The Importance of an Operational Assessment Programme
Day to day operations of water and wastewater facilities can be a challenging and time-consuming job for most utility managers. Keeping up with the everyday activities and challenges can leave little time to reflect on the bigger picture and research best industry practices. Bringing in industry expects to audit and perform an operational assessment can identify significant areas for improvement.
The recommendations can lead to changes in operations making the utility more effective and efficient and, in some instances, resulting in large capital cost savings. These savings can pay many fold of the cost of the assessment and return a significant return on investment.
The Benefits to the Utility
The following provides an example of the benefits derived from an Operational Assessment.
Restructured Organizational Chart
|Reduced equipment downtime by 50%|
|Significant deferral of capital investment for upgrading|
|Improved water quality monitoring & reporting programmes by over 50%|
|Significant improvements to equipment tracking, performance reporting and record keeping|
|SCADA upgrades improve response times for emergencies and failures by 60%|
|Rates and tariff review created better equity and true cost of service between rate classes|
|Significant deferral of capital investment for upgrading water distribution systems|
What is an Operational Assessment?
Unlike an engineering consultancy conducting an overall assessment of utility engineering aspects, the process that WWWS is proposing is an operational assessment, conducted by operational personnel, talking peer to peer with their counterparts. The assessment would be of the day-to-day activities and an assessment of the equipment used includes such aspects of the operation as:
|Daily water and wastewater operator system checks|
|Review of routine equipment maintenance checks and approaches to repairs|
|Improvements for water and wastewater quality sampling and testing practices|
|Power use and related cost reductions|
|Water system leakage and losses|
|Clearly defining customer rate classes|
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The Assessment Process
The documentation submitted ahead of time decreases the amount of time on- site.
Operational assessments are completed using a peer-to-peer review process. This process brings WWWS operations staff that has extensive operational experience together with local utility staff to discuss and review day-to-day operational practices. Operators in the field speak the same “language” and understand each other’s work environment and challenges.
Information is shared and strengths as well as opportunities for improvement are identified and discussed in all operating areas. Recommendations that include training plans are also provided.
At the conclusion a report with recommendations for changes to items such as operational checklists and maintenance procedures, energy saving initiatives etc. is prepared. The utility is presented with working examples of how operational improvements can be implemented.
The report also contains a list of simple, clearly defined recommendations that serve as a template that can be referred to which moves operations forward in an effective and efficient manner.
All recommendations utilize industry best practices applied based on-site specific operational needs. Simple low cost, yet effective items are identified and recommendations provided. Assessments done by team of two or three individuals take 4-5 days.
Time spent depends on the complexity of the operation and the provision of utility documents such as routine check sheets, water and wastewater quality reporting and customer consumption records submitted before arrival.