Central Arizona Project: The Challenge to Augment, Automate, and Accelerate
On September 30, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, signed into law the Colorado River Basin Project Act. This law authorized the construction of what is today known as the Central Arizona Project (CAP). The canal system brings Colorado River water to central and southern Arizona and is the state’s single largest renewable water supply.
CAP is a water delivery and Operations and Maintenance organization. CAP is designed to bring about 1.5 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River to Central and Southern Arizona every year. CAP carries water from Lake Havasu near Parker, AZ to the southern boundary of the San Xavier Indian Reservation southwest of Tucson, AZ. It is a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines.
CAP designs for repairs, replacement and upgrades of systems necessary to maintain the reliability of the constructed infrastructure and the delivery of water to the State of Arizona.
We recently sat down with CAP’s Drawing Services Supervisor; Holly Forden to discuss some of the challenges CAP has faced in recent years.
Interviewer: What are the greatest challenges CAP has come across?
Holly: Central Arizona Project (CAP) was facing the typical challenges that most established operations and maintenance industries are confronted with today, aging infrastructure and employee attrition by retirement that is complicated with the potential loss of historical knowledge created by these conditions. When the demands of an aging infrastructure increase, so does the amount of workload placed upon personnel. Typically, and industry wide, staffing is not being increased to match these escalating conditions. Finding innovative solutions to augment, automate and accelerate workload efficiencies, while maintaining quality and document integrity is becoming a constant requirement to remain successful in the utility operations and maintenance sector.
Interviewer: How has CAP dealt with these challenges?
Holly: We started by applying substantial productivity gains by implementing innovative CADD (computer aided design and drafting) techniques and simplifying previous CADD standards to match industry standards. We then implemented Autodesk Vault Professional into our daily engineering business practices and integrated it with our existing enterprise document management system. Talk about creating a disruption to CAP’s status quo! CAP was already using an enterprise document management system and the idea of using a secondary system that connected with the enterprise system was really thinking outside of the box. This challenged everyone that was making the business decisions and took some convincing to sell the idea. The impact it would have on reducing backlogs and workloads would be so eventful that it was in CAP’s (and the taxpayers) best interest to do so.
Interviewer: Was a goal set in place at this point?
Holly: Yes, the goal was to augment, automate and accelerate as much as possible, we left no stone unturned and micro-analyzed every aspect of how we performed our daily work to make substantial and quantitative improvements. If we could automate manual repetitive tasks, we did. Implementing Vault Professional was a result of setting extremely high goals and expectations and then meeting and exceeding them.
"We relied heavily on our external team of partners during the implementation; Autodesk Consulting for system design, deployment and training and KETIV for custom user manuals."
Interviewer: How did you approach the Autodesk Vault Professional implementation?
Holly: Having personal experience implementing Vault Professional in a previous position with another company, I was able to prepare my team and bring them up to speed on the unlimited opportunities and challenges we would encounter. Everyone knew at inception that we were designing a very sophisticated and complex Vault environment that focused on creating efficiency gains, transparent workloads and ease of use. Our end goal was to make every user’s job easier. For that reason, the team that was providing the solution had to be very open to new ideas and solutions. We even disrupted ourselves in how we individually thought about workflows and systems. Each member of the team had the freedom to challenge each other’s status quo and that created a very successful outcome and pushed our solution to a higher level of performance.
Interviewer: Can you walk us through the biggest contributors to the successful implementation?
Holly: Yes, it has been the culmination of re-imagining how work is typically completed. By dovetailing those innovations into a very successful Vault Professional implementation and integration project, the results have propelled our success to unprecedented levels. That meant breaking away from industry norms and changing the approach on software training and use.
Of course, in the end the people factor plays an enormous part in the success equation and none of this would have been possible without the teams within CAP (IT, Drawing Services, Engineering Resources and Maintenance Reliability), that supported and participated in discovery, testing, training and eventually the adoption of the use of CAP’s Vault. We also relied heavily on our external team of partners during the implementation; Autodesk Consulting for system design, deployment and training and KETIV for custom user manuals.
Interviewer: What role did KETIV play?
Holly: After Go-Live, in the effort for continuous improvement, KETIV teamed up with us to write custom Vault client applications to automate tasks that were previously painstakingly performed by hand. This included an application to help us manage series and sequence numbers annotated on each drawing file that is required to be delivered and filed in the field as a hard copy. CAP now has the ability to quickly reorder, add and remove drawings from these listings whenever necessary from within the Vault client and then publish customized excel reports with the click of a mouse button.
All of this tedious work was a manual data entry process in the past that took enormous effort and was prone to human error and omissions.
"We have doubled our capacity to process workloads by 207+% with the same staffing levels."
Interviewer: Can you talk about your experience working with KETIV?
Holly: KETIV was instrumental in assisting in the creation of our custom training/user manuals. A total of eight user groups required special documentation that was created for their specific role within the Vault software. Our mission was to provide the right information to each user and not overwhelm them with information that was not necessary.
Interviewer: Can you share how these changes have contributed to your business growth?
Holly: After applying substantial productivity gains with innovation and reimagined CADD Standards that dovetailed into our Vault implementation and integration design, we have doubled our capacity to process workloads by 207+% (comparing a 13-year averaged work order closure rate against 2018 results) with the same staffing levels. We now have the ability to manage and work on concurrent designs, as-builts and record drawing lifecycles while maintaining a high quality and integrity level on each document. With our ingenuity, it has allowed the ability to resource workloads at a greater level and detail than that of industry standard approaches. All of this, allows the Drawing Services Department to excel in customer service and explore opportunities to engage deeper into design projects, lead our external consultants during project activities and develop deeper engineer-designer relationships.
Interviewer: That’s pretty impressive.
Holly: Thank you. It was fun, challenging, exhilarating and exciting to be part of the experience and we all grew and challenged each other’s status quo in the process. In essence, we were very detail oriented and left no stone unturned, our mission was to solve current issues and establish a user-friendly system that was future minded and we accomplished that.