How to Improve Water Treatment Plant Efficiency

August 14, 2018

Sewers don’t turn off. Which means that your wastewater treatment plant doesn’t get to turn off, either. At the same time, whether you’re working directly for a municipality or running a private facility on government contracts, your budget isn’t likely to have a lot of wiggle room. Balancing these opposing pressures can be like walking a tightrope: You have to navigate narrow margins to keep your equipment running, without going over cost.

That means that Wastewater Plant Operations Managers are always on the lookout for ways to improve operating efficiency. As unexpected equipment downtime both lowers production and raises costs, reducing downtime presents a serious opportunity for increasing efficiency.

To reduce or prevent unexpected downtime, try to schedule maintenance and repairs in advance. This keeps your equipment in working order without sacrificing productive operations. Mobile asset data collection and reporting software, which bridges the gap between equipment information collection and informed maintenance action, will also help improve your water treatment plant’s efficiency.

Improving Water Treatment Plant Efficiency With Conditional Maintenance

Knowing when your equipment needs repair is the first step towards reducing downtime. If you know when something’s likely to break, you can fix it before it does. Two maintenance scheduling methods work to this purpose.

The first is scheduled, or calendered maintenance. Using this method, maintenance is scheduled based on your equipment’s known mean time to failure, and mean time between failure. Since large assets like oil-water separators and sludge clarifiers fail a part at a time, scheduled maintenance relies on component timelines, not general equipment timelines.

The other scheduling method is conditional maintenance. Conditional maintenance is active maintenance. It involves monitoring your equipment for known conditional indicators of oncoming failures, and scheduling maintenance in response. Conditional maintenance fills the gaps in a robust schedule maintenance program such as CMMS, catching outlier issues which elude scheduled maintenance.

Conditional maintenance depends on monitoring to inform maintenance. Closing the gap between observation and action presents a significant opportunity to improve efficiency. The sooner you’re able to assign maintenance or repair resources after failure indicators are detected, the better you’ll be able to reduce or prevent expensive downtime.

Water Treatment Plant Mobile Operators Inform Conditional Maintenance

Wastewater treatment plants vary widely based on size and application. Specific equipment combinations depend on whether a plant treats sewage, agricultural gray water, brewery discharge, dairy effluent, heavy industry wastewater from pulp, paper, iron, or steel mills, mine or quarry wastewater, petrochemicals and other complex organics, or nuclear wastewater. Despite this, most wastewater plants share a similar logistical difficulty: large, open-roof areas.

In manufacturing and other closed-roof environments, it’s easier  to keep an eye on your equipment. Automatic sensors in conjunction with networked control systems, prove continuous streams of information. However, the large geographical footprints of open-roof wastewater plants make collecting equipment data more difficult. So wastewater treatment plants use Mobile Operators to take equipment readings. Mobile Operators also observe and report qualitative data on your equipment, such as frayed belts, patches of rust, and the presence of leaks. The information they collect forms the basis of your conditional maintenance program. When they notice a problem, you prioritize it and dispatch appropriate resources.

Mobile Asset Data Collection & Reporting Software Improves Wastewater Maintenance Efficiency

Many wastewater treatment plants give Mobile Operators asset-based paper checklists to record their equipment observations. Operators turn in their checklists at the completion of their rounds, when they are collected and entered into spreadsheets or a plant’s Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Only then does the data become visible, actionable, and useful.

Mobile asset reporting software offers a significant efficiency improvement over paper checklists. It’s faster. Using a paper and spreadsheet system, it can take days, weeks, or longer for an important maintenance condition to come to your attention. By that time, the problem may have worsened, or the part may have failed entirely.

With a mobile asset data collection and reporting system, equipment condition data uploads to your CMMS instantly, where it is analyzed and important conditions are flagged. Quality mobile asset data collection and reporting software recognizes that most industrial plants lack wireless connectivity throughout their facility, and operate locally while offline.

As soon as your Mobile Operator returns to an area with signal coverage, the software synchronizes with your system and uploads data. This lets you act on an issue almost the instant it’s noticed. It also timestamps data, so you always know exactly how long an issue has progressed.

Another benefit of mobile asset data collection software is a reduction in redundant data entry. Mobile asset data collection and reporting software integrates  with your CMMS. There’s no need to task an employee with shuffling through stacks of equipment data, or manually filling cell after cell in an isolated spreadsheet to enter a work order. Since such a tedious task frays the attention of even the most detail-oriented employees, integrating your mobile data collection software with your CMMS  cuts down on errors as well.

Improved Efficiency Can Justify Upgrade Expenditures

Municipal wastewater budgets are not known for being overly generous (unless you have a friend in town hall). As such, if you want to upgrade to a mobile asset data collection and reporting software platform, you’ll need to make a strong business case to justify the expense.

If your plant suffers from unexpected asset failure because you don’t have an, accurate representation of your plant’s equipment and its condition, this should be a simple case to make. Even moderate reductions in unplanned downtime can make the investment in mobile asset data collection and reporting software pay off.

People and companies depend on your wastewater treatment plant every day. If your assets go offline, holding tanks start filling, and equipment starts straining. In order to keep your plant running, and keep the toilets flushing, your operations and maintenance program must be as efficient as possible. To minimize the time between conditional observation and action, consider investing in mobile asset data collection and reporting software.

At GoPlant, we understand that improving plant efficiency is a top priority. We created our mobile asset data collection and reporting software platform to make equipment data collection as fast and easy as possible, even off the grid. That keeps costs down, and productivity up. To see GoPlant in action, request a demo.