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Keeping Parks Clean with Smart Technology

The City of Raleigh, North Carolina, takes a very GIS-centric approach to asset management.

“If it’s in ArcGIS Online, it’s in Cityworks,” explains Chad Foley, enterprise application engineer at the City of Raleigh.

Most recently, the city expanded its deployment of the Trimble Cityworks mobile app—together with Bigbelly smart waste bins—to help the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department (PRCR) manage the care of more than 200 parks covering more than 10,000 acres of green space.

The Challenge

Unlike building systems, which typically have good industry data on average costs per square foot, grounds maintenance costs are often highly subjective.

“For instance, how much does it cost yearly to maintain a 50-acre park? There’s just no consistent, reliable data on that,” explains Ivan Dickey, superintendent of PRCR. “We needed a system that would track what it costs us to maintain these types of properties so we could improve our annual budgets and planning.”

After the initial implementation of Cityworks, PRCR continued to rely on legacy processes. Field crews completed paper work orders and came back to the office at the end of the day to enter the data into Cityworks. This was especially cumbersome for the refuse crews who serviced the trash and recycling bins in the parks.

“Most of our work is routine maintenance. Our refuse crews used to have to physically stop at each trash can and check whether it needed to be emptied,” said Randolph Johnson, crew supervisor. “It wasn’t cost effective to have crew members sit in the office for two hours at the end of each workday filling out work orders.”

The department knew that electronic data tracking and reporting would help with planning, budgeting, and having a broader scope of what was going on throughout city parks. They also needed to create a better workflow to support their field crews.

The Solution

For Johnson and his crews, the solution was two-fold. About ten years ago, the city started installing Bigbelly smart waste and recycling bins, which communicate real-time bin capacity status and notify crews when bins are ready to be emptied.

Each morning, PRCR receives an email with the capacity of each Bigbelly bin, allowing crews to prioritize their daily work. iPhones equipped with the Cityworks mobile app were assigned to individual crew members. Using the out-of-the-box Cityworks app design, crews can now access their work orders and inspections from the field.

“Crews open the current day on their phone, go to the park, and complete their assigned work orders for that day right in the app. It works great,” said Dickey.

The department also worked with the City of Raleigh’s IT department to enhance and modernize their workflows.

To get crews up to speed with the change, PRCR did some informal training and sent out instructions with screenshots for initial setup. The crews were adaptive and took naturally to the new system.

“A great deal of the mobile app adoption happened organically,” said Foley. “The crews just liked using it better.”

To close the loop, the IT department is working on an enhancement that uses ArcGIS GeoEvent Server to pull Bigbelly sensor data and automatically create work orders in Cityworks—eliminating yet another manual step in their workflow.

Raleigh BigBelly Geo Event

Raleigh’s Bigbelly GeoEvent Service

The Results

Cityworks mobile native apps, ArcGIS, and smart technology have together helped streamline processes across the city. For PRCR, these solutions have brought crews up-to-date technologically, providing significant time savings and enhanced reporting capabilities.

“Our work is highly seasonal, and a sunny weekend changes our schedule tremendously. Now we can accurately track how many cans we’re servicing at each park and how much time we spend at each park,” said Dickey. “We can start developing ratios based on trash volume and the time of year. We’re building good data so we can justify our seasonal and annual needs.”

The department has seen improved attention to detail, data accuracy, and overall efficiency. They have been able to capture data on equipment, labor, material costs, and more.

“It’s clear that we have greatly improved our efficiency using the Cityworks app,” states Foley. “Our employees much prefer using the app to track their work proactively in the field without having to return to the office at the end of the day, providing additional time savings.”

With positive results and enthusiasm from their crews, PRCR continues moving forward with the solution and looks forward to enhancements involving the Bigbelly sensor data, which will further streamline processes.

Learn more in the video below.

By Lindsay Ferguson, Cityworks contributing author