Scottish Water – Building a Digital Platform for all Seasons

Summary
Scottish Water identified an opportunity to transform the way its field operatives collect, view and edit asset-related data.

The company’s transformation team worked with AMT-SYBEX to realise this vision by developing a solution that uses ruggedised tablet devices and Affinity Fieldreach software to give operatives unprecedented access to corporate systems while they are working on-site.

This ground-breaking solution will help Scottish Water harness the skills and knowledge of its field operatives more effectively, significantly improve its asset records, and ultimately enable a more proactive approach to asset management.

The challenge
Scottish Water saw an opportunity to enhance site management and maintenance processes by creating a new Digital Platform that would enable its field operatives to share and capture their in-depth knowledge of on-site assets.

The solution
Scottish Water’s transformation team is working closely with AMT-SYBEX to realise its vision of a digital platform that uses ruggedised tablet devices and Affinity Fieldreach software to help field operatives create, view and edit asset-related data in the Ellipse asset management system, as well as access telemetry data, email and the company’s intranet.

Scottish Water
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The benefits

  • Harnesses the knowledge of field operatives to build a more comprehensive record of Scottish Water’s physical assets.
  • Gives field operatives the tools to solve complex problems – for example, enabling them to diagnose problems on-site using telemetry data.
  • Improves communication between field operatives and office-based employees, improving productivity and helping to integrate the company into a single corporate culture.
  • Reduces paperwork and improves visibility of asset data across the organisation.
  • Enables a more proactive approach to asset management, helping to shift the emphasis from reactive to planned maintenance.

Scottish Water is a publicly owned company, answerable to the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland. The utility is responsible for providing 1.3 billion litres of drinking water and treating 840 million litres of waste water on a daily basis for 2.4 million households and 159,000 business premises across the country.

Scottish Water employs 3,400 people and operates a network of thousands of assets – over 47,000 km of water pipes, 50,000 km of sewer pipes, 252 water treatment works and 1,865 waste water treatment works, pumping stations, sludge treatment centres and reservoirs.

Managing and maintaining all these assets is an immense task. Scottish Water relies on its experienced team of field operatives to visit sites across Scotland and ensure that every asset is operating safely and in good working order.

Historically, most of the asset-related data that these operatives collect and manage has been held in paper files and stored on-site – but Scottish Water saw an opportunity to drive continuous improvement in its maintenance processes by digitising and centralising this vital information.

Realising a vision for better asset management
The vision was to deploy a digital platform that would give the field operatives access to information from central systems, and also enable them to input asset data directly into the company’s Ellipse asset management system.

Scottish Water noted that a number of other utilities companies deploy mobile solutions that send data from their central systems out to their operatives – but it’s generally a one-way process. Scottish Water’s plan is to use the mobile devices to collect the data as well, giving the field teams a much more valuable role to play in the evolution of the broader asset management strategy

Building a partnership with AMT-SYBEX
The first challenge was to find a partner capable of supporting Scottish Water in turning this vision into a reality. When the Digital Platform team met the AMT-SYBEX team – who were already supporting Scottish Water’s Ellipse system – they realised that they had found the right people to help.

When Scottish Water first explained the requirements to the AMT-SYBEX team, they immediately understood the plan to close the gap between the field and the business in terms of asset-related data. The Affinity Fieldreach software – developed by AMT-SYBEX – is an excellent solution for sending data from Ellipse to mobile devices.

Unlocking new capabilities for field operatives
Scottish Water field operatives often need to visit sites in remote locations where extremes of weather and a lack of mobile connectivity can be a problem. As a result, it was critical to deploy tablet devices that would be resilient enough to cope with conditions and that could work offline temporarily if a mobile signal was unavailable. It was also important to design a user interface that would be user-friendly and intuitive even in awkward environments.

Working closely with AMT-SYBEX on the interface design, Scottish Water agrees it has been a great success – it looks and responds above the expectations of Scottish Water’s project team.

Collecting asset data
When an operative visits a site where the Ellipse asset data is incomplete or inaccurate, they can use the devices to update the asset inventory and record all the measurements and readings they collect while inspecting the site. The Intelligent Scripting feature of Affinity Fieldreach then converts this activity log into a defined process to guide subsequent inspections at that site.

This enables Scottish Water to ensure that its operatives gather the same information on each visit, and allows the company to trace trends and identify patterns in asset performance and reliability.

As Scottish Water gain a comprehensive record of their assets and start to measure trends, the asset management team will be able to shift the emphasis from break/fix to planned maintenance. By analysing the underlying causes of problems, the asset management team should be able to predict and prevent asset failures before they occur.

Proving the technology
A pilot project took the solution to the Highlands and to the east coast to test it in different temperatures and weather conditions. The Scottish Water field operatives who took part in the pilot were pleased with the performance of the solution: a post-project survey showed that 100 percent of them believed that the digital platform solution would improve data quality, and 80 percent thought it would enable them to avoid unnecessary site visits – saving time and travel costs.

It was vital to develop the solution with Scottish Water’s operatives in the field, instead of imposing a solution on them. The Field Operatives are highly experienced professionals, and the Digital Platform gives them scope to use their expertise in a productive way, rather than giving them a list of instructions to follow. Access to Ellipse and to the telemetry system gives them all the tools they need to diagnose on-site issues themselves; and access to email and other internal systems helps them become more involved in the business.