Asset Management Inside the Fence in Mesa, Arizona

Signal Butte Water Treatment Plant.

The City of Mesa, Ariz., provides water and wastewater service to more than a half-million people every day through its Water Resources Department. In 2014, the city began a process that culminated in one of its largest projects to date with construction of the Signal Butte Water Treatment Plant.

Figure 1: Geodatabase

Before the 24-million-gallon-per-day (mgd) Signal Butte WTP started treating water in June 2018, the city relied on Central Arizona Project water treated at its 72-mgd Brown Road WTP and Salt River Project water treated at the 220-mgd Val Vista WTP. The Val Vista WTP is owned jointly by Mesa, which owns 90 mgd, and Phoenix, which owns 110 mgd and operates the facility. Mesa’s overriding project goal for the Signal Butte WTP was straightforward: continue to attract new businesses and residents while reducing groundwater dependence and increasing system redundancy.

The city recognized that the new facility would incorporate a lot of new equipment that would require effective maintenance practices to sustain performance and maximize useful life. The city recently adopted an Asset Management Policy that guided the decision to adopt best-practice asset management strategies for the project.

Specifically, the city recognized that the new plant represented an opportunity to evaluate use of its current computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software to manage maintenance activities for these assets. Mesa asked Black & Veatch – the design engineer and program manager for the Signal Butte WTP – to assess the city’s current use of CMMS software solutions and recommend an optimum path forward to manage infrastructure assets.

A Single Platform for Managing Assets and Maintenance

The city’s Water Resources Department was using multiple CMMS solutions – Cityworks, for outside-the-fence assets and other software for existing water treatment and water reclamation facilities. This resulted in competing resource demands to maintain and support the multiple systems as well as difficulties consolidating information for both department and citywide reporting and analytics. The project team recommended standardization of the department’s CMMS platform on the Cityworks Asset Management System.

Mesa was already using Cityworks for horizontal infrastructure assets such as water distribution mains, valves, fire hydrants, sewer mains, and manholes. The concern was how to integrate vertical assets inside a treatment or reclamation facility with geographic information system (GIS) technologies. The city realized that it would be easier to address these challenges at a new facility such as Signal Butte because implementation at an existing facility would also necessitate addressing data cleanup and historical data migration.

Figure 2 - BIM yielded a 3D model of the plant and also stored key asset and maintenance management information.

Figure 2 – BIM yielded a 3D model of the plant and also stored key asset and maintenance management information.

GIS Inside a Facility?

A significant challenge with the adoption of Cityworks for asset and maintenance management in a treatment facility was identifying the best means to structure and store asset data within GIS. Cityworks, unlike many enterprise asset and maintenance management solutions, integrates directly with the GIS for asset storage to avoid complex integrations between CMMS and GIS for asset-data synchronization.

Although the practice is starting to become more common, utilities typically don’t use GIS to manage vertical assets such as pumps, motors, blowers, control panels, and other assets that reside inside a structure with a dense concentration of assets across multiple floors or levels. It’s easy to find industry-specific data models that serve as templates for assets more commonly managed within GIS – such as water distribution and wastewater collection assets – but such tools don’t exist for treatment facility assets. Fortunately, the city’s GIS platform (Esri ArcGIS) allows users to structure the geodatabase to also manage such assets.


Figure 3 - As asset repair work orders are generated, the maintenance staff records failure modes specific to each asset type to indicate what caused the failure.

Figure 3 – As asset repair work orders are generated, the maintenance staff records failure modes specific to each asset type to indicate what caused the failure.


Although the geodatabase is capable of much more, at the most basic and fundamental level it stores feature, object, and relationship classes.

Feature classes are what most people think of when they think of GIS – lines representing pipes in the ground or road segments, points representing signs or fire hydrants or manholes, and polygons representing parcels or building footprints. Feature classes are simply a table containing information about each asset record. One of those pieces of information is geometry (point, line, or polygon) and the X-Y coordinate or location.

Object classes are essentially feature classes without the geometry component. They are objects in the geodatabase without a geometry or shape and don’t have an X-Y coordinate.

Relationship classes are objects within the database that tell the software how feature classes relate to each other, object classes relate to feature classes, and object classes relate to each other.

These three classes can be combined to model the complex asset relationships within a water treatment plant or water reclamation facility. For example, a building can be represented as a feature class (polygon) containing information about the building – its name, type of construction, date of construction, etc. That building may have many areas or rooms, such as “Pump Room” or “Main Floor.” Those areas or rooms are represented as object classes that contain information about each one – such as a unique identifier, square footage and name. Relationship classes complete the geodatabase picture. Black & Veatch and the city used this approach to create a geodatabase structure that modeled all facility assets for Signal Butte and served as a template for the city’s remaining facilities in future expansion of the CMMS system.

Signal Butte Water Treatment Plant.

Design with End in Mind

Beginning the expansion of Cityworks in conjunction with design and construction of the Signal Butte WTP allowed Mesa and Black & Veatch to leverage other technologies and parallel efforts. Use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) for the design of the plant provided not only design benefits, but also a unique opportunity to initially populate the asset register.
BIM yielded a 3D model of the plant, but it also stored key asset and maintenance management information such as equipment type, unique asset identifiers (tag numbers), and operating performance information such as gallons per minute. This information could be extracted and used to populate the geodatabase asset repository. This created efficiencies in that physical inventory of the assets was unnecessary or only needed as a QA/QC check.

With the startup and commissioning of new plant equipment, the maintenance staff developed new maintenance and job plans for each equipment type. They identified specific failure modes or “ways this equipment typically fails” for each asset type. The project team incorporated this information into the Cityworks configuration such that preventive maintenance (PM) work orders are linked to specific maintenance plans. As a result, maintenance staff members now have immediate access to specific step-by-step instructions for performing each PM work order.

As asset repair work orders are generated, the maintenance staff records failure modes specific to each asset type to indicate what caused the failure necessitating the repair. The combination of information about each asset (e.g., make, model, design capacity, and performance characteristics), how that asset might be failing, and where/how that asset is being operated allows the city to make better decisions in managing and operating those assets. Such decisions include whether maintenance plans need to be adjusted, whether different equipment specifications are necessary, and whether to follow different operating procedures to better realize the effective useful life and necessary performance of each asset.

Usability is Paramount

Successful CMMS implementation requires use of the system in a way that captures meaningful and accurate information on which to base future asset replacement/renewal and maintenance strategy decisions. Experience has shown that that if end users have a poor experience with the software, human nature dictates that they will inevitably work around it or fail to capture all the necessary information to support decisions. Usability, or user friendliness, of the system is an often-overlooked but crucial success factor.

Cityworks reads directly from and utilizes the relationships between asset records within the GIS. No modification of the software is necessary to take advantage of this capability. Although there are multiple ways to find and create a work order for an asset, the default method that takes advantage of asset relationships and hierarchy can require many steps. The more steps a process takes, the more frustration builds in end users, who are then more likely to take shortcuts that can result in missing, incomplete, or erroneous data.

The city recognized these challenges and worked with Black & Veatch to configure and deploy the company’s Plantworks add-on for Cityworks. This supplemental software uses the relationships and asset hierarchy inherent in the GIS to create a user-friendly way to navigate the relationships between assets to find a specific asset and then invoke default Cityworks functions based on user needs. Among other capabilities, it enables users to create a work order or inspection, take assets in and out of service, add new assets, swap assets such as in a repairable-spares scenario, and edit asset attribute information.

Figure 4 - A single platform allows department and city management to view metrics across all asset types on key performance indicators such as preventive vs. reactive maintenance.

Figure 4 – A single platform allows department and city management to view metrics across all asset types on key performance indicators such as preventive vs. reactive maintenance.

The Payoff

The city’s foresight in implementing Cityworks at the Signal Butte WTP and now expanding that single database to additional facilities has paid off in many benefits. The positive user experience has resulted in accurate and high-quality information about work orders, asset failure reasons, maintenance costs, and frequencies. This information is then used to support objective and sound replacement/renewal decisions. Standardizing on a single platform allows department and city management to easily view metrics across all asset types on key performance indicators such as preventive versus reactive maintenance, preventive-maintenance schedule compliance, and critical asset data compliance – all readily available via online dashboards created in Microsoft Power BI. Finally, combining all assets into a single, comprehensive asset registry maintained within GIS allows the city to strategically use its human, financial, and technical resources efficiently and effectively.

The improved asset and maintenance management system leverages previous city investments. It is implemented with the end-user experience in mind and configured to capture comprehensive critical asset data for sound financial planning.


Bryan Dickerson
Practice Lead for Asset Management Information Solutions | Black & Veatch

Bryan Dickerson is the Practice Lead for Asset Management Information Solutions for the water business of Black & Veatch. He leads the development and implementation of information technology solutions such as CMMS, GIS, systems integrations and mobile app development in support of infrastructure asset management programs.

Jesse Heywood
Supervising Engineer | City of Mesa Water Resources Dept.

Jesse Heywood is the Supervising Engineer for the Water Resources Department of the City of Mesa, Ariz. He supervises the asset management efforts for the city’s water and wastewater assets. He is a registered professional engineer with a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Arizona State University and an MBA from Wilkes University.

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