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Review of Pole Loading Platforms

In this article we did a comparison of three different Pole Loading software platforms using the same set of utility poles that were measured using Katapult Pro.  This review was conducted and written by Judah Fickett, P.E. a resident Pole Loading professional on staff at Katapult Engineering.  

More and more pole owners are requiring pole loading analysis for their poles. Which means you, like a lot of engineers out there are in the same boat, and may be looking for the pole loading analysis solution that works best for you and your organization. Here at Katapult Engineering we use three different software platforms because we have a variety of clients that require pole loading in a system that is familiar to them and meets the requirements of their deliverable.  All three of these Pole Loading Software platforms are similar in that they allow you input pole information and then analyze the pole.  They differ in how to import that information and what the model looks like on the other side, but essentially they do the same thing, so we thought it would be good to help people figure out which product might be right for them when looking at all of the options.  

metrics we used for comparing our pole loading platforms

To compare each program I recently took an OSP design that consisted of 5 connected utility poles that we collected height data on using our software, Katapult Pro which is a simple data collection system that measures poles using a photo, and put the data through each system. From the visuals of O-Calc to the simplicity of PoleForeman to the analyses of SPIDACalc I have reviewed and rated each system based on these 6 metrics:

O-Calc Pro

Company: Osmose Utilities Services   Website: http://www.osmose.com/o-calcpro

Pro: Great visuals

Con: Confusing controls

user interface of pole loading software O-Calc

Performance: 7/10 

Controls: 4/10

Simplicity: 3/10

User Speed: 6/10

Visuals: 8/10

Compatibility: 3/10

Review

Of the three programs O-Calc has the nicest visual user interface. You can see a 3D model, loading results, and all of the equipment in one window. You can also add and remove different views. O-Calc was the only of the three that lets you see all of your equipment and cables in a single view. Unfortunately there is a trade off, all of the great visuals have non-intuitive controls. If you don’t have someone showing you how to change a cable you are going to have a hard time figuring it out yourself or you might end up duplicating the cable you are trying to change. Also, the loading results do not show much detail. However, O-Calc was the best at applying multiple load cases and comparing them.

PoleForeman

Company:  Powerline Technologies                  Website:http://powerlinetech.com/

Pro: Simple and reliable

Con: Limits quantities of cables and adjacent poles

user interface of pole loading platform poleForman

Performance: 6/10

Controls: 7/10Simplicity: 8/10

User Speed: 5/10Visuals: 7/10

Compatibility: 6/10

Review

PoleForeman is pole loading purity. It is more limited in what it can handle than the other programs, but what it can do it does very well. The user interface feels a little old and the controls are confusing at first, but they are consistent within the program.  Once you figure them out the program is pretty easy to use, though it might take a little longer per pole than the other programs. The 3D model in PoleForeman was my favorite, though it is a downside that you cannot view it while editing the pole. The biggest limitation that I found with PoleForeman was its limits on cable and adjacent pole quantities. A relatively new feature in PoleForeman is the ability to import information from a .json file which we at Katapult were able to help test for PowerLine Technology Inc. This dramatically helped their overall score, as compatibility can make or break a deal at the end of the day.

SPIDACalc

Company: SPIDA Software              Website:http://spidasoftware.com/

Pro: Multiple poles in a single file

Con: Complexity

user interface of pole loading platform SPIDAcalc

Performance: 9/10

Controls: 7/10

Simplicity: 4/10

User Speed: 8/10

Visuals: 5/10

Compatibility: 8/10

Review

If you are looking for a program that does everything than SPIDACalc is for you. SPIDACalc is loaded with different types of equipment and cables. If it doesn’t have what you need, I found it to be the easiest to add new items to using their Client File Editor. The biggest drawback of SPIDACalc is its complexity. While the controls are pretty similar to most other work applications (think Microsoft Office), there are numerous different tabs, windows, and menus to navigate, each with its own subsets of tabs, windows, menus, and tools. Another thing that SPIDACalc is missing is an in progress 3D model. You can only view a 3D model after the pole has been analyzed. However, SPIDACalc has the most in-depth analysis results of the programs making troubleshooting significantly easier than in the other two. The thing that I liked most about SPIDACalc is that you can have multiple poles in a single file allowing you to copy cables and equipment between poles. This also gives you a better overview of the job as a whole.

Conclusion

Although O-Calc had it’s shortcomings in compatibility and simplicity, the controls were really the source of O-Calc’s problems.  They are confusing and unintuitive, and their documentation lacked the clarity to really improve that rating.  Out of all the three pieces of software PoleForeman stuck out to me as the best option for basic pole loading because of its relative simplicity to use and it’s sound results. On the other hand I found SPIDACalc to be the best for bulk pole loading, especially where the same change is being made on multiple poles.  I really enjoyed this comparison, and I hope that this will help you make a more informed decision on which Pole Loading software is right for you and your team.  For more information about Katapult Engineering and our Data Collection software, visit www.katapultpro.com. Thank you for reading!

Judah P. Fickett, PE

Project Engineer

Katapult Engineering

Isaac TuckerPole Loading