Better Asset Data for Modeling
As the Infrastructure Asset Manager at the Western Virginia Water Authority, Jim O’Dowd has responsibility for planning, managing, direction setting, and administration of the Asset Management Program for the Authority’s water distribution and wastewater collection systems. These are made up of around 1,000 miles of sewer and 1,200 miles of water mains that serve over 200,000 people in Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Franklin County, 240 miles southwest of Washington DC. Jim uses InfoAsset Manager and InfoAsset Mobile software to manage the Authority’s asset management and work order system, and InfoWorks WS Pro, IWLive Pro and InfoWorks ICM for water and sewer hydraulic modeling.
After the Authority bought InfoWorks software to model wastewater collection and water distribution, it became clear that they also needed an asset management program to introduce quality control for mapping to prepare data for the models. This led the Authority to buy InfoAsset Manager and InfoAsset Mobile in 2009 to improve the way they acquired and updated asset data across the water and sewer networks.
Daily Records, Linked to Assets
For the Authority’s sewer network, Jim set up InfoAsset Mobile for staff to record all:
- Reactive incidents such as blockages and overﬂows
- Inspections such as CCTV and manhole surveys
- Interventions including pipe cleans and repairs
For the water distribution system, InfoAsset Mobile is set up for teams to record:
- Reactive incidents such as breaks and water quality issues
- Inspections like valve exercising, leak detection and hydrant testing
- Interventions such as repairs and replacements
The Authority staff consider the software as a log book of daily activities that, crucially, sends all data – linked to the relevant asset – back to InfoAsset Manager. They have shown that InfoAsset Mobile is not overly complicated or too sophisticated to be used by non-engineers. “Of the 36 users of InfoAsset Manager in the Authority, only two are engineers,” said Jim. “Two of our strongest users were an administrative assistant and a ﬁeld supervisor, neither of whom had a university education. They did however have an understanding of exactly what data was needed in order to perform their work tasks more efficiently. When they saw objects in InfoAsset representing the work and data they knew so intimately, they quickly mastered the software and became power users.”
The Software Used at Western Virginia Water Authority
- InfoAsset Manager
- InfoAsset Mobile
- InfoWorks WS Pro
- IWLive Pro
- InfoWorks ICM
In order to implement InfoAsset Mobile, Jim had to take a fresh look at the business processes involved in data collection. He wanted to support the ﬁeld crews’ workﬂow, and ensure management got what they needed from the data. He implemented with a bottom-up approach, with ﬁeld staﬀ actively involved in both the design/layout of the forms and the terminology used. This made it easier for everyone to understand what was required for accurate data collection.
Implementing the desktop version, InfoAsset Manager, was a more complex endeavor. Some users were initially overwhelmed with the sheer number of buttons and ways to look at data in either the map or the grid views. Jim said, “As we matured in our implementation, we realized that we needed to cater our training to different personas.”
Jim explained what he meant by personas, using examples of how different people use InfoAsset in diverse ways.
- The Mapper
- The Sewer Collection System Manager
- The Water Distribution Manager
- The DMA Analyst
- The Customer Service Representative
- The Capital Improvement Plan Manager
Jim refers to InfoAsset as a multi-tasking chameleon. Personas in the authority can create themes to build a view of the data to suit their speciﬁc needs and job functions. “We also removed buttons they would never use and renamed or changed the appearance of some buttons to simplify their experience of the software,” he said.
Mappers keep the maps up to date. They update the geometric and physical characteristics of the assets from GPS surveys, Manhole surveys, CCTV surveys, data gleaned from repair work orders, as-built drawings, and development plans. Mappers also schedule additional survey work to capture missing data on existing assets and record data on new or previously unknown assets.
Sewer Collection System Managers oversee the response to reactive incidents like blockage and overﬂow incidents. They also schedule proactive inspection work to better understand the asset condition such as such as Acoustic Monitoring, CCTV, Smoke Tests, and Manhole Surveys. Based on the inspections, Sewer Collection System Managers recommend and schedule interventions such as pipe cleans, chemical root treatment, and pipe and manhole renewals.
Water Distribution Managers oversee the response to reactive incidents like leak investigations and water quality incidents. They schedule proactive work such as valve maintenance work orders to exercise valves, and hydrant testing with monitoring surveys to record pressure variations during ﬂow tests. They update valve and hydrant condition information with the results, then recommend and schedule interventions such as pipe, valve, and hydrant renewals.
DMA Analysts divide the water distribution system up into District Metered Areas (DMAs). They import usage data for consumer and DMA meters to manage and calculate water loss. They also strategically schedule and manage Leak Detection Surveys, prioritizing the DMAs with the greatest amount of water loss.
The Customer Service Representative creates Customer Complaints tied to a property and deploys the work order to the Field Staﬀ when a call comes in from a customer for a reactive issue using InfoAsset Mobile. They use InfoAsset Viewer, a read-only version of InfoAsset Manager, to view the progress/resultant work stemming from Customer Complaints in a Work Package if a customer calls looking for an update on the progress of work in a speciﬁc area.
Capital Improvement Plan Managers prioritize future capital renewal projects, based on:
- Recommendations from the Water and Sewer Managers
- Results from other analyses such as ﬂow monitoring, hydraulic modeling, and capacity issues
- Strategic renewal objectives such as the replacement of old cast iron and galvanized steel pipes on the water side and the replacement or upsizing of undersized and deteriorated concrete pipes on the sewer side
Role of the Software within the Utility
Jim maintains that each software application plays a different role in the utility. InfoAsset Manager and InfoAsset Mobile are used every day with over 160 work orders being performed on average each day. The data is constantly being updated and improved. It is used as a work order management system, a GIS, and as an analytical tool, depending upon which persona is using it at the time. Since 2009, over 650,000 work orders have run through InfoAsset Manager and InfoAsset Mobile in addition to the 100,000 work orders imported into InfoAsset from the previous work order system. InfoAsset Manager is being used in the office by 36 people and data is being collected by almost 100 people using InfoAsset Mobile.
InfoWorks WS Pro and ICM are used less frequently, when capital or proposed development projects need to be evaluated. The models are calibrated when the results of hydrant ﬂow testing and ﬂow monitoring are obtained and are fully updated annually directly from the quality controlled InfoAsset data.
InfoAsset stores a vast amount of data about the Authority’s business, so it should be no surprise that it can reveal highly valuable insights. As Jim explained, “When the dust settles and one is no longer fretting about the location of available data on CCTV surveys, manhole surveys and overﬂow locations, and one can look at the information all in one place, patterns begin to emerge and this in turn allows one to consider new ways of leveraging the data to support business objectives such as the mitigation of dry and wet weather overflows, the reduction of inflow and infiltration and the creation of defensible capital improvement and maintenance plans to name but a few.”
While most in the Authority use InfoAsset for mapping and work order management, digging a little deeper shows that analytics of varying degree can also be performed with the software. Descriptive and diagnostic analytics are routinely done for data mining to help understand what happened and why. Predictive and prescriptive analytics aid in determining what might happen and what should be done to mitigate the ill effects of deteriorating infrastructure.
“In our system, there is no bad project.” says Jim. “Over the years, we have developed analytics using the InfoAsset data to quickly identify areas of concern and come up with solutions. For example, we realized that the optimum size of a water replacement project for our local contractors was $750,000. This equates to approximately a mile of 6” or 8” pipe replacement. Using SQL Queries and cluster analysis in InfoAsset, we were able to deﬁne mile-long projects in the areas of the most breaks and select the worst offenders by the number of breaks per mile. It wasn’t that complicated. I like to keep things simple, understandable and defensible. If I feel that I wouldn’t be able to explain a methodology to a Roman engineer from 2,000 years ago, I’m over-complicating matters.”
[InfoAsset] allows one to consider new ways of leveraging the data to support business objectives.
Ease of Use
The software has proven to be easy to manage. “One of the beneﬁts is that InfoAsset is entirely self-sufficient,” said Jim. “It is off-the-shelf, out-of-the-box ready to go with no need to purchase additional software licenses. No complicated APIs are required to communicate with third party CMMS systems and no third-party mapping software is needed. When those applications bring out new versions or platform changes, other systems can be at risk of no longer being compatible and additional work is needed to bridge the gap. That has never been an issue with InfoAsset so we have been spared that ordeal.”
For Jim, using InfoAsset has enabled him to make defensible decisions and to evaluate industry trends and methodologies when he learns of them.
“Having worked with InfoAsset for over 10 years, I feel it has given me a new perspective when I view webinars or attend conferences on asset management. Before, I may have been overwhelmed by the amount of data sources used and analysis methodology employed. Now, because I am so used to the provenance and interrelationships of incidents, inspections and repairs within the InfoAsset framework, it has become second nature to categorize the data in my head and drill down to the crucial ﬁelds that would need to be collected in order to support the analysis.
“For instance, I recently saw a number of presentations at a conference on break rates of water pipes by material that claimed one material had a lower service life than another. When I returned to my offce, I was able to review our pipe repair history by material, separate out new installs and repairs due to pipe ﬁttings being the issue and drill down to the actual pipe failures within a few minutes. This showed that our data did not support the claim presented at the conference.
“It also helped me to identify ﬁelds that could be better deﬁned on our Pipe Repair work order to allow easier analysis in the future. A day later, these changes were made in InfoAsset Mobile, and improved data was captured from that point forward.”
InfoAsset has become mission critical for the Authority to operate and maintain their water and wastewater networks effectively day-to-day. Jim is looking forward to new features and improvements under way by the development team. He quips, “We’re not planning on giving it back any time soon."