Importing Data from CAD into GIS

The City of Des Plaines, IL is fortunate to have a talented in house engineering staff that designs and manages many of the city’s infrastructure projects.  As a part of the construction process the engineers create plans using CAD (Computer Aided Design).  These plans show what is being constructed and also details about the pipes and structures being installed.  In addition to these construction plans, the city’s utility system information is also inputted and tracked in the city’s robust Geographic Information System (GIS).  This allows all staff to view the utilities in a web-based mapping application called MapOffice™ and also be used for analysis in the GIS desktop software.  The current process of inputting data into GIS is slow and inefficient.  Once the engineer completes their plans they are given to the GIS Specialist, who then draws the data in GIS.  This current workflow has a duplication of efforts, and the turnaround time can be quite high. 

To alleviate this slow turnaround time, a city engineer and the GIS Specialist worked together to determine if there was a more efficient workflow that could be used to get the location information and data from CAD to GIS.  It was determined that that if the engineer was to use a pipe network, which is a component of the CAD software, when entering their plans that data could easily be moved from CAD to GIS with little to no manual effort needed on the GIS side.  Pipe networks allow engineers to utilize what’s called a part catalog, which stores more information about the features being installed than if they were simply drawn in.  Using the pipe network allowed the GIS staff to export the network using a process provided by the CAD environment and then import the data directly into GIS. 

This process saves a significant amount of time and also removes the duplication of effort since the utility information is only being drawn once.  To further improve this process GIS staff will collaborate with all the city’s engineers to build their pipe network catalog to contain as much useful information as possible, which will allow it to integrate seamlessly into the GIS database structure.