In terms of assets, the Milwaukee County Zoo is one of Wisconsin’s finest. Nearly double the span of San Diego’s renowned zoo at 190 acres, the Milwaukee County Zoo hosts 1.3 million people each year, making it the third-highest attended attraction in the state.

Like most modern zoos established in the late nineteenth century, the Milwaukee County Zoo began as a collection of animals displayed for entertainment and to expand the public’s knowledge of the world. Now, however, their mission has evolved to promote an appreciation for all animals and to support conservation of their diverse habitats.

The zoo’s commitment to conservation doesn’t end with species and habitats, though. Taking care of what they have extends to every aspect of their 600,000 square feet of building space and the millions of dollars of equipment that keep the zoo safe and comfortable for patrons, staff, and the 2,191 animals who live there.

That’s one reason why, in 2016, Milwaukee County decided to extend the success of a Cityworks implementation at their international airport and highway division across their enterprise. John Westrich, director of grounds and maintenance, couldn’t have been happier. He’d seen the improvement in the work order and asset management process at the airport and was eager to begin the transition from manual paper forms to a much more efficient and accurate software system.

Because of the scope and diversity of the zoo’s assets and processes, Westrich knew the conversion wouldn’t happen overnight. The animals’ information is managed in ZIMS, a unified global database. But data on nearly everything else—including the electric substation, the 28,000-gallon aquarium, the 60-year-old steam engine train, the animal health center, and the life support system for every animal—would require conversion and migration from a tabular form into a digital GIS data model.

Discovery Channels

POWER Engineers’ consultants kicked off the project with an enterprise-wide discovery phase to establish a mutual understanding of the county’s current state of work and asset management. By conducting departmental business process reviews, workshops, GIS data reviews, and project planning activities, the combined POWER and county team arrived at a detailed implementation plan for execution and deployment of Cityworks county-wide, including the zoo.

This phase of the project revealed priorities for the zoo that included accurate tracking of preventative maintenance for 400 asset types, classification of work orders, and the establishment of an authoritative system of record for all work activities and costs. Westrich’s department accomplishes a diversity of tasks, including food delivery to the animals, waste removal, animal transportation, special event support and maintenance of a property large enough to hold 30 Superdomes. Thousands of those tasks are currently requested with “pink sheets” and tracked with their carbon copy mates, a process that begged for modernization.

Each day, zookeeper, veterinary, administration, concession, and special event staff submit requests for facility and grounds service. To streamline the input process, POWER created a wizard-driven website that allows users to select the area, building, or room of concern to identify the type of issue and to provide comments. The requests are then routed into Cityworks for evaluation and action. The website also allows the user to check the status of their requests in real time.

Better data on the maintenance, repair, and replacement of big-ticket equipment will also be helpful come budgeting season. Readily-available, accurate information will provide Westrich evidence to justify the actual cost of new equipment purchases in his budget.

Value Beyond Budgeting

Officials outside the zoo have already taken notice of the GIS-centric records captured in Cityworks. To maintain its Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation, the zoo is evaluated by recognized experts in the profession. Every five years the facility and staff are measured against established standards and best practices. Fewer than 10 percent of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA accredited. The Milwaukee County Zoo has been accredited since 1976—when its oldest resident, Onassis the Amazon River turtle, was in her early 40s.

When AZA inspectors visited in July, Patricia Simmons, the director of the North Carolina Zoo, took notice of the implementation underway at Milwaukee County. She devoted an afternoon to exploring the features of the software and discussing it with Westrich. He shared that the GIS-based, comprehensive features of Cityworks make it a better solution for his needs than zoo-specific software he’d seen on the market.

“When it comes to technology, sometimes zoos are known to be behind the times,” Westrich said. Modernizing our work processes and critical information with Cityworks will be useful not only to this zoo but others too, as we share the details of our implementation with our fellow AZA members. Every dollar we save operationally moves us closer to our conservation goals for the species in our care.”

Once deployed, end users will enjoy greater efficiency in their work. The project includes training workshops for staff run by POWER technical lead Bill Hoisington and senior consultant Lee Halbrook.

“Because of Cityworks’ user-friendly interface, time spent training has been fairly brief, even considering the big leap employees are making from a paper system,” said Hoisington.

The full implementation will be completed this fall. Once accomplished, the POWER team will have repeated the process across six other county departments, including facility management, corrections, parks, transit, fleet, and economic development, making Milwaukee County an even smarter place to live and visit.


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