Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Christiansen can be reached at editor@limblecmms.com
Mar 17, 2022

Dealing With Changes In The Water Manufacturing Industry: 4 False Beliefs You Have To Avoid

Debunk the myths and misconceptions about emerging technologies and their benefits

Changes In The Water Manufacturing Industry

Digital transformation is slowly gaining traction in the water industry. Digitization has been slow in some utility companies due to the uncertainties and myths around emerging technologies and rigidity by some industry players. Like other sectors, the water manufacturing industry has continuously explored ways for incorporating modern technology into its operations. At the early stages, digitization in the water sector meant automating customer records and communications.

With advances in technology, it was necessary to digitize asset management. That saw the introduction of computerized maintenance management systems in utilities. There have been impressive strides in exploring water resources as satellite technology advanced. Experts are relying on satellite imagery to conduct groundwater surveys and forecast floods.

As the world gears towards Industry 4.0, several technologies promise to revolutionize the water manufacturing industry. There is continuous innovation in IoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data analytics, blockchain, SCADA, remote monitoring, and remote sensing technologies. All these technologies work in unison to collect and analyze data to improve operations in the water industry and enable players to cope with emergencies, optimize operations costs, organize workflows, deliver value to their customers and participate in sustainable global development.

Despite the numerous benefits of these technologies, there are a few myths and false beliefs among customers and organizations. These are delaying (or derailing) the implementation of advanced digital technology in the water manufacturing industry.

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1. Advanced analytics has minimal impact on operations in the water industry 

Access to data is at the center of operations across the water industry at the moment. That means advanced analytics is vital for present-day operations. Companies keep historical records on the maintenance of water processing and distribution equipment, customer data, network blueprints, and demand forecasts. Advanced analytics simplifies everything from maintenance and operations to customer service.

Why are companies hesitating to use advanced analytics?

  • There is a belief that the data from water and wastewater utilities are insufficient or poorly organized. With this notion, few organizations are using available data to streamline operations.
  • Operations in the water manufacturing industry experience very few changes and most activities are predictable. Therefore, companies can survive without advanced analytics. In reality, these companies need to collect data frequently to improve decision-making and uncover equipment or operational inefficiencies.
  • There is a belief that investment and advanced analytics may not yield returns on investment. Access to accurate data can provide the management with insights for minimizing energy and labor costs. Companies can realize an increase in revenues by using advanced analytics to monitor equipment in real-time, predict backwash cycles and optimize water treatment operations to reduce energy consumption.

2. Digital transformation can only happen by replacing old equipment with new devices

The digital ecosystem changes every day. As these changes occur, utilities hold on to the old infrastructure and equipment. Implementing digital technology does not necessarily mean that the company should overhaul its existing infrastructure. IoT devices, remote sensing technology, GIS mapping, and SCADA network can still work well with 19th-century infrastructure.

The integration of digital technology is still slow in the water industry. Mainly because of the belief that upgrades to the entire water network are necessary when introducing digital solutions. When designing solutions for the water industry, innovators pay attention to existing infrastructure and tailor the information technology devices and architecture to specific facilities.

Few companies have embraced digitization but failed in their quest. Such failures occur when the management is over ambitious and believes implementing multiple changes at once yields instant success. The need for instant gratification leads to complications in operations. Every company should have a plan for implementing and sustaining digital technologies. It includes training staff and continuous evaluation of technologies. Water companies should be ready to implement changes steadily and proactively resolve implementation challenges.

3. The prospects of AI in the water manufacturing industry are impractical

Is artificial intelligence in the water manufacturing industry a misconception? Why is AI technology lagging in this sector? Artificial intelligence revolves around autonomy, machine learning, pattern recognition, and advanced computer algorithms. Using technology in combination with advanced analytics can unlock possibilities in a sector that is the backbone of human civilization.

One of the beliefs among water sector players is that AI technology is still at the infancy stage. There are but a few experts in the field that can drive innovation in this technology. Some argue that water technology is fluid and cannot provide insightful data that experts can utilize to build initial learning models. There's a notion that very few water industry operations and practices have repeatable patterns that are reproducible.

Some players insist that it is difficult for computers alone to predict water usage and quality patterns. There is also the myth that the algorithms may not sufficiently predict weather patterns that play a role in water availability. Additionally, there is the notion that the available data is either disorganized or incomplete and will mislead the computers. Therefore, the computers will churn out wrong information. Of course, the industry can leverage available data and improve the distribution of sensors across facilities to collect more accurate data.

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4. Smart meters are unsafe

One of the technologies disrupting the water industry is using digital (smart) meters across the water collection and distribution network. Utilities are now enjoying better returns as they can remotely monitor consumption at customer points. The smart meters and SCADA systems enable companies to identify leakages and minimize non-revenue water. Smart meters have several benefits that are both customer-sided and utility-sided. Some customers still resist these meters. It is because of the misconceptions that they have around these devices.

Some consumers believe that the meters benefit utility companies alone. The customers enjoy far more benefits by using a remotely-monitored water meter. Customers can access accurate, up-to-date data to monitor their usage patterns over time. Using digital meters eliminates estimated bills.

Another false belief is that the smart meters emit radiation which is dangerous for the customer. The manufacture of these meters adheres to strict health regulations. Aside from that, some customers believe that the meters invade their privacy and can collect voice data. Others fear the meters are hackable.

Conclusion

Streamlining operations in the water industry requires access to timely and accurate data. Digital transformation does not stop at automating water processing and distribution equipment. It extends to the implementation of appropriate technologies for managing staff and customers. Experts in the water manufacturing industry should debunk the myths and misconceptions around emerging technologies and their benefits in the water manufacturing sector. None should write off artificial intelligence, IoT technologies, and big data yet. The industry needs to prepare to exploit these technologies and boost revenues.

About the author

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

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