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ebutle

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Electronic Survey Software
« on: Jan 19, 2008, 06:43 »
Howdy,
I'm looking for insight/experience/opinions on the electronic survey documentation programs that are out there. I'm kinda the "Map Guy" here at Columbia Generating station. We use Microsoft Visio for generating maps and surveys and a Curator database for data storage and retrieval. It's clunky, but it works. My management has hinted that they may be willing to spring for new software, and it's probably going to be up to me to suggest which one. I've been off the road for a few years and I don't have any experience with what the options are. I would appreciate any advice. Thanks...

Offline RAD-GHOST

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #1 on: Jan 20, 2008, 04:38 »
Visual Survey Data System, (VSDS), seems to be at the top of my list.  The manufacturer seems to be in tune with the various types of documentation necessary for the industry.  Anything from a one liner to a full blown multi-page, multi-map document.  I've used about five similar systems and this one seems to stand out.   

Here's are some of the Pros:

You can have multiple technicians working on one survey, each with an electronic signature.
Your MAP data base can be your existing facility maps and/or actual photographs.
You can archive your old survey's into the VSDS system.
You can scan any document into the system and attach it to a retrievable number.
The program has about forty search functions to retrieve data, (See Con's)!
The system is completely menu driven, drag and drop, (tribal knowledge not required).
You can allow anybody to view the surveys with read only privileges.
The system can be designed to auto-populate if you like, including instrumentation.
Built in Quality Checks for accuracy.

Here's some Con's:

The system will need some tweaking to your facility needs.
Some up front thinking will have to go into search titles criteria, (you've been warned)!
All Technicians will require a formal familiarization with the system, a couple of hours at the keyboard!

Hope this helps, RG

http://www.mjwcorp.com/multi_vsds.php

NOTE: This is kind of cutting edge technology so don't be surprised by the opposition! 
« Last Edit: Jan 20, 2008, 04:49 by RAD-GHOST »
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ebutle

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #2 on: Jan 20, 2008, 10:42 »
Believe me, I've got vast experience with a lack of up front thinking in deciding on search fields for data retrieval. I designed the data fields for the database that we use here. I learned two things right away. The first was that I underestimated the sheer volume of the stuff that an RP department generates, but the biggest was that 28 technicians will have 28 distinctly different ways of recording data. Whowudda thunk RHR-V-1A could be RHR-1A, or RHR Valve 1A, or something as hard to spot as RHR-V-1 A (note the space...). And that it could be in the North Valve Room or N. Valve Room or N. Valve Rm. or N. Valve Gallery... And, everybody knows it's in the Reactor Building or the RX Bld. or the RX Bldg. or the RB... Whew...hearding cats...

Can you tell me what power plants have programs that you particularly like and who might be a good contact? We're pretty low tech here in the northwest, so I'm mostly interested in survey documentation, an electronic routing and approval process, and data storage. I don't see us running around with PDAs and tablets anytime soon.


Offline RAD-GHOST

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #3 on: Jan 20, 2008, 06:02 »
My apologies, I over looked that little detail "Power Plant"!  This type of program would obviously not be cost effective, or should I say, Beyond Budget!  The facility managers will obviously ask you if you already have a program and if it works?  If it does, then live with it!  Strangely enough, they'll probably spend more money evaluating the program then it's original cost!   

I haven't been to Hatch recently, but I received some feedback that they have a decent electronic survey program. 

PS:  You are not alone on the low tech venue, some facilities are still fitching their hard copies!    :-X

Hope this helps, RG!   ;D

     
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ebutle

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #4 on: Jan 20, 2008, 06:49 »
Actually, the management here is behind this, right now. I'm hoping to gather lots of info and present something before the attention drifts. I'm going to contact VSDS this week, but I'd like to talk to anybody that has practical experience with this stuff.

Offline RAD-GHOST

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #5 on: Jan 21, 2008, 06:48 »
I'm not a salesman for the company, but I could probably answer many of your question. 

Drop me an IM with your questions.

RG
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Offline Rennhack

Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #6 on: Jan 21, 2008, 09:52 »
I would prefer if the questions were in the open forum, so we could all learn.

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #7 on: Jan 21, 2008, 04:37 »
WOW,

Good Day Mr. Rennhack!

Figured I'd save you some web space by a direct connect with ebutle.

I already posted the link for VSDS in a prior responce, what else would the forum like to know?

I'm feeling like big brother is watching my key board!

Got To Go, RG!     :-X

PS:  Looks like I lost a Karma point with this posting!   ;D
« Last Edit: Jan 21, 2008, 04:50 by RAD-GHOST »
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Offline Mike McFarlin

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #8 on: Jan 21, 2008, 07:16 »
Keep watching the keyboard. Got your Karma covered.
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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #9 on: Jan 21, 2008, 08:09 »
plot the area or facility in auto cad, import with surfer or some other type software, assign survey data in spread sheet file pretty simple stuff.
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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #10 on: Jan 22, 2008, 03:30 »
Alphadude makes it sound so simple....sounds like he should get his small business up and running any day now supplying a new easier version of electronic surveys.  We used VSDS here at Harris until we had some issues with the data management.  MG wanted more than we would pay for the upgrades necessary to continue using it.  Back to paper for us. I have been working for a couple of years on a decent, usable system for us to generate surveys.  Not there yet, perhaps sometime in the future when I plot the area in autocad, import with surfer....you know the rest.
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Offline RAD-GHOST

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #11 on: Jan 23, 2008, 04:41 »
Duke Nuker, Excellent Feedback! 

I feel your pain!   :( 

The Vendor sold the program and your Company bought the program, but nobody actually used and proved the program's operability for your station, until after the purchase!   :-\  Every site has its little quirks and the canned version of program will probably not address them all.  Responding to those problems is easy, but also costly!  What appears to be a simple little fix may in fact become a programmer’s nightmare!  Like any computer program, the more exposure it gets, the more it improves and hopefully the better the price.

Ebutle: 

I would suggest you sit down with the staff, especially the TECHS and draw up a list of the procedure and tribal necessities for your station.  Request a trial version of VSDS, or at least a copy of the data input windows to see what fits and where.  If something doesn't fit, is it acceptable under the comment section or an attachment?  If you decide it absolutely, positively needs a unique input field, rub your neck and write the check! 

Another good aspect of the program is it's venue for supplying information.  Anybody can be granted viewing privileges, (Read Only).  As a normal course of business, paperwork supporting any project always seems to be stored in about a dozen different places, via a dozen different people.  You know what I'm talking about, "Have you read the ALARA review, work order, task description"?  Where are they?  VSDS allows you the capability to attach everything in one nice neat package, all accessible via the computer. 

The manufacture also has a nice set of dollar stats to support a purchase.  From a realist perspective, I would have to say they're kind of low.  Once you become familiar with the system, surveys quality will improve ten fold, a time will be........... ;)

Is it the Best in the Industry?  I don't know, but we seem to like it!

alphadude,

I'm not 100% sure if that combination would do the trick, but I'm somewhat familiar with the pricing of AutoCAD and the extra user costs!   :-X


Hope this Helps, RG!
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Offline RAD-GHOST

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #12 on: Jan 23, 2008, 04:52 »
Thanks MM,

What you doing now, the DOE Digging for Dollars?

Seen you last at Brunswick, I think?

Later Dude, RG!

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Offline snowman

Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #13 on: Jan 23, 2008, 12:27 »
Visual Survey Data System, (VSDS), seems to be at the top of my list.  The manufacturer seems to be in tune with the various types of documentation necessary for the industry.  Anything from a one liner to a full blown multi-page, multi-map document.  I've used about five similar systems and this one seems to stand out.   

VSDS was used at a project I worked at a few years back and was met with near mutiny by the rank-and-file. Supervisors in morning meetings would inform techs that upper management wanted surveys written using the new software, then would run for their lives after the meeting adjourned. That software turned what used to be a 10-15 minute survey report into an all morning ordeal, and that was for the computer savvy technicians. Unless that software has been totally re-written from the ground up, avoid it like the plague.

I heard a plant in Georgia (Vogle?) hasn't written a paper survey in years. Try there. Just for the record, about half the techs at my present facility write surveys using Word and import digital pictures into the document. They then save those reports in their My Documents folder or on share drives. The other half write them the old fashioned way, and in WAY less time. There are reports of a new paperless monster on the horizon, though.

Offline Surveyors-mato

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #14 on: Jan 23, 2008, 12:40 »
Working primarily for TVA, VSDS is all I know. Training was required and it took very little time to become proficient. Maps are saved and then as data changes, the old map is still saved but a " Save as new survey" box allows for new info to be place without loss of the old. This also helps in saving time for techs because new maps are seldom drawn.

  One liners are different so that each tech does their own thing each shift and the information can't be altered in the future once approved. Still both seem much faster than " new templates" each time.
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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #15 on: Jan 23, 2008, 01:06 »
I only used VSDS at one plant and for only one outage... I liked it... not great, but good enough. It was not hard to learn (I am a bit of a computer geek, so I am not typical. Your results may vary.) It did the job it was supposed to do. I spent a few years working in document control and records management at a nuclear plant, so I can tell you the time spent up-front more than pays for itself in back-end time. Eventually (with practice) it takes no longer to write an electronic survey. They are easier to store and retrieve, and most importantly they are legible. All the technician time you can spend writing surveys on line is more than paid for by having the one survey you need for litigation turn out to be legible.

From the utilities point of view, they are well worth the cost and the pain (especially since the pain is felt only by the technicians and those that train them.) IMHO, running away is not an option. Learn to live with it.
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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #16 on: Jan 24, 2008, 03:45 »
snowman,

Sorry to hear of your experience with the program.  The facility I'm working has been using it for two years, as of this month.  All RP documentation is electronic, even hard copy forms associated with procedures surveillences. 

Quote
Just for the record, about half the techs at my present facility write surveys using Word and import digital pictures into the document. They then save those reports in their My Documents folder or on share drives. The other half write them the old fashioned way, and in WAY less time. There are reports of a new paperless monster on the horizon, though.


What type of QC program does your facility have? 

Paperless Monster...........That's Funny!

Take R Easy, RG!

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remowil55

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #17 on: Jan 24, 2008, 08:43 »
All the Southern Company plants use what is called RadIs,trust me if you go there you will use it, once you get use to it and how it works you will never want to do a hand written survey again. RadIs is a program that has every room in the plant on with the the equipment drawn in place. If you want a hard copy hit the print button. It is a great program that saves a lot of time.Once you get the hang of it, a survey that would take you normally 45 minutes to write up, you can do on RadIs in 10 minutes. I think the program is for sale and is custom made to your plant if you are willing to pay the price..

Offline snowman

Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #18 on: Jan 24, 2008, 09:29 »
Eventually (with practice) it takes no longer to write an electronic survey. They are easier to store and retrieve, and most importantly they are legible. All the technician time you can spend writing surveys on line is more than paid for by having the one survey you need for litigation turn out to be legible.

From the utilities point of view, they are well worth the cost and the pain (especially since the pain is felt only by the technicians and those that train them.) IMHO, running away is not an option. Learn to live with it.
That's because someone else wrote the template for you! They created the document you used to import your data.

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #19 on: Jan 24, 2008, 09:39 »
We evaluated the following out at Diablo:
From the company MJW:  VSDS
From the company IIS:  RADS
From the company Thermo (Nuclear?  The peops who used to be Eberline)- RADIS

I don't recall alot about what we found with the particular programs... at one point we were going to go with IIS and have them customize it for us, but then they lost their top programmer AND the source code (due to a freak power surge from lightning.  Go figger!) so we opted out of our arrangement with them.  This was three years ago, so things may have changed for them for the better.

We have not settled on any of them, we decided to use developers in-house to create the survey program.  I'm not in RP anymore, but I believe our assigned developer keeps getting yanked to work on other projects.  

For a survey briefing tool we use what we call SimPlant.  Basically it's a Flash graphical menu (ie. it's an overhead view of the plant and you can drill down to where you want to go) that is linked to survey maps of the different areas.  The survey maps are colored PDF files that are updated by the techs after they do their survey.  It's pretty sweet, it's on the plant intranet so work groups can look up their work area prior to coming over to Access.  

I'm sure if you contacted each of the companies they would be happy to send you a demo CD. 
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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #20 on: Jan 24, 2008, 01:06 »
That's because someone else wrote the template for you! They created the document you used to import your data.

Well, of course, someone had to do the front-end work. I am speaking strictly from a user standpoint. I have no idea how much work went into the development of the maps (I didn't see anything I would call a template there, but I guess the term could be used) but whatever the 'overhead' was, the task of actually creating a survey was easy. And, as I said before, the cost to the plant is well worth it. From an economic standpoint there is little or no debate. From a user point of view, it was easy (at least I thought so.)
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ebutle

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #22 on: Jan 25, 2008, 11:29 »
Thanks for the links. I've already contacted the VSDS folks and I'm waiting for some demo material from them.

The system that we have in place now works reasonably well and most of the techs have warmed up to using it. There are still a few complaints about the time factor. One of the big factors that has me searching for alternatives now is that upcoming upgrades are going to eventually eliminate the database that we use for completed map storage and retrieval. I would also like to provide more automation to the the routing process.

The up front and maintenance costs look big, but compared to what the "expenses" involved in getting the IS department to develop and maintain a program are, it's competitive...

Snowman, the experience that you mentioned with VSDS... how much of the problem would you attribute to lack of training? I ask because it was a factor when we started up our electronic program here.

Offline Rennhack

Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #23 on: Jan 27, 2008, 12:55 »
I saw this today, and it reminded me of this thread.

« Last Edit: Jan 27, 2008, 12:56 by Rennhack »

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #24 on: Jan 27, 2008, 03:43 »
I'm currently assigned to a facility where the house techs hand record all their survey data.  They use very few maps, besides those used for routine survey purposes.  Most all of their rad surveys are written on log sheet type survey forms, with date, item, rad level, contamination levels, etc.  However, we (contract personnel) use a map for our work and our program is Visio.  We templated the data field and incorporate the same one into every map, same with the survey site information.  We attach our smear survey sheets from the Tennelec to the survey and have a workable document.  It beats the handwritten maps for neatness and takes very little time or computer savvy to become proficient.  Our current project is out doors and we have all our readings sited by GPS readings.  We picked up some Garmin hand held units which are not the most precise in the industry but are quite capable for our needs.  This data is easily incorporated into the Visio drawing and the way that program saves information makes it easy to save the GPS location minus the last three digits which then get entered for each reading or to locate each corner of an excavation. 
That being said, I'll have to check on some of these other programs, see how they work, and the feasibility of their usage.  Thanks for the heads up.  I like this thread!
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Offline Scorpio51

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Re: Electronic Survey Software
« Reply #25 on: May 19, 2008, 02:11 »
I've used two different versions of VSDS.  The first was OK...slow, cumbersome, but OK.  The second was worse and we dumped it 4-5 years ago. I always liked the concept of electronic maps, but there was nothing else out there, so I developed my own electronic survey data base.  Here are the basics: 

1. I did the maps using Corel and converted them into pdf.
2. I created a blank map (room for smear data, instruments, names, locations, etc.) in Corel and converted that into a pdf.
3. Make all the blank spaces interactive so you can click and type.
4. Create smears, SOPs, etc. in Corel and import them as labels.
5. Next import the map pdf into the blank as a watermark and size it to fit.

Our management could care less and I hear we're going back to VSDS next year...

Works better than VSDS, but techs still hate it because it's slower than pen and paper...

Oh well, it was fun to create.

 


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