How To Lower Expense With A Wrench
In the previous article, The Advantage of Sourcing Combined Technologies, we saw how technologies, when sourced from a single competent manufacturer, minimizes time, costs, and risk. In this article, we see that it doesn’t stop there. Through careful evaluation and prequalification, a manufacturer who has the proven experience with complete systems to create a combined process, sets the wastewater treatment plant up for success right from the start.
The quality of the machines put into service, as well as the combined units’ performance, will be essential in providing a basis of reliable operation for the entire design life of the technology. Once the equipment has been installed and successfully started up, how the machines are operated and maintained can make the difference between success and failure in the long run. Similar to partnering with a qualified manufacturer during the project design phase, it is of vital concern to vet manufacturers’ service capability. Look for a manufacturer with an established service record, who is readily available to assist plant operations staff. A robust service organization is a critical resource that needs to be available for the entire design life of the technology. In some cases, this could mean decades.
Long-term Success Starts with Proper Training
Many competent and experienced operators run wastewater treatment plants throughout North America. In many cases, they have hard-won practical knowledge by dealing with unforeseen challenges of operating and maintaining processes. The key to securing staff buy-in is providing personnel a clear-cut explanation of the intent and purpose of the design of the new or upgraded treatment processes. A comprehensive start-up and training program is essential for accomplishing this task.
Before construction starts, during the initial selection process, properly evaluating the capabilities and proven competence of the technology provider is an integral part of the due diligence for the owner and operator of the treatment plant. Expecting the manufacturer to instruct operations personnel at the plant effectively is reasonable. By carefully vetting the full range of manufacturing capabilities, you can build the platform for a successful start-up.
In many circumstances, the start-up and commissioning of new treatment technologies happen before the operations personnel joined the organization. In some cases, operators lack access to information before the completion of the construction phase. Under these conditions, it is best to prepare the proper documentation on start-up and operation that can translate clearly and effectively. Developing the right documentation is necessary to train staff who will run the equipment from the initial start-up through the technology’s entire operational life.
Maintenance Is a Wise Investment
In the article What To Do With Street Sweepings and Vac Trucks, Benjamin Franklin was cited as having the vision to anticipate clean streets essential to creating safe and sustainable growing cities. Mr. Franklin was a practical man, fully vested in seeing that the newly formed nation was off to a good start. Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While he was explicitly addressing the causes of fire, prevention strategies are solidly appropriate for the successful and sustainable operation of a complex wastewater treatment plant.
Donald Renner served as an equipment maintenance consultant based in Bartlett, Illinois up until his passing in 2004. He is the author of Hands On Water and Wastewater Equipment Maintenance Volume I and II. Mr. Renner regularly contributed to various publications, specifically focusing on providing essential information for a general understanding of how components function to keep equipment operating correctly. A profound observation he made was, “All plants probably have some kind of maintenance program in place. In many instances, however, maintenance amounts to repairing equipment that has broken down, or abandoning it and replacing it with new equipment. Breakdown maintenance is far removed from what is considered good maintenance practice”.
Mr. Renner went on to say, “The bottom line of any maintenance program is that it can be one of the most economical tools available for achieving a cost-effective operation. Maintenance is often viewed as overhead, but it keeps costs down when implemented properly”. Preventative maintenance can contribute to lowering the actual costs of operation of the treatment facility.
Maintenance is where Benjamin Franklin’s idiom about investing an “ounce of prevention” has a relevant application to the modern wastewater treatment plant. Applying the knowledge of how each component works and operating the technology according to competent instructions is one crucial step. By correctly maintaining equipment through its operational life, a treatment plant can realize the maximum value of that investment. Catastrophic breakdowns are also easier to avoid.
Call in The Cavalry
To be fair, much is asked from operations and maintenance groups at most treatment facilities. Operational budgets are tight, and staff are challenged to do more with less. So while preventative maintenance demonstrates a proven means of lowering actual operating expenses, current fiscal restraints limit the implementation of a full functioning progressive maintenance program.
So far, we have looked at various levels of competence a manufacturer can possess to provide better support for a plant’s start-up and operations. In addition to process, training, and service competencies, it is ideal for a manufacturer to provide service advice to guide plant operations personnel. Seasoned advisors can not only help fine-tune operations for better efficiency, but they can also spot anomalies, which could lead to catastrophic failure. Additionally, a well-staffed service group can also provide annual maintenance agreements that can liberate plant personnel to turn their attentions elsewhere.
Smart Technology: the Next Step in Maintenance and Prevention
The implementation of smart technology in water and wastewater infrastructure is on the rise. The Smart Cities phenomenon enables enormous leaps in providing insights into the functioning and running of the urban infrastructure. Wastewater treatment plants have rapidly assimilated this approach to optimize operations and maintain critical performance parameters.
Monitoring operational systems within the treatment process in the plant provide an opportunity to conduct preventative maintenance tracking. Most of the technology within a treatment plant using PLC controllers can be configured to be remotely trackable. Additional possibilities begin to emerge for individual pieces of equipment in the process. Through the use of sensors and cameras, systems can alert operators to take action to prevent major failures.
The design and operation of wastewater treatment facilities are becoming more intertwined with emerging new trends in project fulfillment and refined operations. The role of the technology provider is just now being discovered as a strategic resource to employ relevant innovation and achieve emerging sustainability goals. A progressive and established manufacturer can provide practical solutions along the entire life cycle of the technology.