South West Water cleaned up at last year’s Utility Week Awards, walking away with IT Initiative of the Year for its 'Pollution Prevention' initiative. Here’s why it won.

  • Category title:  IT Initiative of the Year
  • Award winner: South West Water
  • Title of project/initiative: Pollution Prevention Solution
  • Annual company turnover: £562.5 million
  • Number of directly-employed staff: 1400
  • Entry criteria:
  1. Quality of entry (clear, evidence based)
  2. Clear goals set for the project that were met or exceeded
  3. Measurable benefits for the business
  4. Effective and clear communication with a targeted group of customers
  5. Evidence of creativity

 

South West Water teamed up with Hitachi Consulting to deliver innovative solutions to minimise the impact of operations on the environment, improve customer service and comply with industry regulation.

Thus the Pollution Prevention solution was born, a scheme to prevent environmental impact from South West’s sewerage operations on coastal and inland watercourses.

The interactive tools allow operators, scientists and management to view what is happening (or could happen) in real time at a specific point in the network. Customers of the dashboards can then filter the display to focus on a particular time or specific locations that may be at risk. Automated notification can also be sent to maintenance crews to take action to prevent a pollution event from happening.

Ultimately the programme targets the full end-to-end operation, from predicting the likelihood of an incident before it occurs, through monitoring the live performance and failure of assets, to proactive communication with the general public and interested third parties.

What was the scale of the project?

South West says its historical performance with regards to pollution reflects the “relatively difficult geography and network infrastructure” of the region, adding that this does not accurately reflect the drive and ambition that wastewater operations has for improving its performance.

The company says it has sought out new technologies and information strategies to help manage operations, with the goal of reducing the frequency and severity of pollution incidents.

With a supply area including one-third of the English coastline, 15,700km of sewers, 1,200 pumping stations and 655 sewage treatment works, costing £35 million a year to maintain, there is no doubt the project to reduce pollution incidents is a massive undertaking.

Currently, South West deals with 8,500 blockages in its network, of which 65 per cent are caused by customers disposing of various products down the toilet. Every year the company removes 4,000 tonnes of fat from sewers.

What was the target group?

Because of large numbers of tourists, the resident population can rise from 1.7 million to eight million people. This creates a huge additional demand on the network.

Why this approach?

To deliver the project over 18 months, South West split developments into a series of eight to ten-week repeatable delivery models (iterations). This model fixes “time” and “cost” but allows the outputs to be flexible depending on what customer needs are as the project progresses.

Each iteration draws on resources from the customer in the form of a subject matter expert embedded full time into the delivery team alongside resources from South West Water IT and from its strategic business intelligence partner, Hitachi Consulting.

The team members who put together each iteration were handpicked for their technical or business process skills/knowledge specifically suited to that particular iteration. This, South West says, is only possible due to the depth of its resource pools. This ensures the company can respond to the needs of its customers rapidly, and both technical and customer focused decisions can be made quickly, ensuring eight to ten-week delivery targets are maintained.

Impact assessments are completed for each delivery and, once approved, a delivery plan that highlights week by week the achievements, milestones and governance gates needed to deliver the solution on time.

South West says the aim of this approach is to ensure it delivers a quality product, returns value to its stakeholders early, and builds incremental value in its technical solution and the data stored within the data lake.

What are the KPIs?

South West says the solution components are:

• Performance Modelling: Using predictive analytics to pre-emptively trigger maintenance of assets

• Risk Management Portal: An informative website which provides additional information to support decision making relating to the network

• Pollution Insights Dashboard: Combines multiple network telemetry signals and smart logic to provide insight and early warning to operators about the risk of pollution at a site

• Wastewater Treatment Works Dashboard: A suite of dashboards providing detailed information about the process performance of works

• Wastewater Operational Delivery Incentives Dashboard: A management level dashboard that continuously measures performance against the three ODIs (a water industry KPI) agreed with Ofwat

• Beach Live: A 90 per cent re-development of an existing system that provides bathing water quality information to the general public. The new system now fits with South West’s cloud computing strategy and provides a vastly improved service due to the creation of a complex rules and logic engine

• Gwithian Water Quality Partnership website. Currently available to external stakeholder organisations, this website provides information about a particularly sensitive river. SWW and Environment Agency monitors and sensors stream data into its cloud computing solution for analysis, which is then presented on the website in a number of interactive charts and graphs

How was creativity demonstrated?

South West’s Pollution Prevention solution comprises multiple components and has been designed to “maximise value” from data that exists within its organisation.

Historically this has been in silos or spreadsheets, which are manually intensive to process, but its new solution enables it to stream millions of rows of data from monitors strategically located on its network to its cloud computing environment to form a “data lake” .

This allows South West to connect with other data sources (such as weather), where it has the opportunity to transform, apply context and add logic to the data. The data is then used to feed its visualisation tools in the form of dynamic dashboards for internal teams, and public-facing websites and mobile applications for its customers in applications that update in (near) real time.

What was the impact?

The company says it is committed to providing a “sustainable and efficient service” across its wastewater operations and has been working with Hitachi Consulting to ensure this is achieved. The partnership has been able to deliver innovative solutions to minimise the impact of operations on the environment, improve customer service and comply with regulations.

Who was involved?

Two key players in the initiative are IT delivery manager Natasha Grange and Toni Melia, programme manager.

Were there any hurdles along the way?

South West says a major hurdle in the Pollution Insights project was identifying the correct iSCADA signals in the mass of data. To combat this, the IT team had to work closely with the business to pinpoint the appropriate measures.

The logic engine for the new version of Beach Live was rewritten from the ground up. The team said handling the complexity of tidal movements against moving 15-minute windows was a “real challenge” for them.

What the judges said

The judges felt this is an impressive project which provides benefits for many customers and stakeholders. They saw it as a valuable example of how IT can be used to bring genuine insight.

Winner’s comments

Toni Melia, programme manager, South West Water

“This further demonstrates the value of IT-driven business intelligence to analyse our data in new ways, resulting in improvements to the services we provide to our customers and a reduced impact on the environment.

“Our strategic partnership with Hitachi has allowed us to utilise the specific skills, knowledge and expertise in both organisations to deliver innovative solutions.”

Natasha Grange, IT delivery manager, South West Water

“This award recognises the value of women in IT, as this initiative was led by women at project, programme, portfolio and account manager levels.”

The Utility Week Awards are held in association with CGI and Capgemini.The 2018 Utility Week Awards shortlist is available to view at www.utilityweekawards.co.uk

Sponsorship opportunities are available – contact Utility Week business development manager Ben Hammond on benhammond@fav-house.com or 01342 332116 for more information.