Winning solution for wastewater plant
The City of Columbia, South Carolina, operates an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant which treats on average 130 ML of its rated capacity of 225 ML per day. Back in 2012, the City made the decision to update its OPS SQL software to a Hach WIMS (water information management system). Not only was the old software sitting idle, it was also out of date. The reasons for updating and implementing the software were many but can be summarised with the two primary goals: to collect the data into a central database that is easily accessible and to create a dashboard from which the rotating operations teams or management could quickly understand what was happening.
Previously, the plant personnel who were just arriving on the job would meet with those who were finishing their shift for a status report and to discuss any pressing issues. Yet the meetings were often more obligatory than useful, largely because of the limited data available to share.
“Information from the previous shift was written in a notebook each day, but those were only single data points, which obviously made it difficult to get any sense of data trends,” recalled Sarah Hickman, laboratory manager. “Someone would read off the information at shift change, but it was hard to pay attention. It was easy for the operators to get distracted by their phones since the data was not very useful as presented.”
The shift changes were a symptom of a larger problem at the plant. While considerable data and information was being generated on a regular basis throughout the plant, there was no integrated system to easily track, aggregate and communicate that data in ways that could provide useful insights to monitor and improve operations.
“There was data everywhere. We were using Excel, but Excel is Excel. We needed some type of solution to store and organise that data to help us make better and more timely operational decisions,” added David Wiman, operations supervisor. “The operators needed to understand how the treatment process data was trending when they arrived at work. Understanding this helped them to learn the operational big picture objectives and how decisions made in one treatment process could directly affect other treatment processes.”
Hach WIMS is a real-time digital system that seamlessly integrates the collection, aggregation and tracking of data, while also generating customised reports and presenting information and insights in easy-to-access customisable dashboards.
In Columbia, the first sign that WIMS would prove to be a big win for the plant emerged in those shift-change meetings. Instead of someone simply rattling off numbers from a worksheet, the WIMS dashboard could be projected onto a screen, presenting a dynamic view of a range of relevant and up-to-date data.
“The day we started using WIMS during shift change, everyone put down their phones and really got into the information on the screen,” Hickman recalled. “They started asking questions and making suggestions. It was much more engaging. I thought that initial curiosity might wear off, but it hasn’t. Those meetings are so valuable now, and everyone is focused on improving our performance because they can see how they can make an impact.”
Particularly valuable has been the ability to clearly show data trends over varying time periods. By getting a holistic view of the data and trends, the team can more easily identify where there might be a challenge or an issue emerging that needs to be addressed.
WIMS is also allowing for more efficient use of chemicals by clearly identifying trends and showing a more holistic view of overall plant operations through various data points that are presented on the dashboards. For instance, previously the plant sometimes overused chlorine as a safeguard against levels dropping too low. Because real-time data was often lacking, more chemicals were used than needed to assure that the plant stayed in compliance. In early 2014, the City installed online instruments that were tied to its SCADA system, which provided reliable real-time data. Now the steady monitoring allows for more targeted use of chemicals, which improves efficiency and will lead to cost savings.
Another key benefit has been the capability for customised dashboards offered by WIMS. Different users from throughout the plant can create dashboards that include only the information that is relevant for them. WIMS can also automatically generate and email on-demand customised reports that show data trends and selected information.
“Everyone can have their own dashboard and their own scheduled reports sent at specified intervals,” Hickman said. “I want to see how the lab is performing for quality control, while our director has a dashboard that provides high-level data such as daily flows for the last 12 months.
“WIMS has proven to be a great tool for improving operations. Now with a few clicks, we can get the information we need to make decisions and make sure everything is running smoothly.”
Phone: 03 9545 6229
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