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New GIS benefits available

The continuing implementation across many industries of geographic information systems (GIS) has reaped enormous and often unexpected benefits. At Rick Engineering Co., we have traditionally used GIS software and our creativity to prepare exhibit-quality maps, perform spatial analysis to find how close or far new housing developments are located from FEMA flood plains, perform slope analysis and develop models from contour lines, creating 3-D images for presentation purposes. GIS software has also proven useful in visualizing multiple sources of data simultaneously.

Over the years, we have implemented many GIS solutions for local governments and cities to create master drainage plans, right of way retracements and records of survey, among many other applications of this emerging technology.

As useful as these products may be, a closer look reveals that all of these examples fail to span the lifecycle of the project for which they were created. Experience has shown that once the project is delivered, the maps are used for wall decoration or for the company's brochure and marketing materials. Worse yet, they are archived and with time, totally forgotten.

Rick Engineering Co. has come to understand that as beneficial as current applications may be, they represent only the tip of the iceberg so far as harnessing the available depth and power of GIS is concerned. With constant advances in GIS, database and hardware technology, GIS can be implemented for countless projects spanning many engineering disciplines (civil, construction, transportation, traffic, and surveying).

We are currently in the process of establishing a GIS system to store information pertaining to all of our company's past and future projects; this information includes the project's location, client information, contact information, CADD drawings and all documentation including Word, PDF, spreadsheets, calculations, video clips, images and photographs. The goal is for our engineers and executives to graphically see the breadth of our experience and to leverage historic and contact information that may be otherwise overlooked. We are creating a live system that can be grown and developed to enhance our marketing abilities and leverage our past experiences.

In a similar fashion, utility companies can use GIS to track their water, electrical and gas networks as they maintain up-to-date maps, plans and add new capital expenditure projects, integrating with customer information systems and task management. Courier companies can keep track of their vehicles and maximize the number of deliveries while minimizing the roads traveled. The list of potential uses is endless.

All the above examples put GIS at the center of core business activities. To get there requires skill and a delicate balance among budget, schedule and deliverables -- three elements that frequently work against one another. While our mastery of this balance is a work in progress, we can confidently say we are making enormous strides in perfecting the process.

Representative of our current available services are GIS Consultation, User Needs Assessments, Database Design, Data Conversion and Migration, and Custom tools and .net Application Development. Rick Engineering Co. can help you identify your needs, tailor processes, and develop these tools and applications to better serve the needs of your organization or business.

Submitted by Nader Al-Alem, GIS director for Rick Engineering Co.

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