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City Improves Visibility into Its Water System With Production Intelligence Software

Challenge

  • Operators for a major city’s water system were unaware of problems at pump stations until well after they had occurred

Solutions

Results

  • Readily accessible operational data allows operators to be more responsive
  • Insights into water level, flow and run time help engineers and contractors verify operational data and optimize new flow models
  • Compliance and production reports now automatically generate in minutes versus hours

How to best disburse water and wastewater has been pondered since the dawn of civilization. Bronze Age societies were able to manage basic sewer networks leading out of the city. Today, the advanced systems that pump and process water and wastewater under our communities are a necessity of everyday life.

In one major American city, the public works department manages an extensive water system that supplies water to more than 800,000 people. Water in the city and surrounding area flows to 116 pump stations, and those stations feed water and wastewater into 16 processing plants.

The pump stations are designed to handle a predictable daily flow. But as population density increases, the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure becomes increasingly complex and difficult to maintain. An unpredictable event such as a heavy rain or a clogged pump could lead to water exceeding a pump’s capacity, resulting in overflows that can be harmful to public health and the environment.

Access to pump operational data was needed to help workers respond to such events, and to help the department meet its obligations to the EPA.

Flushing Out Inefficient Data Access

Without operational data from remote stations, operators couldn’t see problems at pump stations until well after operations were interrupted. At the same time, the public works department was tasked under a consent decree issued by the EPA to update its SCADA system with operational data from pump stations.

“We knew delivering operational data was required, and we already had the capability to measure the amount of an overflow,” said a supervisor for the public works department. “We could pull a certain time period from our data logs, and a report could be provided within a few hours.”

A server housed in a department facility stored 15,000 data points measuring water levels, flow and run time. To provide a report, files were first exported to excel and then manipulated.

Starting in 2011, the department’s engineers and contractors turned their attention to another section of their consent decree: creating a flow model of the sewer system. The shift meant that in addition to overflow data, operational reports would be required from the pump stations.

“One hundred and sixteen pump stations with 15,000 I/O points create a considerable amount of data,” the supervisor said. “Some reports could take hours to compile. In some cases, mining the data for specific trends was nearly impossible without pre-configured procedures for processing incoming data.”

There was no way to collate the needed data in a coherent, timely manner. The department needed a wastewater solution that could efficiently provide any engineer or contractor reports with timely, relevant information.

Building an Information Pipeline

“At project initiation, we set goals that centered on what would offer the most streamlined system for different users,” the supervisor said. “A single data repository needed to be in place, different users would need ease of access to data, and it would have to accommodate future expansion and upgrades.”

The department selected the FactoryTalk software suite from Rockwell Automation to gain access to production intelligence. This solution would allow employees to use one portal to request and pull fixed reports, or generate reports based on their specific needs.

The decision was encouraged by previous experience with Rockwell Automation ControlLogix and MicroLogix controllers, which were used at many of the pumps. The integrated control and information system would decrease time spent implementing new software and verify that incoming data was delivered correctly from the controller.

To calibrate and optimize the manufacturing intelligence solution, the department needed a collaborator that had expertise deploying information solutions for utility companies. It turned to Automated Control Concepts, Inc. (ACC), a Solution Partner within the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program.

By implementing FactoryTalk Historian Site Edition software, ACC was able to provide meaningful structure and timestamps to the raw data coming from the pump stations. With storage procedures and indexes for larger data requests, the historian optimized the potential for reporting – even with an ever-growing number of organized I/O points.

To analyze and report all the incoming data, the department selected the FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI software. Employees can use the software to dynamically select tags by station and receive automatically generated reports on water level, flow and quality.

“With new access to the information from our pumps, engineers and contractors can better model water flow, allowing us to verify operational data and develop new flow models,” the supervisor said.

Operating Data Now in Full Flow

With the new software solution in place, the public works department’s engineers and contractors have gained the reports they needed to create a flow model of the sewer system. This has helped them meet EPA requirements while saving time required to develop compliance reports.

Now, the department is now looking for ways to further leverage the software.

“We accomplished our goals set at the outset of this project, which has improved the ability to create flow model for the county that detailed what our wastewater infrastructure could realistically pump,” the supervisor said. “The current solution has prepared us for future growth; we’re going to virtualize the HMI and historian, and increase the data points in the manufacturing intelligence solution.  We’ll soon teach county employees how to best use the software in order to have access to exactly what they need, when they need it.”

The results mentioned above are specific to this organization’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

ControlLogix, FactoryTalk, Historian, MicroLogix and VantagePoint are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.

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