Archive for April, 2018

Data Analysis and Reporting Workflow Using Algorithms: A Case Study

Introducing “The Problem”
A large steel producer in Northwest Indiana (Client) recently had a legacy issue concerning one of its blast furnaces. Client noticed the furnace’s tuyeres (the holes through which air is forced into the blast furnace) were changing shape, going from cylindrical to ellipsoid. Client was concerned that the entire structure was slowly collapsing or shifting towards a point of structural failure.
To say the least, the problem was high profile.

The Call for Help
Survey crews from DLZ’s Burns Harbor office were asked to collect data on as much of the furnace’s over 100’ tall and nearly 50’ diameter shell as possible, and analyze the data in order to better understand how much the furnace was moving.

Using a Leica P40 high definition 3D laser scanner over the course of a 10-hour work day, while the furnace was shut down for routine maintenance, two DLZ survey crews were able to get a baseline set of data.

In total, the initial set of data approximated 65gb (2.5 billon) individual data points.

Analyzing the Data
The challenge was not analyzing the data a single time. The challenge was having a way to analyze the data multiple times quickly and accurately. Additionally, the furnace is subject to normal movement, and that needs to be accounted for.

Leveraging Computing Power to Process Data
After registering (the process of “stitching” together multiple sets of data) the laser scan data, the rest of the processing was turned over to a computer algorithm. The algorithm parsed the data based on a radial grid, and reduced the 2.5 billon points down to just 20,000 representative monitoring points.
A second algorithm was written to find and analyze those same 20,000 points from any subsequent dataset.

Understanding the Audience
While engineers, surveyors, and other technical-minded professionals are comfortable with, and often prefer, numbers and raw data, a set of 20,000 points is just too large to properly comprehend, and the high-profile nature of the project involved several non-technical decision makers. With these considerations in mind, the priorities for project deliverables were as follows:

  1. Visuals > Numbers
    With so many individual data points it is nearly impossible to gain an accurate understanding of the structures movement from tables and charts alone. To help this problem, a colormap was created to represent deviations with color instead of with numbers.
  2. Speed of Interpretation > Resolution of Results
    By using colors to represent deviations the reader loses the ability to know the exact deviation at any given location. The tradeoff is the reader gains the ability to interpret the entire data set quickly as colors form trends and are represented in a picture.
  3. Solution > Interpretation (in regard to communication)
    The visualizations resulted in a quick, consistent interpretation of the data by multiple readers. This allowed the focus of the group to be on solutions rather than spending a large amount of time trying to understand, interpret, or debating the meaning of the data.

Visualizing and Presenting the Results
Ultimately the project deliverables were a 2D colormap and a 3D model, which illustrated that the furnace did show both movement and change in shape, but not enough to cause concern. After only a 10-minute conversation about DLZ’s findings, the discussion was able to move to solutions, which meant the collected data had been presented in a meaningful way that the client understood.

The Project Going Forward
Based on the results of DLZ’s analysis, the client decided to continue monitoring the blast furnace bi-monthly to ensure the structure remains in a normal range of fluctuation. At the same time, various reinforcements and materials will be tested to see how they might influence the shape of the tuyeres and movement of the structure.
The client was able to choose preventative maintenance instead of expensive, unnecessary measures only because of the quick turnaround enabled by the use of algorithms over manual point cloud analysis to rapidly determine the scope of the problem.

Unexpected Takeaway
When a project’s budget starts to dwindle, billable client interactions are usually the first on the chopping block. With competition always becoming more of a factor in the bidding processing, budgets are tighter than ever. Leveraging algorithms on this project provided quick answers and freed up valuable hours to allow for early additional client interaction with more face-to-face meetings and discussions than otherwise would have been possible.

Are you ADA compliant?

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all governmental agencies perform a self-evaluation (SE) of their facilities to determine compliance with applicable ADA standards. Those governmental agencies with 50 or more employees also are required to prepare a transition plan to identify the steps they will take to correct non-compliant issues and to ensure access to their programs for persons with disabilities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, and that number is expected to increase as the baby-boomer generation enters retirement age.

Passed in 1990, the ADA requires completion of the self-evaluation and transition plan (SETP), a requirement that few governmental entities did, and those that did perform a SETP, have not updated or implemented their plan. Due to low compliance and the increasing need for accessibility, some states have gone so far as to issue mandates that governmental entities must have a compliant SETP to remain eligible for federal funding. Threatened with the prospect of losing funding for road, bridge, and other vital projects, communities took notice and had to determine how they could preserve funding by meeting their ADA compliance obligations.

The 2010 mandate in Indiana led to DLZ’s assisting dozens of clients with a variety of ADA compliance services. DLZ sponsored full-day seminars in Indianapolis, South Bend, and Fort Wayne to provide information about the ADA compliance requirements for governmental entities, including towns, cities, and counties. DLZ offered services ranging from training on how to collect SE data to as-needed consultation to full service SETP data collection and document preparation. The clients ranged in size from small rural towns to larger cities, such as Mishawaka, Elkhart, and Terre Haute.

More recently, a 2016 Tennessee mandate enabled DLZ to assist numerous client communities in East Tennessee, such as Maryville, Alcoa, Sevierville, Blount County, and Gatlinburg, with full-service ADA evaluation of their facilities, policies, and programs and preparing their transition plans. DLZ was invited to respond to a City of Sevierville Request for Qualifications (RFQ) at the 2017 National ADA Symposium in Chicago. Several other RFQs followed and DLZ teamed with a local Tennessee-based firm that is collecting data within the public right-of-way (curb ramps, sidewalks, pedestrian signals, transit stops, etc.).

DLZ’s team of planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects, and construction observers work cooperatively to assist our clients and to determine the unique facilities and programs each client needs to provide access to. DLZ’s professionals assist clients by working through a detailed scoping process to identify facilities and portions within each facility that need to be included in the self-evaluation. Areas that need to be included in the facility self-evaluation are all areas open to the public, as well as common-use employee areas such as break rooms, conference rooms, restrooms, locker rooms, etc. Areas excluded from the evaluation are private offices and other employee work areas, mechanical and electrical rooms, janitor closets, etc. The policies and procedures portion of the self-evaluation includes a review of personnel practices, websites, staff training, emergency preparedness, signage, and numerous documents or publications provided to the public. Our process is proven effective and tailored specifically to each client’s needs.

In addition to full SETP services, DLZ also has provided both governmental and private, commercial clients with ADA compliance evaluations for a variety of facilities. Our staff assesses compliance of building and site features, determines priority for corrective action based on the difficulty non-compliant features present, and when possible provides immediate and long-term solutions and cost estimates.

Our staff are recognized authorities on ADA standards and guidelines. DLZ has presented on various ADA topics at numerous conferences and seminars, including Purdue Road School, Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Indiana Society of Professional Engineers, Michigan Public Transit Association, and Transport Chicago. To expand their knowledge and understanding of ADA issues, these same individuals also participate in ADA webinars and attend the National ADA Symposium, the largest, educational opportunity about ADA issues.

Let DLZ’s team of ADA specialists assist you with improving access to your facilities and with meeting your ADA compliance obligations.