Streamlining Workflows - Bundaberg Regional Council

ClientBundaberg CommunityLocationAustralia, Qld
ConsultantBundaberg Regional CouncilContractorDwayne Honor

Streamlining Workflows

Project Summary

The advent of new technologies such as 3D design models, high accuracy GPS, robotic total stations, GIS systems, portable computing and wireless broadband provides many tools to the modern engineer and surveyor. But it’s the combination of 12d Model, 12d Field and Feature Data Object (FDO) technology in Council that allows for their cost effective integration.

For many years engineers, surveyors and designers have worked together and relied upon static data for use in their everyday work flows. Specialist software is traditionally used by each party and data is manually shared amongst teams by import/export. By integrating 12d Model, 12d Field, and FDO, this project has revolutionised that process, boosted productivity, and reformed historical practice.


This project was developed as a result of challenging infrastructure delivery requirements following council amalgamations. More efficient methods of collecting and sharing accurate survey, design and “spatial” data were required due to a geographic area of 6500km2, limited design and surveying resources, restructure of operations, information technology network capacity, and file storage constraints, along with increased community expectations.
Council had previously implemented ESRI ArcGIS as its corporate Geographic Information System (GIS). In doing so it provided a central geospatial data store in MGA94 coordinates of all essential data including:

  • Contours

  • LiDAR

  • Aerial Imagery

  • Water, Sewer, and Stormwater Utilities

  • Planning Scheme Mapping

  • Flood Mapping

For their organisation, the move to the MGA94 coordinate system in detail surveys through to design enabled them to value-add, and integrate all of their geospatial data as well. The question was how this could be done without relying on traditional Shape File extractions. How could the surveyors operating in the field also access and utilise such vast spatial resources on demand?
In summary, Council’s spatial data file sizes were large:

  • Aerial Imagery in excess of 550GB;

  • Over 1TB of LiDAR covering over 5000 km2

...and growing each year.

The following key outcomes were essential to success of this project:

  • Establishment of partnership with Council’s civil engineering software provider, 12d Solutions, to incorporate FDO technology into their 12d Model product for design and survey;

  • Implementing a GIS “central data store” with direct linkages to design/survey software for raster and vector data;

  • Eliminating the need for G.I.S. staff to provide spatial data to Designers and Surveyors;

  • Eliminating GIS data duplication and processing issues during civil design and survey, in turn reducing file server storage;

  • Providing surveyors on the ground with real time access to all survey, design and geospatial data in Council, regardless of location.


For many years, engineers, surveyors, and designers have worked together and relied upon static geospatial data for use in their everyday work flows. They tend to use their own specialist software to manually import spatial data from a GIS system which often includes property boundaries, storm water networks, water and sewer utilities. This often results in establishment of complicated management systems to control data quality and avoid duplication problems when sharing amongst project teams.

FDO Data Access Technology is an application for “…manipulating, defining and analyzing geospatial information regardless of where it is stored…and is free open source software” under a Lesser General Public License ( For Council, it supported direct access to ESRI ArcSDE data store for vector data and a Web Map Service (WMS) of spatially referenced raster maps. It allows for sharing of spatial information regardless of operating platform.

A staged approach was taken to the implementation of FDO technology in council software to address the GIS connectivity issue. There were three key stages of delivery implemented in partnership with 12d Model software, in order of complexity:

  • FDO provider for WMS – to connect to spatially referenced raster images

  • FDO provider for ArcSDE - “read only” connections for vector data

  • FDO provider for ArcSDE - “write” connections for vector data

Council’s more urgent requirements stemmed from access to aerial imagery; this was a logical starting point and proved simplest to implement. All three stages of implementation were in place by late 2010 and are now common use amongst design and survey staff in Council.

The implementation of FDO technology in Council’s work flows increased the return on investment (ROI) in their corporate ArcGIS system and 12d Model technology. It revolutionised how they conducted operations, and is likely to shift those of the wider industry experiencing similar problems.

While data connectivity between the GIS and 12d Model was resolved, the problem of how surveyors can use the data remotely to the office still existed. Council’s old fleet of non-robotic total stations had come to their end of life. This provided Council with a unique opportunity to rethink how they delivered survey to the community and better interacted with the spatial data at their fingertips. 12d Field was implemented with new Topcon GPT-9003A robotic total stations to address this problem.

Council surveyors began to use Robotic Total Stations and GPS operated by

12d Field software on portable all-weather computers (Panasonic Toughbooks). In basic terms this meant:

  • Conventional survey reductions in the office were no longer required as all data was collected and reduced on the fly, in the field, and instantly viewable on each surveyor’s screen;

  • The visual reference enabled instant error checking;

  • Surveyors had access to the designer’s entire 3D model for stake out, eliminating any requirement for manual data imports and data entry of coordinate tables;

  • Full Windows functionality and access to remote file servers using NextG wireless broadband connections. More importantly, it provided one of the only systems in the world that allowed Council to complete detailed survey using Robotic Total Station accuracy, and from the survey pole, instantly connect to and view any vector or raster data in real time from the ArcGIS system, regardless of their location in the region (this, of course, was on the proviso that they had wireless broadband coverage).

Using FDO connections, a central GIS data store, portable computers and wireless broadband meant that as long as the data existed in the ArcGIS system, the surveyor could connect to it and stake it out. If they needed to access aerial images in the field to see “what’s over the next hill”, they could. If they were asked on-site by construction crews to re-identify a water hydrant they just buried with asphalt (even though it wasn’t picked up in their original survey), they could. They could do these things because Council assets such as water hydrants had already been collected accurately by RTK GPS and loaded into the GIS as part of their asset maintenance programs. This made them locateable using 12d Field by connecting directly to the ArcGIS system. In theory, if the data already existed in the GIS or file server, Council could better deal with the “While you’re here can you set this out?” question which haunts the best of surveyors.

Opportunities explored

By using 12d products with FDO technology, designers were able to achieve all the advantages as well, being able to independently access any vector or raster data from the ArcGIS system. It improved efficiencies in investigation and detail design work. The FDO technology also allowed “write” access back to the GIS, enabling any CAD/Design work, or survey data for that matter, to be written to ArcSDE. This made it instantly viewable on their corporate web mapping system to hundreds of staff, or externally to the public through Council’s internet mapping if required.

For example, being able to “write” data back to the GIS directly from the surveyor’s pole in the field allowed them to collect accurate spatial data and instantly publish to ArcSDE where it could be viewed on the internet using web mapping applications. This type of scenario had been impossible for Council to achieve previously, but the integration of 12d Model, 12d Field, and FDO technology gave Council the flexibility to do so, whilst removing redundancy of data in the process.

Since FDO technology was implemented in Council, many other applications for its use were found, including significant benefits in data validation of spatial information. As designers connected and view the data, they were also able to validate it against survey accurate information that had been collected. It added to the process of continuous improvement, as more eyes looking at the data often leads to errors being found quicker and rectified faster, to the benefit of the whole organisation and wider community.

Spatial views were another development that Council applied within ArcSDE. By using unique IDs attributed to vector data, features such as road centrelines, water, sewer and stormwater utilities could be “linked” to the corporate asset management database and are now accessible via the FDO technology. Many thousands of attributes describing the asset could be viewed within 12d. This included basic information such as pipe diameters, material type and condition assessments through to more detailed info such as remaining useful life (RUL), road pavement and surface types, widths, and roughness values. Strategically, it satisfied the “single point of truth” issue and means that Asset Officers could be independently updating data which could be refreshed through the GIS and ultimately 12d, ensuring data was current.


Queensland Floods

Bundaberg, like many Queensland towns, flooded twice during the devastating 2010 and 2011 floods. Hundreds of houses were inundated, and many roads washed away. The damage bill to Bundaberg Regional Council’s road network was estimated at $60M. Queensland-wide, the cumulative bill was in the order of $7.5 billion, making the floods of 2010-2011 the largest and most expensive series of natural disasters in Australia’s history. 12d Model software with FDO technology, along with 12d Field, played an important role, not only in helping to map catchments during the event, but also in the ongoing reconstruction that is underway and planned for some years yet.

Key benefits of the project:

  • Council design and survey staff could independently access current spatial data in real time without the need for asking GIS personnel. If a dataset was updated on the GIS, it could be simply refreshed within 12d;

  • Value-adding of existing software licences by allowing access to spatial data without having to learn or understand another software package, e.g. from 12d Model designers could connect to and manipulate data in ArcSDE;

  • ‘Single point of truth’ for GIS data established, avoiding currency problems with multiple “versions”, especially on large projects;

  • Reduction of data duplication and file server storage (no export of static datasets and saving them to project files);

  • Better decision-making in design with access to unlimited geospatial data;

  • Reduced strain on wireless networks because staff no longer had to import and export 100Mb+ files;

  • New ability to access topographic maps and large volumes of aerial mapping which could be overlayed on designs, making them easier to interpret;

  • Better error-checking and validation of spatial data;

  • Preliminary designs and initial investigations able to be done directly from GIS data such as high resolution aerial photography, utility schematics, contours and LiDAR point clouds, saving time in field trips;

  • New ability to “publish” design and survey data to the GIS for display internal or external to the organisation.

Benefits to Council were extensive, as this project provided spatial data from a GIS directly at the fingertips of those staff who used it most. Better still, it could be remotely accessed from the survey pole, on demand, in the field!

Commitment to Sustainable Practice

Sustainability is about reducing long-term cost through collaborative development. FDO technology is an open source solution; as such its ongoing development is driven by a worldwide user group.

During field trials and ongoing use, Council has been able to make significant productivity gains when considering the difference in time to access spatial data manually versus independently using FDO connections.

Many of the efficiency gains were somewhat difficult to quantify as they weren’t always tangible. They included:

  • Savings in file server storage and archival;

  • Reducing risk of poor decisions from using old versions of static data;

  • Eliminating time delays waiting for other staff to provide crucial information for your project;

  • Significantly reducing the cost of site visits that may not have been required with access to spatial data (plus a reduced need for surveyors to “return to office” for on-demand requests for data not already pre-loaded to their controllers, but which could easily have been sourced remotely from the GIS).

Reduction in Environmental Impact

For Council’s survey staff, FDO technology and the use of 12d Field offered fewer vehicle trips to the office for setting out data previously unknown to them. Along with reducing energy consumption for file server storage and archival processes, it ensured that Council’s environmental impact is less than historical practice.

Fewer site inspections were required by designers and surveyors combining the use of 12d Model, 12d Field, and FDO technology. As an example, driving vast distances to ground truth some rural drainage catchments could be replaced with LiDAR point clouds in ArcSDE. Council estimated 90km per week in travel savings directly from the use of 12d Field and FDO technology. This equates to an annual reduction of about 1062kg in CO2 emissions for the environment!

Download this Case Study as a PDF HERE