Feb 16, 2007

Managing Assets & Work Orders at Treatment Plants

Now more than ever, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict regulations under the Clean Water Act on water treatment and water pollution. Overflows and failing processes can cause worry for agencies and cities, especially when dealing with aging equipment.

In 2001, this was the predicament in Monroe, La., which faced the task of modernizing a plant built almost half a century ago. Monroe is located in Ouachita Parish in the northeast region of Louisiana. The population within city limits is more than 53,500, with another 150,000 living in the outlying parish.

Monroe’s Water Pollution Control Center (WPCC) runs 24 hours a day. In the past, whenever a process failed the maintenance crew had to dedicate a substantial amount of time getting that process back online to ensure the safety of surrounding rivers. City leaders knew that updating the WPCC would be a multimillion dollar project, and they wanted it done right.

To assist with the project, Monroe hired Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), an engineering and environmental consulting firm that is heavily involved in utilities and municipalities. With 4,500 employees worldwide, CDM has ranked in the top five engineering consulting firms for the last five years. The firm helped Monroe establish a strategy, set goals, and evaluate vendors.

Dedication to details

For the first two years of the project, CDM and the Monroe officials inventoried assets, examined equipment manuals and defined best practices for implementing maintenance that would need to be done regularly. The City Engineer, Charles Westrom, said that Monroe sifted through manuals on every asset to develop appropriate maintenance requirements.

“The O&M manual might say, ‘Lubricate bearing once a month’ for a particular asset,” Westrom said. “The maintenance supervisor would evaluate the maintenance manual requirements and add task comments and instructions such as ‘Lubricate bearing with three shots of grease once a month.’”

As the project progressed, Monroe needed to find a suitable software system to maintain its multimillion-dollar investment. The system would need to manage the city’s public works and utility assets, generating both reactive and preventative maintenance work orders.

CDM Information Management Specialist Luai Bseiso was the project task manager for Monroe. When the city began evaluating software vendors, Bseiso said that everyone had preexisting systems in mind.
“The city was already using the ESRI mapping system, so they looked at vendors that would integrate well with what they had,” Bseiso said.

Evaluating software

Before making the final recommendation, CDM requested a demonstration from GBA Master Series, Inc. (gbaMS), an ESRI-certified business partner. The demo consisted of a web-based presentation that allowed CDM and the city to see the software in use and to ask questions about its functionality. Bseiso said that everyone was impressed with what they saw.

“When Inside Sales Manager Allison Tuttle gave us the Webex demo, we understood what she was saying right away,” Bseiso said. “The software was very intuitive. Another thing that helped us make our decision was the references we were given by gbaMS. We were very impressed with the responses we got from end users. We were especially impressed with the level of support that the clients said they were receiving, particularly after the implementation and installation. I knew then that it was the best product for Monroe.”

Bseiso recommended that the city adopt the gbaMS infrastructure management software suite for its user-friendly and software-compatible architecture. For Westrom, the advantage was the software’s look and feel, and its ease of use. Westrom also appreciated that the software was GIS-compatible, but not dependent. Monroe generates maps in AutoCad and imports them into ESRI. From there, the city could import the assets into the system via the infrastructure management software.

“With gbaMS, I can give anyone a couple of hour-long training sessions and show them how to do work orders,” Westrom said. “The GIS maps are a reference tool in which you can click on assets to find all related work orders, but the software can also run independently of the GIS system.”

Conflicts and resolutions

Under the guidance of CDM, Monroe began creating preventative maintenance programs to ensure comprehensive maintenance of equipment. Preventative maintenance programs were set up for daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, etc. Steve Schultz, the gbaMS Implementation Engineer, helped CDM and the city minimize the number of work orders by combining similar jobs wherever possible and replacing the daily preventative maintenance jobs with open work orders—work orders that remain open for a period of time (a week, for instance) to log time against repetitive jobs. This solution helped reduce the number of work orders, especially for work done on a daily basis.

Monroe’s Water Pollution Control Center (WPCC) went live with the software in May of 2005. The Water Treatment Plant went live in February of 2006. Sewer Collections will go live with the software in the coming month, and Water Distribution is scheduled to follow.

Westrom said that the Water Treatment Plant and Water Distribution were not initially scheduled to receive the software, but “the benefits were so great with the WPCC and Sewer Collections that we felt the other departments would benefit from using the software too.”

Beneficial relationships

Bseiso said the city was happy with the progression of the project and that the software would enable Monroe to optimize its asset maintenance capability.

“The benefit of having the software in place is that Monroe will have a very easy to use system that can generate work orders and track them,” Bseiso said. “They can also begin tracking work orders and analyzing the cost of asset maintenance to evaluate where their money can be best spent.”

Westrom agreed. “The people at gbaMS have done an outstanding job supporting us. They’ve given us that extra mile whenever we needed it,” he said.

The software vendor has also benefited from its interaction with Monroe. The vendor asks users for their input with regard to modifications and upgrades.

Conforming to EPA regulations can be a difficult process for the water industry. With meticulous planning, steadfast dedication, and outside consulting agencies, however, municipalities like Monroe can improve and maintain their collection and treatment practices. Under the leadership of Mayor Jamie Mayo and the Monroe City Council, the asset management system has become a reality.

About the author

Don Pinkston is president and CEO of GBA Master Series, Inc. He can be reached at 913/341-3105 or by e-mail at [email protected].