Extending enterprise wide GIS to achieve tough efficiency targets
Compelled to meet tough Ofwat targets, Welsh Water implemented Esri’s ArcGIS Server and UtilityView solutions to deliver new and improved capabilities to both mobile and office-based employees. This enterprise-wide GIS approach has led to wide-ranging efficiency gains, improved customer service, more strategic asset management and lower IT maintenance costs.
Welsh Water is owned by Glas Cymru, a not-for-profit company. It provides drinking water and sanitation services to more than three million people in Wales, and some adjoining areas of England.
Replacing multiple fragmented GIS systems with a single Esri platform has reduced ongoing IT maintenance and management costs, giving the organisation a lower total cost of ownership
Integrated with SAP systems, ArcGIS allows Welsh Water to monitor the condition of assets, analyse fault histories and plan capital investments more strategically to improve customer service
ArcGIS has reduced the time required for risk analysis from five hours to ten minutes
In November 2009, the water regulator OFWAT set tight controls over the prices that Welsh Water could charge customers. OFWAT also stipulated that the utility company must cut operating costs by one fifth to improve efficiency and enable the average household bill to fall by £30 before inflation. In a press release issued in February 2010, Welsh Water admitted that these were “the toughest efficiency targets” it had ever faced.
Welsh Water needed to consolidate its network and asset-related data, making it readily accessible to all of its 1,800 employees. In its vision for the future, everyone would be able to access precisely the information they needed to do their jobs – whether they were speaking to customers from a call centre, modelling the requirements for a new housing estate, or surveying a burst pipe in a remote village.
We wanted to create a single,enterprise GIS that would present a clear view of our assets and then take this information right out to the sharp end
Kelvin Davies – ICT Change Manager at Welsh Water
Welsh Water launched a wide-ranging programme of IT-enabled change, upgrading its Geographic Information System (GIS) technology as a key part of this programme. As part of its business transformation, Welsh Water decided to develop a more consistent, enterprise-wide approach that would enable it to exploit its location-based data across the organisation.
Kelvin Davies, ICT Change Manager at Welsh Water, saw a real opportunity for the business. He says: “We wanted to create a single, enterprise GIS that would present a clear view of our assets – and then take this information right out to the sharp end.” At Welsh Water, ‘the sharp end’ is what matters most. It is where customer service agents interact directly with customers and where mobile engineers interact directly with the company’s assets to survey, repair and replace them.
Welsh Water replaced three disparate legacy GIS applications with a single platform from Esri UK based on ArcGIS Server. This provided a master database for all of the organisation’s spatial data. Welsh Water deployed a utility-specific web application from Esri UK called UtilityView; allowing network maps to be easily accessed internally for office workers, and also remotely and securely for mobile engineers and partners.
Welsh Water also integrates ArcGIS with SAP business applications to create streamlined business workflows. Every notification raised in SAP against a property or an asset, is now spatially referenced.
Welsh Water can run reports in SAP to identify its worst performing assets and map them in ArcGIS to expose patterns. When ArcGIS reveals trends, such as a stretch of water main that bursts regularly, plans can be made to replace it as part of the company’s capital investment programme, ensuring that it focuses its money on precisely the areas of its network that need it most.
Previously, it would take two hours to create a typical water quality drawing, but now the new system can produce ten in the same time. To identify above and below ground assets at risk of flooding might have taken five hours, but it can now be done in less than ten minutes
Gareth Paske – Asset Strategy Team Member at Welsh Water
Using Esri technology and Esri UK solutions, Welsh Water has succeeded in making GIS capabilities more accessible and relevant to all of its 1,800 employees and 900 users at various external organisations, realising efficiency improvements right across its business. These improvements range from mobile workers accessing GIS on toughbook computers to reduce the duration of roadwork disruption and costs; through to improved safety when excavating by accessing electricity networks from partners straightaway.
Cost savings are also being made through faster network modelling using ArcGIS Desktop solutions to analyse information and identify current and future asset investment requirements. Gareth Paske from the Asset Strategy Team was one of the first employees at Welsh Water to use the new enterprise GIS. Commenting on the solution, he says: “Previously, it would take two hours to create a typical water quality drawing, but now the new system can produce ten in the same time. To identify above and below ground assets at risk of flooding might have taken five hours, but it can now be done in less than ten minutes.”
Welsh Water also recognises that its new enterprise GIS has a lower ongoing cost of ownership than its previous fragmented systems and that efficiency gains are sustainable because GIS-related maintenance costs have fallen. “There is a big difference between what the company is expending now to maintain its GIS, compared with what it used to expend,” says Davies.
There is a big difference between what the company is expending now to maintain its GIS, compared with what it used to expend
Kelvin Davies – ICT Change Manager at Welsh Water
GIS now plays a greater role in disaster planning and helps Welsh Water to understand and manage business risk. If there is a failure at a service reservoir or a contamination, the organisation can assess the impact of that failure more quickly and identify customers affected.