Drawing Out Collaboration: How a U.S. East Utility Changed its Document Management Solution

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James Kelly's picture
Senior Product Marketing Manager Bentley Systems

I currently serve as a Product Marketing Manager at Bentley Systems. In this position, my primary responsibility is to promote our ProjectWise solution through integrated marketing campaigns in...

  • Member since 2019
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  • Nov 25, 2019

ProjectWise Helped Overcome Everyday Challenges with Customized Features

Digital collaboration for utilities requires a flexible solution that can address the unique challenges, ranging from basic automation of record retention records to complex concurrent engineering needs. ProjectWise meets these demands, regardless if your organization is a single office with internal users only or has multiple locations that require external user (vendors and subconsultants) participation. 

This blog post is the first of three installments and focuses on the drawing collaboration needs for a U.S. East utility and how ProjectWise met their demands. Future posts will include a U.S. West and Canada South utility.

About ProjectWise

ProjectWise is a suite of project collaboration software designed for comprehensive worksharing that removes technology boundaries, ensuring that everyone has current project information in one platform. For utilities, this situation means shortened approval cycles and increased accountability that minimizes the risks associated with project delivery.

US East Utility

The Challenges

Our first example is a utility located in the eastern United States. This organization initially implemented ProjectWise for its power generation group as the replacement for their home-grown document management system. Over time, its internal solution became a challenge to maintain and ill-equipped to meet today’s societal needs for expanded system access and tighter security. With the successful migration and adoption of ProjectWise within the power generation group, the U.S. East utility’s nuclear division, which used the same home-grown system, decided to adopt ProjectWise as its document management solution approximately one year later.

In addition to replacing its internal system, other critical needs for power generation included the creation of a common environment for work in progress projects, an automated workflow to create and publish released PDF documents, mirroring the current plotting automation process. Complicating the implementation of ProjectWise was the requirement to reconfigure the numbering of MicroStation file names. Specifically, power generation replaced the traditional MicroStation DGN extension with a unique, three-digit extension that identified its internal discipline code. Further, power generation group wanted to retain the three-digit discipline code by embedding it elsewhere within the CAD file name. For this effort, Bentley created a custom migration feature to handle the file renaming, along with the unique process that the U.S. East utility’s system performed for reference file handling.

The Implementation

The ProjectWise migration project started with a discovery workshop. This is a critical component, especially with utilities; each can be unique, not just as an industry but from one utility to another. For large implementations, the workshops are conducted on site and allow Bentley to understand specific business requirements, setting the basis of the business requirement document that established the project execution baseline. For this implementation, Bentley installed the ProjectWise Design Integration CONNECT Edition, first to the approximate 100 power generation users and, later, to the approximate 50 nuclear users. After the implementation, Bentley work with the U.S. East utility to deliver custom ProjectWise user training, both at the U.S. East utility headquarters and each of its satellite and power plant offices.

With respect to the nuclear division, their requirements were different than the power generation division. Its challenge is working with a drawing process that includes hybrid drawings; a MicroStation master file (a .HYB extension, which the division maintained during migration into ProjectWise) with TIF raster reference attachments managed by Bentley’s Descartes. The drawing process for nuclear was simple because of the unique ability of ProjectWise Design Integration to automatically “check out” the raster reference attachment when a user checks out the master hybrid MicroStation drawing.

Additionally, the standard work process for the U.S. East utility is for users to have drawings checked out for great lengths of time—days, or even weeks—which is not uncommon in the utility space. Standard practice of a checked-out document from ProjectWise means the user “owns” it; they are the only individual that can edit that document. Edits are not available to other users until the document is checked in. Therefore, it is critical for the nuclear group to use a ProjectWise feature called “update server copy.” This option keeps the document checked out to the user but places an updated copy back to the ProjectWise server, meaning that it is available for view by other users or, if attached as a reference file to another master drawing, the drawing updates are now visible. Using the update server copy feature is available directly from MicroStation (or AutoCAD), so the user does not have to exit the file to perform this operation.


Regarding the plotting capability, the U.S. East utility’s (both the power generation and nuclear divisions) home-grown system included a process to identify (through an attribute) a “plot code,” which would automatically route a print to a specific printer. Additionally, another attribute setting identified any special printing requirements, such as plot size and color (or black and white). To accommodate this need, Bentley developed a custom feature that can read the plot code attribute, similarly to how its home-grown system performed.


In replacing the home-grown solution, this utility established a single source of truth with a connected data environment that allowed for them to keep up with trends while increasing the security of their data. In our next blog, learn what other unique challenges that ProjectWise can help solve.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 25, 2019

this utility established a single source of truth with a connected data environment that allowed for them to keep up with trends while increasing the security of their data

I'm sure the need for this rings true to many utilities across the country, but unfortunately falls short where too many departments are siloed and not communicating properly. Thanks for sharing the thought leadership!

James Kelly's picture
Thank James for the Post!
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