vegetation mapping.

Hyder's recent implementation of mobile technology has allowed its engineers and scientists to take advantage of databases and GIS in the field. According to Cain, these technologies improve efficiency, accuracy and deliver better products to its clients.

Cain says the use of tablets has helped Hyder to differentiate from its competitors for site surveillance and asset management services.

"The result has been improved repeat business and arguably differentiated Hyder enough to win projects," says Cain.

For most companies, a move to digital capture systems in the field usually means a compromise. But there is a significant overriding benefit that weights in favor of digital capture.

"Traditionally using a pencil and paper is fast and effective. However with large quantities of data, the benefit of digital capture is in the ease of reporting. Being able to carry design plans, schedule of works, and contracts on site, enables the engineers to be more informed when making decisions. This leads to greater quality," Says Cain.

For more information on Hyder Consulting, visit www.hyderconsulting.com.



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