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Charles Heino, Director, Municipal Operations, EOM Operations

Maintenance in the 21st Century: The Importance of CMMS and Asset Management in the New Age of Wastewater OperationsCharles Heino, Director, Municipal Operations, EOM Operations

The key to managing any aspect of wastewater mechanical assets is no secret. It is the proper maintenance of assets that creates infrastructure longevity and operational efficiencies however the actual interpretation of asset maintenance is often widely inconsistent as a whole. The idea of maintenance is nothing new and has been around since mechanical pumps and components were first implemented in to wastewater systems. It hasn’t been until the 21st century that software technology has been able to finally meet a long needed demand of point of service tracking within plants and systems.

For decades, ad hoc software packages were concocted thoughmakeshift spreadsheet formats utilizedwithin the wastewater operating systems however, they performed little in the way of tracking real-time maintenance.  Today, our industry has available many web-based Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) platforms and the most robust cellular network in historyall at our fingertips. At the operator level, CMMS provides the capabilities to monitor, track, record, and plan maintenance down to the hour, apparatus, technician, as well as the manufacturer’s specification.

While many city and county governments still rely on antiquated systems, progressive governments as well as private operation companies, like EOM Operations, are seeing the future of CMMS; finding that asset management and real-time maintenance tracking are not only essential to their operation but the cornerstone of their entire operational approach to creating efficiencies.

  Organizations utilizingCMMS programs are seeing realized savings when analyzing budget comparisons with the overall reduction of power consumption, extended component life, and greater pump efficiency.  These cost savingscan be attributed to the systematic approach of asset managementwhen implementing the manufacturer’s specifications in terms of service intervals, thebest management practices (BMPs) of predictive life cycle upgrades, and the recommended major component replacement.

Another critical benefit of CMMS is the ability to predict and plan for capital investments transitioning wastewater expenditures from reactive to predictive investments. CMMS allows for the recording and real-time reporting of historical data associated to each mechanical component down tothe operating hours, labor, materials, and asset condition allowing operators to present the most accurate capital investment plan. 

One very important and often overlooked cost associated with wastewater assets when approaching capital investments whether they be lift station installations, waste treatment plant upgrades, or conveyance system improvementsis the actual life cycle cost of the infrastructure itself however, most often only the initial capital investment is considered.

Visionary organizationshave found a niche that allowsbudget savings annually that can not only be predicted but shown as a long term return.  For example, common issues like inflow and intrusion (I&I) are known to not only reduce overall capacity for growth but will also createa domino effect in costsstemming from longer run times. The resulting effect can be seen in higher electric bills as well as overall reduced treatment plant biology that can create compliance issues and result in a higher cost per million gallons treated. 

 By utilizing a robust CMMS program, not only can the typical metrics of motor run times and motor starts be monitored but added layers of power consumption trends, power characteristic monitoring such as current asymmetry, and plant biological trends can also be historically tracked to create a wider more encompassing view of all hidden holistic costs associated with daily operation.

Organizations must have the operational structure and industry knowledge to support integrating such a CMMS program. A plug and play method when implementing CMMS is not always attainable or recommended and why most often, governments rely on their private partners to implement such asset management programs. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already gone through all the research and development? Already having in place asset management programs that aggressively approach preventative, predictive, and corrective maintenance will only aid CMMS programs to drive home system-wide efficiencies.

If nothing else, operators should consider that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. CMMS opens a future of knowing everything that is going on within these pieces of critical infrastructure on a regular basis through the real time daily, weekly, monthly, and annual data analysis. Operators are privy to a world of knowledge never before available and can proactively create repair and replacement schedules. On the other hand, governmentscan rejoice in the benefitsof reduced down time, longer usable component life, and reduced power consumption.  After all, the single biggest costs associated with running systems are the incremental increases in cost over time that until now have been unnoticed. As we look ahead to even further technological advances, CMMS platforms and asset management programs will become the industry standard rather than the benchmark.

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