AMEC, international engineers and project managers, are the people to call on before a disaster. AMEC calls on Wacom’s DTZ-2100 interactive pen display to streamline its GIS data production process.
AMEC is a leading provider of flood hazard identification and mapping, multi-hazard mitigation and post disaster recovery services. They were contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop deliverables under the National Flood Insurance Map Modernization (“Map Mod”) Program. The two objectives of Map Mod are to 1) capture updated flood hazard data, and 2) reduce the reliance on paper by transitioning to digital processes for distributing and reading flood maps.
One of AMEC’s key roles in Map Mod is to provide digital flood insurance rate maps. Digital conversion of these maps requires significant production time. It involves scanning paper maps, geo-referencing the scanned image, and using the geo-referenced image to support heads-up digitizing of thematic features related to flood risk assessment. Given the project workload, AMEC recognized a need to eliminate some inefficiency within the digital conversion workflow in order to optimize productivity and produce a superior product for the client.
The AMEC team turned to the innovative technology of Wacom’s DTZ-2100 interactive pen display to streamline their GIS data production process. The pen display allows users to draw directly on the 21” LCD monitor, providing comfortable, efficient and fast input.
As manager of AMEC’s GIS group in Nashville, Tennessee, Justin Graham is overseeing the digitization of flood plain maps for 30 to 40 counties a year. Justin embraced workflow innovation when he integrated Wacom hardware into his existing data conversion and data collection processes. “We wanted to ensure that we were as efficient as possible with our use of staff time and production resources utilized on the flood map digital conversion process,” he says.
Saving Time, Improving Ergonomics and Cutting Errors
Graham’s team cut the data creation time by more than 50 percent by switching from mouse-based to pen-based user input. “By using the pen, with streaming mode enabled in our software, you can just sit there and draw a nice smooth line,” Graham notes. The immediate time-savings translated into a significant return on investment. “The DTZ-2100 paid for itself after doing just one county map, and we’re doing up to 40 counties a year,” he says. “Every hour that we cut from our production workflow represented real dollars saved that justified the investment in the DTZ-2100.”
Graham also reports that production was approached with increased enthusiasm because of the comfort of using a pen-based workflow. This meant less physical and mental fatigue for the production team. “Employees are valuable. You don’t want them to run out the door because their right hand hurts from clicking a mouse for hours on end. We found that our team continued to improve almost exponentially as they spent more time working with the pen in hand,” Graham says.
Most of the flood map work at AMEC is done with ESRI software, and regular users like to set the DTZ- 2100 according to their preferences. “The DTZ-2100 has quick keys on the side and people customize those keys for specific functions like panning and zooming, instead of looking up for the zoom button,” says Graham. “Everybody has their own unique methods to utilize software shortcuts with the quick keys.”
In addition, Graham says the ergonomics of the DTZ-2100 enable greater accuracy. “We noticed improved precision of our digitized features when we compared data collected with the pen to data collected with the mouse. The mouse-based digitizing led to inaccurate line segments that required manual clean-up and the potential for topology errors. The Wacom pen was a more natural tool for digitizing features and it provided us with cleaner, more precise data.”