Taking maximum advantage of the promise that digitalization has to offer requires thinking beyond existing operations. It requires an attitude where change management, communication, and training are just as important as technology tools. Employing that broader perspective helps users envision more all-encompassing solutions rather than simply automating existing instrumentation functionality. Consider the strategic benefits offered by more comprehensive data collection and management across these four areas of operations:
- Diverse Data Collection. Some intelligent instrumentation provides added-value data for end users beyond its primary function. For example, some chemical analyzers and level detectors provide temperature sensing that can influence better process control decisions. Flow meters that measure conductivity in the pipe can detect changes over time to indicate that more contamination is present and chemical dosing needs have changed. Flow meters that detect air bubbles caused by pump cavitation, or that provide vibration readings, can identify needs for preventive maintenance activities. Cloud-based systems using Internet of Things (IoT) technology also make it easier to access data available from diverse sources — including remote installations.
- Comprehensive Data Analysis. As data collection expands, it increases the risk of overlooking specific “nuggets” of information in the mountains of data generated. Modular software solutions that share inputs from sensor, analyzer, and control systems in a more holistic view help WTP/WWTP operations benefit from tighter integration across multiple functions:
- Enterprise Asset Management/Enterprise Resource Planning optimizes operation, facility, and asset management in response to the latest process-related data.
- Workforce Management helps assign employee guidelines for routine maintenance activities as well as responses to system alarms, warnings, and emergencies.
- Asset Performance Management protects process integrity and equipment longevity through continuous assessment of process instrumentation by optimizing both predictive and preventive maintenance planning.
- Control-Oriented Data Management. Cloud-based infrastructure helps more people and systems access, monitor, and act upon data specific to WTP/WWTP needs. This includes inputs from process-line instrumentation and signals directed to a variety of control equipment — programmable logic control (PLC), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and distributed control (DCS) systems.
Customizable dashboards displaying key performance indicators on large touch screen displays empower plant operators to be more aware of and responsive to process variations. Apps running on mobile platforms (i.e., smartphones and tablets) also make it easier for plant personnel to interact with plant equipment and analytic data.
- Data-Driven Decision-Making. Whatever the infrastructure, the value of digitalization lies in its ability to provide better perspective for informed decisions. Systems running analytic programs designed specifically for water-plant applications provide insights relevant to key operations. This includes the ability to anticipate changing process trends, to identify and react to potential upset conditions in real time, and to support higher-level organizational objectives.