ADVERTORIAL: The evolution of the command centre: Empowering the operations

The impact of climate change is likely to make the water cycle, infrastructure and demand management more complex and costly. Water and Wastewater Asia sits down with CTI Resources’ Chai Kim Chen to learn how a unified command centre allows water utilities to do more with less.

Chai Kim Chen, director at CTI Resources

Like other sectors, water utilities face similar challenges to improve operational efficiency and achieve business goals. Business leaders understood the robust value in data, especially critical is the speed at which the data is received, analysed, and interpreted for decision-making, business growth, and innovation. As data is of paramount importance to drive operational efficiency, water operators are starting to explore the power of data to unlock greater value across the entire value chain.

However, this is usually easier said than done. Getting in the way for an overall performance visibility of the entire water network are several common challenges:

  • Application silos – Water utilities often have multiple applications, but to increase efficiency they need a holistic view of all end-to-end operations at any given point in time
  • Information exchange – With multiple applications and systems, it can be difficult to have full visibility, which makes critical decision-making even more complicated
  • Siloed IT/OT – Siloed applications means that the information technology layer does not interact with operational technology (OT) systems used to monitor events, processes and devices. This makes it challenging to make effective adjustments in the day-to-day operations
  • Availability and utilisation of assets – Water utilities often have limited visibility into availability of assets and therefore how to utilise them optimally

According to Chai Kim Chen, director at CTI Resources, “Water utilities are responsible for the operation and maintenance of water treatment plants and distribution networks, crucial for ensuring reliability and quality of supply. So, you can imagine there are various equipment and processes used to clarify, purify, and disinfect surface or groundwater for consumption.  And other set of equipment and processes to remove potentially harmful contaminants from wastewater before it returns to the environment or recycled. The segregated OT and IT results in reactive behaviours, missing opportunities to act quickly and proactively.”

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimated annual volume of non-revenue water (NRW) in urban water utilities in Asia is 29B cubic metres and that translates to Asia’s water utilities losing nearly $9B per year. Due to the ever-increasing urban populations and expanding service areas in Asia, reducing these water losses is critical.

The water and wastewater infrastructure of distribution and collection pipes, treatment facilities, storage tanks and reservoirs amount to an enormous investment in physical assets. Timely maintenance of these assets can improve the condition and prolong their useful life so that maintenance, renewal, or replacement can be timed to minimise service delivery interruption and costs.

Water requires a tremendous amount of energy to move from a reservoir through the treatment process, and out into a distribution system. A typical embedded energy costs can represent 25–30% of total operation costs for water and wastewater utilities.”

With this in mind, what can water operators do to remove the silo, and digitally transform to maximise operating efficiency in the water and wastewater facilities?

This is where the unified operations centre comes into play. A unified operations centre increased connectivity. Creating a connected operation allows water utilities visibility into data, discover deep operational insight, make proactive decisions and most importantly to set business strategy.

Chai continued, “The power of a unified operations centre lies in its ability to bring multiple business units together. It empowers the organisation with a centralised view to help make informed decisions, fast, bringing end-to-end operational visibility across facilities to improve safety, operational efficiency, and ultimately the costs of business.

The unified operations centre is the brain and nerve centre of an organisation to increase situation awareness, better resource coordination, and improve decision-making. It is the heart of an organisation; it provides foundation for real-time operational performance management by providing closed-loop enterprise-wide visibility to optimise assets and operations.”

Chai further explained, “The AVEVA unified command centre monitors and integrates data – energy consumed, functioning of the pumps, and consumer usage pattern. Based on this real-time monitoring and analysis, the system is able to calculate and simulate information over the next six hours, giving operators ample time to make decisions based on predicted scenarios.

The other point is before you carry out any maintenance task, based on the live data you can create simulation and check how long you can maintain the water supply in specific zones, and the optimal time to conduct repairs before the other areas face a water shortage.  The system has the ability to tell you how long the water has been standing inside the pipeline. If you close certain sections of the network, you want to know if the water is still safe for consumption, or if you have to discharge it or replace it with water from another pipe.”

It is beyond SCADA. The dashboards provide the measurement and reporting capability by monitoring, communicating and tracking KPIs. It further enables a meaningful comparison of performance across multiple plants and departments, ability to receive alerts on gap conditions, and generate operator logs and shift reports that explain events as performance deviations.

Organisations like Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Roy Hill have realised the increased enterprise visibility, collaboration and operational agility that a unified operations centre provides.

Beyond SCADA is a lofty claim to make, but if anything. As Chai put it, “AVEVA unified operations centre truly demonstrates how water operators capitalise on digital technologies to transform their business by integrating and visualising all available data in context be it operations, process, engineering, maintenance and financial data in this digital era.”

Water tight 2.0- The top trends in the global water sector, Deloitte (2016)
Unlocking the Power of Data with AI, CIO (2019)
Managing water assets – tackling the infrastructure gap, ISO (2013)
Water utility asset management, ADB (2013)
A survey of energy use in water companies, ACEEE (2015)
Bridging the IT and OT Divide, Automation World (2017)