The Evolving Role of CMMS in the Water Industry

Asset Management Software Illustration

 | By Alex Williams

Ensuring the safety of citizens, managing critical assets, complying with regulatory standards and eliminating unplanned downtime — these are a few of the major hurdles faced by water industry professionals. Computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) can play a significant role in carrying out these responsibilities.

A Brief History

Since computerized maintenance management systems first emerged in the 1960s as a means to manage work orders, there have been many advancements. Modern CMMS software includes a number of modules designed to extend the life of assets, reduce equipment downtime and improve overall operations. Enterprise asset management (EAM) software provides more robust capabilities than traditional CMMS software, such as managing multiple assets, users and locations all from the same system. With advanced technology, however, more CMMS vendors are incorporating features typically found exclusively in EAM software. The Internet of Things (IoT), condition-monitoring sensors and other smart technology will pave the way for even more advancements within CMMS and EAM systems.

Streamline Organizational Communication

Public works departments within city and county governments can utilize maintenance management software in water treatment plants, water distribution, wastewater treatment plants, recycled water plants and distribution, wastewater collection and stormwater collection. The ability to access up-to-date information on any asset or facility is invaluable, especially as it relates to organizational communication. It can be challenging for departments to keep one another updated on projects, documentation, deadlines and dates. CMMS and EAM software solutions streamline this process, giving each group of users (department) the ability to effectively coordinate with others.

Modern CMMS/EAM Features

Many CMMS/EAM software providers offer users the ability to access their systems online through cloud-hosted solutions. One major advantage of cloud-based software is cost savings. On-premise software, which is installed on a company’s own servers and equipment, often comes with a hefty upfront price tag. Cloud-hosted software, which lives on the provider’s network, is typically offered as a monthly fee based on the number of users. This allows organizations to avoid high upfront costs and instead stretch their maintenance management software budget out over time. It’s also extremely convenient to access the software on any computer, as it gives employees the freedom of working outside the office.

Water utility technicians are often on the move, requiring access to up-to-date information on a variety of assets. Mobile CMMS software enables users to complete many maintenance tasks in the field and update records in real-time using their smartphones. This eliminates the need to carry clipboards, work order hard copies and other paperwork. It’s also possible to utilize barcode or QR code scanning technology on mobile devices to quickly pull up relevant information on any given asset within a CMMS. This a huge time-saver for employees, which ultimately enhances job productivity.

Tracking All the Moving Parts

Asset management plays an important role in public works; CMMS and EAM software provides a means of tracking and maintaining physical assets in each department. Pumps, pump stations, clarifiers, digesters, pipes, hydrants, valves, manholes and other assets each require their own specific plan of care. Asset management software helps water utilities automate maintenance schedules and tasks with the ultimate goal of increasing each asset’s life cycle and maximizing its return on investment (ROI).

In order to physically carry out maintenance activities, water utility employees require transportation. This is why selecting a CMMS/EAM software solution capable of tracking both fixed and rolling assets is of great benefit. Fleet vehicles and equipment may include cars, trucks, portable equipment, boats and trailers — all of which require individualized, ongoing maintenance. Consider oil changes, tire replacements, inspections, manufacturer’s guidelines, tune-ups according to mileage, recall information and more. With fleet maintenance software, you can rest assured each vehicle receives its required level of maintenance and operates at peak efficiency. The ultimate result is a drastic reduction in unplanned downtime and repairs.

Demonstrating Regulatory Compliance

Another benefit of employing maintenance management software is the ability to easily demonstrate regulatory compliance and reduce the amount of preparation required for an audit. In the water industry, for example, it’s necessary to comply with regulatory standards set forth in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Safe Drinking Water Act and their Clean Water Act. CMMS software helps keep track of necessary documentation related to specified maximum contaminant levels, treatment technique requirements and many others. Within minutes, staff can easily access all records related to equipment such as date purchased, maintenance schedules, warranties, codes, parts and procedures lists, dates of repairs and more. This also reduces the risk of noncompliance penalties and eliminates the task of manually sorting through files to find required documents, which frees up staff time for more productive tasks.

There are endless advantages of utilizing CMMS or EAM software in public works, not to mention integrations available to connect with other critical systems. Departmental managers or city/county managers can also make more-informed decisions using advanced reports and dashboards available within maintenance management software. This paves the way for enhanced community planning and sustainability.

Alex Williams is the director of sales and professional services at DPSI, a provider of CMMS and EAM software solutions. He has been in the maintenance and field service industry for more than 27 years and has worked in a variety of roles including maintenance supervisor, lead field technician, technical trainer and software manager.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *