5 Data Management Best Practices for Your Consideration

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By Fiona Straton

Today’s data-centric world is complex. Data is growing exponentially and typically these data sets exist in isolation. With information such as geospatial data, time-series data, financial data, engineering data, and asset management data, all residing in different silos it is all but impossible to consolidate, contextualize, and analyze information – and that is before you take cybersecurity into consideration. One way to address this complexity is to partner with an industrial software provider to help you leverage your existing investments while establishing a secure data infrastructure for your water utility from edge-to-cloud

1. Build Your Industrial Information Infrastructure

The key to developing valuable and accurate insight begins with capturing data from every relevant source and providing context. This ensures the person or system using the data can understand what they are looking at and what was happening at the time. An effective data management solution should be purpose-built for industry and vendor-neutral to allow for data collection across multiple, disparate systems and sensors. One example of an out-of-the-box system is the AVEVA PI System, which can automatically capture data from any source to ensure full integrity and, with its enrichment capabilities, transform data into decision-ready information. One example of PI System success is at Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) in Virginia Beach, Va., which integrates data from multiple systems so staff can monitor pump station and other critical information in real time. Having that data at their fingertips has allowed HRSD staff to easily triage recovery efforts after tropical storms and avert catastrophe at their data center.

2. Enable Full Visibility and Awareness

Once your data is collected, stored, and enriched, you need to make it available. Having decision-ready information at the fingertips of your trusted people is critical to addressing operational challenges whether that’s resiliency, efficiency, or sustainability. Some technology providers today have operations centers to provide customers a centralized view that converges operations technology (OT), information technology (IT) and engineering technology (ET) into a single-pane-of-glass environment. These systems promote greater operational awareness and improved crisis response. For Birmingham Water Works Board, the convergence of OT-IT-ET has yielded a shift in culture and increased collaboration. Bringing in the ET – the engineering data, the drawings – BWWB has created a digital twin of its value chain, complete with situationally aware graphics. This means people from all departments can make faster, data-driven decisions with confidence.

3. Increase Asset Health and Performance

Faced with aging infrastructure, water utilities must optimize maintenance strategies and extend asset life safely. Leveraging operational data and predictive analytics helps utilities to identify, diagnose and prioritize impending equipment problems – continuously and in real-time. Asset performance management solutions can reduce unscheduled downtime, prevent equipment failure, and reduce maintenance costs while increasing asset utilization, extending equipment life and identifying underperforming assets. Take San Jose Water as an example, which utilized the PI System to optimize its pumps and realize significant financial and environmental benefits. With user-specific dashboards delivering powerful visualization of real-time pump performance and analytics, San Jose Water estimates savings of $143,000 in energy costs and 206 tons of CO2 per year.

4. Don’t Forget Your People

The water industry is faced with major labor disruption. In some countries, the aging rate of the water industry workforce is 1.5 times faster than all industries, with around 36 percent of workers aged 50 or older, according to a National Industry Insights report. Digitalization is a necessary step to not only enable remote operations but to attract and retain new talent. Water and wastewater utilities require multiple disciplinary teams from multiple locations to access and share data across different applications instantly, 24 hours a day. The data needs to be accessible when and where people need it – without compromising network security. For the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources in Georgia, this single solution has reduced its total cost to operate and enabled staff to make faster, data-driven decisions. Sam Paul, Section Manager – Process Automation/ SCADA Systems & Projects at Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources, explains: “Now we have a wonderful solution that people from all the levels – operations, maintenance, engineering, scientists – can access the data…from anywhere they are.”

5. Start Today

Sometimes leaders get stuck in analysis paralysis. Instead, think about how data can address your utility’s top one or two strategic initiatives. Get started by asking what other businesses have done in terms of ROI and apply that to your own business case. Investigate cost-effective options such as subscription and software-as-a-service models to move expenditure from capital to operating budgets. These options also let you start small and evolve. Begin your journey to better data management and make it an asset to your business today.

Fiona Straton is the senior marketing manager for water and smart cities at AVEVA. With more than 15 years of industry experience, she is an advocate for digital transformation and how technology delivers a better, more sustainable quality of life for all.

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