Utility Week

UTILITY Week 15th January 2015

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20 | 15th - 21st January 2016 | utILIty WEEK Operations & Assets Market view T he industrial world's predicted move towards network interconnectivity can assist water companies to better man- age their challenging asset infrastructure. In particular, it can drive improved under- standing of asset base performance, develop efficiencies, enhance productivity, inform future investment choices and help position strategic market offerings as upstream retail competition really takes hold. Advocates of Industry 4.0 highlight the creation of self-organising, intelligence-led, fully optimised digital factories producing highly customised products. This will be as a result of the computerisation of manufac- turing, based on enhanced levels of network interconnectivity and strong digital commu- nication between machines and equipment, which are then capable of producing intelli- gent data. While many acknowledge the potential of such a substantial manufacturing advance- ment, it should also be recognised that we are already in the midst of witnessing the influence of digitalisation (and big data) within industrial environments. This is highly relevant for a water sector currently undergoing a sea change. During AMP6, it is under close scrutiny from Ofwat to be far more customer focused than in the past. The sector is being encouraged to con- centrate on total expenditure (totex) and not capital expenditure (capex), so investments are considered within a whole-life value con- text, while also remaining mindful of ongo- ing compliance responsibilities. This change of emphasis within AMP6 follows a 25-year undertaking by the sector on massive capex projects to upgrade water and sewage networks. This undertaking has cost an estimated £100 billion to complete. To satisfactorily deliver a totex-based investment programme, the sector needs to better interrogate and understand the perfor- mance of the key operational support system – its ageing and geographically widespread asset base. Failure will put water companies at finan- cial and competitive risk, with the regula- tory regime intent on seeking evidence its instructions have been taken on board. In addition, upstream competition inevitably points to water company retail offerings com- ing under increased pressure to maintain and grow supply levels. Asset data sits at the heart of the solution to deliver better operational understanding. It offers both short-term tactical answers to managing challenging widespread, remote and legacy asset bases, while also underpin- ning strategic business decisions. The challenge remains to optimise the use of the increasing volumes of data being gen- erated across water companies – including previously untapped measuring sources. The next step is to convert such data into useful intelligence-led information that can benefit both day-to-day operational objectives and underpin strategic long-term planning. This presents a new kind of challenge – and one the industry should be looking to tackle with trusted technology partners. Data and information strategy influences critical areas such as cost control, technol- ogy choice, efficiency targets and regulatory responsibilities. It sits at the very centre of the service a water company delivers. Water companies collect huge volumes of data, but I would argue there is a large degree of mistrust about its validity and usefulness in its present state. Current high security and historical data (both on- and off-site) looking at energy usage, process performance, and water quality, to name a few, is oen delayed coming from distributed assets, before it is then transported and manipulated through various internal stages – all the time reduc- ing confidence in the data's veracity. Tangible benefit lies in the collection of "real-time data", an information source offering quick and accurate current and past performance indicators. It comes courtesy of interconnected network technology sup- port that can access, store, manage, visual- ise and interrogate varied sources of asset performance data volumes from a strategic and business-orientated perspective. This informs management decision-making, min- imises risk and, ultimately, drives improved efficiencies across the asset portfolio. A good example is the ability to under- take a condition-based asset maintenance programme. Maintenance work only needs to be undertaken when the asset requires it and is not reliant on an arbitrary or historical timeframe. Data gathered from the asset, vis- ualised and then scrutinised, can alert man- agement if repair or maintenance is required, enabling them to target appropriate expendi- ture and investment more accurately. Of course, there is an ongoing debate to be had around what constitutes "real time" for the water sector. Is it seconds, minutes, hours? What might, for example, be appli- cable in the food industry may not be right for water. But it is this kind of technology- led conversation and collaborative philoso- phy that we need across the sector if we are to move towards a common currency where technology will aid our shared interests. Automation technology can help water companies deliver asset efficiencies and improved productivity – key objectives that support the delivery of the kind of customer- focused outcomes set by Ofwat within AMP6. Steve Hanslow, UK sales manager – water and wastewater, Siemens UK & Ireland Data is key to asset efficiency Steve Hanslow believes that at a time when AMP6 is focusing water companies on total expenditure driven outcomes, the sector would benefit from some of the guiding principles of Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolu- tion, is a collective term for technologies and concepts of value chain organisation that draw together Cyber-Physical Systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services. There are six design principles in Industry 4.0: interoperability; virtualisation; decentralisation; real-time capability; service orientation; and modularity.

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