For AEP Transmission, a business unit of American Electric Power (AEP), providing accurate, real-time information to its field employees not only promotes operational efficiency but also enhances safety for its employees and the customers they serve.
The transmission company wanted to replace printed maps and CAD drawings with accurate and up-to-date digital images – even in remote locations. To achieve this required a scanner that could produce high resolution images, and be durable enough to endure field use.
After evaluating several models, they chose the Colortrac SmartLF SC 36 Xpress digital scanner.
AEP Transmission is the largest owner, operator and constructor of electric transmission in North America, with over 40,000 miles of transmission lines. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, AEP is one of the largest electric utility organizations in the United States, serving nearly 5.4 million customers across 11 states.
AEP chose Ohio-based Graphic Enterprises Office Solutions, Inc. (GEI) to supply multiple Colortrac wide format digital scanners and portable cases to facilitate use in the field.
Paradigm Imaging’s North American Sales Manager Tod Robinson recalled discussions that preceded the acquisition. “We talked a lot about their needs, and the challenges of relying on a paper-based system for updating critical information,” Robinson said. “I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years, and I’ve worked with a number of power companies, so I understood their logistic and operational concerns.”
AEP’s goal was to be able to digitize CAD drawings, on the fly, when changes were made out to the power lines and at the substations across the States. Because much of the substation and line work takes place in remote locations and miles from regional offices, communicating those changes could be challenging.
Personnel in the field routinely had to scan their modified prints at a business center and send those files back to the engineering department at the home offices. Engineers would update the CAD drawings and ship a new set of prints back to the service center or substation.
In all, it could take days or longer to formally update critical information. The process was time consuming and tedious, and raised the potential for discrepancies.
In-the-field scanning defies geography, ensures accuracy
“AEP needed a scanning solution to accommodate up to 36-inch CAD drawings, and it absolutely had to be portable and durable, because it would be carried from one location to the next – from the regional offices out to the lines and the many substations,” Robinson explained.
At first, AEP internally sourced a few entry-level scanners and tested them in the field. While scanning the documents in the field improved the timeliness of the information, the scanners did not hold up to the wear-and-tear of field use. They needed to be exceptionally durable, portable and, of course, produce high-quality high-resolution scans.
The teams at Paradigm Imaging and GEI were able to provide a solution: the Colortrac SmartLF SC 36 Xpress series scanner, with a carrying case that Robinson sourced from a manufacturer in California. The case secures the scanner during transport, and allows it to be operated without fully removing it from the case.
The Colortrac scanners are designed with technical applications in mind – architectural, engineering, construction and facilities management to name a few. The SmartLF SC 36 Xpress-series scanners leverage the patent-pending SingleSensor technology, comprising 43,200 short image-path sensors and bi-directional LED illumination. As documents are fed into the scanner, an active pressure roller initiates to ensure consistent imaging and to minimize shadowing effects where the paper substrate may have folds or creases.
The scanners also incorporate a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 digital interface, which represents significant improvements to data transfer speed. The hardware and software combine to make for an easy setup and quick scans, without compromising on imaging quality.
Once the teams at Paradigm Imaging and GEI had the solution in mind, they put it through its real-world paces for the AEP personnel to see in action.
“It passed all their tests,” Robinson recalled.
Latassa Kent, an engineering technologist at AEP’s headquarters in Columbus, oversaw the acquisition and implementation of the scanners. The introduction of portable digital scanners helped AEP field employees eliminate the need to routinely go out of their way to find a copy center or other location where they could scan prints.
The Colortrac SC36c Xpress scanners are able to accommodate the oversized documents, and to capture the complicated detail of line drawings, according to Kent. AEP’s operators can capture data, edits, mark-ups and notations with precision. Kent also reported that the scanners required little to no training when field teams put them into service.
“Now, with this new procedure, as changes are made, the AEP team can note them, scan them, and upload the new data to the office. Anyone who opens that information on a tablet or desktop can then see the current, accurate information,” Paradigm Imaging’s Robinson said. “As you can imagine, this is so important to personnel out in the field, from an operational and a safety perspective.”
AEP is likely a leader when it comes to this type of digital workflow, though Kent said that other energy suppliers across the country are sure to follow.
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