“Are We Ready for a CEM solution?” – What’s Needed for Success

Utilities considering a Central Event Management (CEM) solution are often unsure if they are ready to deploy and adopt such a system. Leveraging our experience with utilities that have implemented TaKaDu, this article summarizes the fundamentals that are needed, including tips on how to best ready your organization.

Professionals in water utilities constantly assess their operation and look for ways to improve their performance – by reducing Non-Revenue Water (NRW), increasing resources throughput , and improving customer service. That’s a given. But the question is how?

While many recognize that a CEM can offer all those benefits and more, they’re not sure if they are ready on an organizational level to implement and maximize such a solution. The uncertainty holds them back from moving forward.

The real issues involved in assessing your readiness for CEM

The reality is, all enterprise solutions come with requirements to ensure successful deployment and adoption. In the case of a CEM for water utilities, these include leadership from top management, devoted attention of a multi-disciplinary team, funding, an open mind to assess and modify working procedures (i.e., transformation), recurring maintenance efforts to keep the network in good working condition, and implementation of the District Metered Area (DMA) concept. Some even question if their operation is big enough to warrant a CEM.

Using TaKaDu as an example, I’ll elaborate on each of these points and help you assess your organization’s readiness to deploy CEM. But first, a spoiler: top management leadership is the most crucial factor. Being open-minded to transformation is the most challenging aspect; the size of the utility and its location are not even a consideration.

Where to start

Fundamentally, utilities should adopt the DMAs concept before deploying TaKaDu. This means division of the network into closed supply zones (DMAs), installation of automatic flow meters, continuous measurement of the DMAs’ incoming and outgoing water, collection of meter readings in a central repository, and the ability to automatically extract and share that data with TaKaDu according to predefined schedules.

Should you wait until you have covered your entire network with DMAs and all meters are in perfect working condition before considering TaKaDu? The answer is no. Once you have a few DMAs, you can already deploy TaKaDu.

Often 10-20% of the meters aren’t in good working condition – even if you have extensive DMA coverage – and this shouldn’t be a barrier either. More so, TaKaDu can actually help with these kinds of “holes” as immediately after going live, it will give you a full picture of the state of all meters, enabling you to assess and fix the relevant meters at your convenience.

So while complete DMA coverage will ultimately give you the most benefit from the monitoring system, this can happen gradually and in parallel to a TaKaDu rollout in zones with operative DMAs.

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The people perspective

No matter how great a technology is, it takes people to succeed. For a successful TaKaDu deployment, we recommend a multi-disciplinary deployment team, comprised of a minimum of one person with knowledge about the water network topology, and one person from IT to extract and share the required data with TaKaDu.

For deployments at larger utilities, the team tends to grow and include additional members from each discipline, as well as a project manager who coordinates activities throughout the process. Our eight-week deployment and non-invasive integration methodology simplifies and minimizes the efforts required for onboarding.

Once you go live, with all the actionable insights generated 24/7 by the system, you may need to re-assess your existing work procedures, and modify them accordingly – as questions like who assigns tasks to whom, and how to prioritize them arise.

For example, before deploying TaKaDu, it may have been customary to send Field teams out to visit and assess each DMA following a predefined schedule, once a year. With TaKaDu, however, this workflow changes, and visits are instead determined by need. This means certain system users assign field teams on a per-case basis to manage leaks that the system detects. In so doing, utilities become more efficient and need smaller field teams to fix the same number of, or even more leaks.

Although this transformation improves the utilities' network condition and performance, it affects the way departments and individuals operate, and as a result the expected transformation rarely happens by itself. In practice, senior managers lead the process through their bird’s-eye view of the operation, by driving cross-departmental collaboration, and by encouraging managers and employees to modernize outdated procedures. This ultimately makes utilities more proactive as opposed to being the "fire fighters" they were before. In turn, this brings many benefits, including: bridging silos, increasing the workforce’s capacity to perform more activities, shortening turnaround for maintenance activities, and expediting response to customer requests.

Budgetary considerations

In most cases, the value from using TaKaDu is substantial, with utilities reporting ROI of around 5X-10X. Compared to other operational costs, the TaKaDu solution is affordable, but still requires senior management approval.

Long-term commitments

To get the most out of your investment, however, you will need to regularly maintain your network to keep it in good working condition.

Since the system highlights areas of the network that require extra attention and assets that are not working well from time-to-time, you will need sufficient capacity and resources to manage the events it detects, resolve the problems, and fix and replace meters and other assets accordingly. One may view this as stating the obvious, as it would seem that every utility maintains its network systematically, however, experience has shown this is not always the case.

Finding the perfect time

As CEO of one of our veteran customers once said: "There is never an ideal time to buy the TaKaDu solution. Our natural tendency is to think we are not ready, and continue perfecting the state of the meters, DMAs, processes, and collaboration between departments. With this approach we incrementally improve our performance. However, unintentionally, we miss or delay a bigger opportunity to benefit from adoption of a new and modern technology.”

Instead, he continued, "my recommendation is to adopt the DMAs concept [as mentioned above], guide mid-level management to start the deployment of TaKaDu, and launch the transformation process towards the end of the deployment."

I cannot agree more with this approach.

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