Helping to become a data driven organization or how SAP contributes to water management systems set up
Thanks to years of intense conversations and (some) passionate discussions at the executive value network for water and wastewater services companies networking sessions, hosted by water companies from Europe and the Americas, a picture describing their main challenges and the IT strategies to face them has gained clarity, and with that we are realizing how SAP technology and application portfolio can help water companies to implement their visions.
Water scarcity, augmenting capex, legislation and compliance, aging workforce, inflation (energy prices) and sustainability compose a complex framework of requirements for water companies. Some are not new but its combination certainly is, and is requiring companies to define, or redefine, an IT strategy able to offer substantial gains in operation efficiency while extending current IT capabilities to become data driven organizations which can leverage intelligent information to their organizations. This “new horizon” of capabilities are based on the following principles:
- End to End integration of all processes
- Standard applications
- Real time data for process monitoring and analysis available
- Solid architecture to keep IT in control to enable all business initiatives
When architecting water companies’ IT vision and strategy, the goal of building an Integrated (or Intelligent) water management system, or IWMS, has been a in the center of the discussions. IWMS is understood as a data platform which provides secure access to data with enough quality and consistency to be utilized effectively and generate actions, insights and address innovative, research driven, scenarios answering questions like:
- Water balance: how the supply network works
- Non-Revenue Water: where are the main leakages
- Energy efficiency: which is the most effective usage of energy in the network
- Water quality: what is the real time view of the quality of your network
- Proactive asset management: health status and failure risk mitigation of the network assets
As from the illustration placed below, SAP vision is to provide the required platform complementary capabilities to build an Intelligent Water Data Hub, this is an unified data layer with additional services for the different “modules” or applications connected to consume that information. SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) has in its core a database structured for Big Data layers and with nested critical elements as, for example, spatial in order to offer natively an integrated spatial context for any data and process. Around this database, BTP brings and immense catalog of connectors and integration elements, from API libraries to synchronize master data and real time events handling in order to integrate multiple data sources as SCADA, Transactional systems (ERP), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), third party application files or smart meter data, as well as AI tools and services to work with the data. On top of these data services there is a list of available tools for analytics and business intelligence together with development and process automation services in order to create or integrate the applications required to consume the data for diverse cases.
During the last years we have been collaborating with a consortium of water companies of the Flanders region of Belgium to validate this concept. The result is the Smart Water Platform, a joint effort of FARYS, De Watergroep and PIDPA water companies in an Industry 4.0 collaboration around smart metering for water, new service design exploration of industrial IoT use cases and the pursue of operational excellence translated in a roadmap for the setup of the data platform and the incremental implementation of new capabilities and services consuming the data available.
The integration of smart meter data, which was following the regulator mandate to implement such technology as key enabler to combat the increase lack of water resources as for the climate change effect. This first step in the roadmap has enabled organizations the exploration of new technology, such as the digital meter and understand which was the right approach to have a common and reasonable business case towards the regulator based on:
- Communication of DaaS providers with a single cloud solution
- Joint data platform with links to the individual back-ends
- Uniform approach in market consultations and public tenders (economies of scale)
Once proved the architecture and live for a significant number of meters of the three water companies, deployment is yet ongoing in three directions: new meter installations (commissioning), new generation of analytics based in the consumption (DMA) data acquired and analysis of alarms while identifying the optimum tunning and usage of smart meter alerts being based on the device information. This subject has been identified of particular strategical interest because the experience acquired in replicating smart meter data from the different back ends, the configuration of conditions for alarms and alerts and the follow up analytics and actions to take with these events can be scaled in following stages to other companies critical equipments already sensored, such as pumps avoiding to create a new, isolated, application but scaling the existing one for these new asset categories.
Another case being implemented is the remote monitoring of the Water quality. Water companies are increasingly adopting these technologies which will transform and improve the way is monitored and secured the potability of water resources in the network. A peculiarity of the implemented scenario is the capability to compare the values provided by the remote sensors versus the values provided by the, still current, sampling analysis provided by the laboratory information system (LIMS) as to learn of the feasibility of this new technology adopter. Ongoing capabilities to implement are the simulation of network areas affected by the contamination detected or the integration with the service management area to connect with field workers to act on request.
Water balance, this is the capability to set up advanced analytical scenarios on the overall drinking water production and purchase, distribution and consumption. This case is of particular relevance not only for the great benefits and relevance of having such information but for the complexity to merge and model data from different sources like SCADA, GIS, ERP, Smart meters resulting a large exercise of data quality preparation and modelling and, realizing the large size dimensions of the data, the design of a reliable big data storage and capacity policy.
The use cases described follow a phased based pace which has been designed in purpose. As from the discussions at the executive value network for water and wastewater services companies networking sessions, we learnt from attendees the necessity that companies’ IT vision and strategy should be translated in multi-year plans to avoid sunk investments/costs and driving low TCO. This multi-year plan or portfolio of projects require, from one side, clarity on the business processes to implement, on the “to be” enterprise architecture and solid sponsorship for these transformation projects. From the other side, as an outcome, it is necessary to secure that in parallel to each of the projects there is a structural data analysis and a systematical approach to data management has been develop.