The Geographic Information System (GIS)
The need for GIS
A geographic information system (GIS) links geographic information to information from databases.
A GIS consists of different layers that contain all sorts of information. Placing these layers on top of each other enables the creation of correlations. Using a query, information from the databases can be selected and placed on a map. Accordingly it is possible, for example, to make connections between the location of a warehouse and the products currently stored in that warehouse. This may be important in case of possible intervention by energy services.
ArcelorMittal Gent's site has a surface area of 12 km˛ and is traversed by 25 kilometres of roads and 50 kilometres of railway tracks. There are hundreds of kilometres of aboveground and underground piping for gases, canal water, drinking water, waste water, rainwater, etc. In addition, there are masses of electrical power cables, signal cables, glass fibres cables and earthing on the site. There are also all sorts of conveyor belts for the supply and removal of raw materials and products. The total built on surface area (factory buildings, canteens, offices) amounts to 600,000 m˛. The large number of employees requires internal bus transport, car parks, pedestrian routes and cycle lanes. Each day hundreds of lorries arrive and depart at the site. This requires the necessary road and safety marking. In short, the ArcelorMittal Gent site is comparable with the infrastructure of a small town. We decided to use a GIS system to manage this infrastructure in an efficient way.
History of GIS
As early as in 1984, the ArcelorMittal Gent site was recorded by aerial photogrammetry. A plane crossed our company premises at high and low altitude and took photographs, that were digitally processed. These files formed the basis for the whole infrastructure plan of the site. To make this possible, a system of layers was used, although it was not as extensive as such systems nowadays because of the limited capacity of computers at the time. For the first time, the infrastructure plans were developed using the CADDS4 programme by Computervision. In the 1980s, this was an advanced programme running on Sun microcomputers that could also create three-dimensional drawings. To overcome the limitations of computer memory, the site was divided into some sixty quadrants, each measuring 200 x 200 m. Meticulous programming was required to draw a plan that showed a number of quadrants, after which the computer needed half a night to also actually plot the drawings.
In the early 1990s, we moved on to PC configurations running Designer-CAD. In the meantime, the performance of computers had improved so greatly that plotting could also be done during the day. Software evolved at great pace, and in 1998, we switched to new software again. It was decided to use Autocad and Autocad Mapguide to ensure maximum compatibility and standardisation. This provided us with a real GIS system for the first time. In a first phase, data from Access data files were linked to AutoCAD drawings. Next, we switched to higher performance SQL databases.
Today, the spatial data are stored in DWG files (generated by Autocad), and the non-spatial data are stored on an SQL server. Autocad Mapguide and Macromedia Coldfusion Studio 5 are used to make queries and are linked to the DWG files. The results can be viewed using Internet Explorer.
Due to the constant growth of the files linked to the GIS, the GIS system evolved from a local department application within the research division to an ArcelorMittal Gent corporate application. This required a next step in the evolution of the GIS. Because of the cross-departmental nature of the GIS applications, this software had to be transferred to the systems and models department. This ensured better integration with other applications, while also being able to expand service and maintenance activities. By splitting data management and application management, we can also better focus on data integrity (importing correct information, including validation). Moreover, the design environment can now be detached from the production environment. Future users will only be able to consult validated information by the production environment. The development and supplementing of data takes place in the design environment with vb.net applications (the standard for ArcelorMittal Gent corporate applications).
The most commonly used application is the plant overview. Zooming in on a certain place allows the user to identify all underground and aboveground piping and objects. Double clicking on one of the objects displays information, ranging from simple data such as depth and sort of pipe to more complex data such as the reinforcement or shuttering system of a building. The measuring of distances and surface areas is possible too.
This application gives an overview of all hazardous substances at ArcelorMittal Gent. In an emergency situation the user can quickly identify the risks in the environment. All information about the location of hydrants, fire detection centres, compartmentalisation, etc. is mentioned.
The environmental application contains information on greenery, trees, soil characteristics and groundwater quality.
This GIS application gives an image of the ArcelorMittal Gent earthing network, which consists of underground cables and measuring wells. Zooming in and clicking informs the user about the section of the cable, the cable number and the type of cable. The system also displays photographs.
With this application the user can quickly obtain information about the different gantry cranes at ArcelorMittal Gent, including specifications of the different movements, information about motors, gearboxes, etc. The user can even view detailed plans.