Bay Keepers

Today, utility providers around the world are being forced to confront a 21st century problem: How to more effectively manage their regions? natural resources to supply water and other critical services to their customers, while contending with aging infrastructure, population growth and limited resources. Many of these issues require a 21st century solution. For many utilities, challenges related to resources like water can be better understood and managed by gaining insight through a more dynamic, integrated asset management system that provides greater visibility into maintenance operations and physical infrastructure in order to help further reduce water pollution.

One region that distinctly illustrates these issues is the City of San Francisco, which is bordered on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay ? a city literally surrounded by water. Thanks to the efforts of the 1,800 employees and the facilities of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) ? a public service which provides water, wastewater and municipal power services to San Francisco ? these waters are spared from the pollution that the city drains into its sewers and runoff basins. During dry periods, the 100-year-old division treats an average of 80 million to 90 million gallons of wastewater per day, but this number can peak during periods of wet weather when SFPUC can treat up to 370 million gallons of combined wastewater and storm runoff.

There are few people as knowledgeable of the wastewater treatment process as John Powell, superintendent and asset manager of the SFPUC Wastewater Enterprise. Assigned to the enterprise 10 months ago from a previous position elsewhere at SFPUC, Powell?s job is to make sure that the physical infrastructure of the city?s sewer system and three treatment facilities is in working order through proper maintenance. That infrastructure includes wastewater treatment machinery, basins and piping, including huge capital investments such as large-capacity lift pumps, dewatering centrifuges, belt presses, engine generators and a complex series of huge collection boxes, or large basins strategically located throughout the city that capture storm water.

All of these assets have to be maintained properly in order to extend their life. Alternatively, in some cases, those assets have to be replaced when it becomes more expensive and less efficient to keep repairing a piece of equipment, as opposed to investing in new technology. Yet when Powell joined the team, he quickly realized SFPUC was at a stage where it didn?t even have enough information to make such decisions.

Need for Greater Visibility

One of Powell?s first undertakings was to implement IBM Maximo Asset Management software at the Sewer Operations group, which is charged with monitoring and responding to citizen calls related to the collection system. The system is extensive, consisting of approximately 950 miles of mains, boxes and basins, some of which were more than 110 years old. The work order system owned by Sewer Operations was not providing enough financial information to give management a clear picture of when sewer segments should be replaced. Not only was the information inadequate for making budgetary requests, the division was also hampered by a lack of information about its preventive to corrective maintenance ratio, which is widely used by the industry to gauge the health of an organization.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Outside the Sewer Operations group, SFPUC has been using IBM Maximo software for more than eight years to manage its assets and track purchases, costs and work order history. Recently, SFPUC evaluated its current software, comparing it with other computerized maintenance management systems products to decide whether to upgrade or use another platform. After the evaluation, SFPUC decided to upgrade its current system to Maximo Version 7.1 because it had the capability to gather the information Powell and his team needed to make more informed recommendations in real time.

For example, SFPUC staff can pull a failure class, a problem code, perform a work order history and see if there is inventory in the warehouse or if parts have to be ordered. Already, in the last calendar year, the Sewer Operations group has improved the ratio of preventive to corrective maintenance by approximately 11 percent, meaning that the organization has been doing more preventive and less corrective maintenance. The improvement was a considerable gain for an organization of its size and ties back directly to how SFPUC is measured against industry standards,

Additionally, the Wastewater Enterprise is using ArcGIS geographic information software from IBM Business Partner ESRI to locate and measure assets spatially. It is also using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence software to pinpoint and report to management about trends in labor activity, such as the time required to get work orders, and the ratio of preventive maintenance to corrective maintenance.

Becoming More Responsive

At Sewer Operations, the feeling is that major changes are being accomplished given the real-time visibility they?ve gained into the efficiency of current assets. For example, with a simple work order history, Powell and his team can see that they?ve rebuilt a pump 10 times, so they can make an educated decision as to whether to rip or replace it. Or if the team needs a set of bearings on a weekend when vendors are closed, they can find it in another division?s warehouse. As SFPUC continues to make improvements, it has realized that integrating asset management infrastructure is key to the ability to store valuable information that will be used to track life-cycle costs and simplify replacement and operational decisions for Maintenance and Operations. Ultimately, the goal is for the data systems to function quietly in the background so that the work in the field is done on the right gear, at the right time, with a minimum of delay.

For instance, SFPUC?s Maximo software integrates with the city?s 311 and 28-CLEAN Customer Service systems ? dispatch centers that handle non-emergency problems such as potholes and abandoned vehicles, as well as sewer problems such as odors, loose manhole covers and overflowing storm drains. According to Powell, this integration ensures problems are resolved within 24 hours ? but the real value is the information it gathers as to why a piece of equipment broke down or how to reduce the cost of managing the system, down to the component level, so that Powell and his team can help further reduce water pollution.

As a result of this integration, the city was able to solve a problem of missing catch basin grates ? the heavy metal grates that keep large objects from falling into storm drains. SFPUC?s Maximo software and ArcGIS revealed that all the incidents were located within a quarter mile of a scrap metal yard. While the case is still pending, SFPUC?s infrastructure enabled Powell and his team to respond to the problem much more quickly than previously possible.

A Healthy Future

Through an integrated asset management infrastructure, SFPUC has gained deep insight into the management of its water supply and usage, so it can improve the quality of its water system while reducing the costs associated with removing pollution. Within a year, Powell and his team have not only improved their level of confidence in what they do, but they?re working smarter to ensure a world-class city like San Francisco, and its citizens, have access to clean water.

Ron Wallace is the asset management marketing manager for the IBM Software Group. He has also been with the Maximo organization for more than 20 years and was key in the formation of the Maximo special-interest group for utility clients. Wallace has accrued his professional experience working with electric, gas and water utilities.

SF PUC Quick Look

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco that provides water, wastewater and municipal power services to San Francisco. Under contractual agreement with 28 wholesale water agencies, the SFPUC also supplies water to 1.6 million additional customers within three Bay Area counties. The SFPUC system provides four distinct services: Regional Water, Local Water, Wastewater (collection, treatment and disposal), and Power. ?

The commission?s wastewater operations cover San Francisco?s 1,000 mile-long combined sewer system and three treatment facilities help reduce pollution in the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean.

The commission also operates the Hetch Hetchy water system, which had its birth in the Raker Act of 1913 that granted water and power resource rights of way on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park to San Francisco. The system comprises a 160-mile network of dams, tunnels, reservoirs, pump stations, pipelines, aqueducts and pump stations brining water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to San Francisco and neighboring communities. The total system is the realization of a concept for an aqueduct from the Sierra Nevada watersheds, which had been planned since the 1860s.

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