Manual processes impair water utility performance

Dependence on error-prone processes results in untimely, inaccurate data.

Wastewater plant operator records water pressure gauge readings on a clipboard to ensure equipment works properly. | photo credit USAF VIRIN 171019-F-EA129-1003.JPG

Shuffling of paper forms as well as Word and Excel files during the manual collection, sharing, and reporting of data heightens risks for error.

Prevention or ineffective response to costly service outages can hinder customer service.

Without an audit trail or authorized user account settings, a lack of confidence in the availability and quality of information for decisions exists.

The importance of digitizing and automating more processes in the overall workflow is critical to uninterrupted and cost-effective water supply.

Performance

To increase operational efficiency, water utility service providers use mobile devices to collect and import data into process data systems. The integration of other systems such as SCADA, a historian, and LIMS enables collection and quality-control of data to be performed automatically in real time. These measures save several hours of labor since employees commonly enter the same data in two or three systems. Now employees are freed up to focus on concerns they can more effectively address.

Internal auditing and continual improvement of process control systems are supported by an array of analytical tools within KISTERS’ Water Information System. | photo credit IWAMA

Assurance

In addition to controlling operating costs, digitizing data workflows controls the cost of non-compliance. To increase employee engagement, water utilities work with KISTERS to configure and consistently apply strict rules regarding data quality assurance and quality control. Compliance officers responsible for certifying drinking water quality data receive an alert to data gaps, anomalies and other incidents that require their full attention.

Response

Automatic notifications minimizes the risk to public safety. Digitizing data significantly reduces the time to identify an issue and alert appropriate individuals. Alarms are sent via text/SMS, email, or voice call to an escalating chain of command, and customized messages include a link to associated data. This measure provides water utility staff with precise information to think and act decisively before circumstances can worsen.

KISTERS’ software helps water service providers to affirm the quality of and improve timely access to important information. Automated data collection, flexible integration with existing IT solutions, and personalization of the user interface empower employees to easily fulfill day-to-day tasks and contribute to the overall success of the utility.

Considering the high volume of data collected and staff turnover in the water industry, digitizing operational data is mission-critical to improving reliability, accuracy, and sharing of information across departments.

"Effective databases can support the processes required for effective utilities... With the complexity of distribution systems, there's no one-size-fits-all data-driven algorithm for all circumstances, but varying situations can be used as learning tools and identify (potential) problems... and make funding go further while sustaining high levels of service," remarks Dr. Neil S. Grigg, a 40-year veteran of the water industry and now a professor in the Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University. His research findings on "Data and Analytics (to) Combat Water Main Failures" have been published in the Journal AWWA.

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