Streamlining Water Management | A Digital Transformation for the Town of New Chicago, Indiana

In a world where digitalization has become the norm, there are still pockets of resistance where analog and legacy work processes hold strong. The town of New Chicago, with a population of 1,980 people, stood as a testament to this reluctance to change. The town’s records, infrastructure data, and operational processes were firmly rooted in pen and paper, and even the idea of digitizing seemed far-fetched. This is where Abonmarche stepped in, facilitating a digital transformation that has revolutionized the way New Chicago manages its water assets.

The Legacy Systems Challenge

With all records existing on old maps and index cards, the town faced challenges in efficiently managing its water distribution system. The population might be small, but the complexity of its water system is significant. New Chicago’s antiquated water meter books, comprising a staggering 13 binders, were a symbol of the challenge ahead.

The most significant challenge was the lack of readily accessible and reliable asset data. Knowledge about main lines, valves, and service lines was confined to maps from the 1990s, and when field workers encountered problems like leaks, they had to trek back to the facility to cross-check asset data. This process resulted in inefficiencies and frustration among the crew. Handwritten notes containing crucial information about asset attributes were often illegible, causing further complications.

A Digital Transformation Emerges

Recognizing the urgency for change, Abonmarche’s Digital Solutions team embarked on a journey to modernize New Chicago’s water management systems. The approach was innovative yet simple: ‘heads-up digitizing.’ This method involved recreating the entire water distribution system within the Esri ArcGIS platform, effectively transforming the data from analog to digital.

Within a few short weeks, the team completed this work, with transformative results:

1. Unleashing Digital Capabilities: The data was no longer confined to physical maps; it could now be downloaded, exported, and shared online. This open access unlocked capabilities that were previously unthinkable.

2. Empowering Field Workers: Field crews could now access the data they needed directly on tablets while out in the field. This eliminated the need for them to return to the facility to make decisions, improving efficiency and reducing operational delays.

3. Seamless Data Accessibility: The establishment of a project delivery site (Esri ArcGIS Online Portal) for the Town of New Chicago brought the power of digital data storage to the cloud. Information is now available 24/7, enabling real-time decision-making.

Bridging the Gap with Mobile Devices

The integration of the town’s digital map into a tablet app allowed field crews to manipulate and interact with the data directly from their devices. This move brought several notable benefits:

  • On-the-Spot Edits: Field crews can make necessary edits onsite, eliminating the need to process changes back at the office. This streamlined workflow ensures accuracy and reduces response times.
  • Effortless Application of Edits: With just a few taps on their tablets, crew members can seamlessly apply edits to the digital map, enhancing data accuracy and minimizing errors.
  • Innovative Mobile Device Equipment Leasing Program: At the heart of this program is our commitment to seamless tablet management for these communities. Instead of worrying about app deployments, iPad tracking, or the headaches of replacements due to loss or theft, our client communities can participate in our mobile device leasing program for just $55 per month, per iPad user – letting our team shoulder the responsibility of technology management.

Revolutionizing Meter Readings

The digital transformation didn’t stop with the water distribution system. New Chicago’s monthly meter readings, once documented laboriously in antiquated meter reading books, underwent a similar transformation.

The field crew’s process of manually recording readings in large, unwieldy books was replaced with a streamlined app developed by the Abonmarche Digital Solutions team. This app revolutionized the client’s process in several ways:

  • Account Number Integration: The addition of account number information to each property brought organization and structure to the meter reading process.
  • Consolidation of Data: The Digital Solutions team combined hundreds of account numbers tied to New Chicago’s addresses into a single, accessible source.
  • Field Map Integration: The app’s interface presented line items within a field map, enabling crews to input readings and attach photos to data points effortlessly.
  • Rainproof Efficiency: Unlike the physical books susceptible to rain, the tablets used by the field crews are waterproof, allowing them to work unhindered by weather conditions.

A Bright Digital Future for New Chicago

In the end, the transformation brought about by Abonmarche positioned the town of New Chicago for a brighter, more efficient future. The benefits were immense:

  • Efficient Field Work: Streamlined workflows and onsite decision-making maximized the crew’s time in the field, resulting in faster response times.
  • Web Accessibility: The digital data was effortlessly shareable on the web, enhancing communication and collaboration across departments.
  • Digital Records: Records and information were now stored securely in a digital format, eliminating the risks associated with physical books.

“This has opened up capabilities to us like never before,” noted the Water Superintendent of New Chicago. “I always had to come back to the office and sift and search through those old, worn-out water maps. Now, all the information I need is right here in the field with these tablets. This is amazing! This will help our crew do our job faster just by having the knowledge of where everything is located while we are onsite.”

This project demonstrates the impact of digital transformation. With streamlined workflows and improved technology, New Chicago can now participate in efficient, data-driven water management that facilitates better communication between team members. This success story serves as an inspiration for other communities looking to embrace the possibilities of digital investment.

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