Software Upgrade Wrings Actionable Information from Water Plant

June 4, 2012
A Canadian water wastewater operation that encompasses six separate treatment plants recognized its need to increase visibility into existing systems and spot trends to help them predict production needs.

A range of issues might diminish a plant’s ability to deliver water supply: flow issues, spiking electrical usage, greater-than-average demands by one water user on the network , etc. So, the operation needed real-time visibility into factors that affect flow. The facility also sought a way to improve data collection and reporting. The existing system relied on daily log sheets assembled by local operators from six treatment plants, and these often contained anecdotal information rather than actual or comprehensive metrics.

The utility enlisted Grantek (, an Ontario-based systems integrator and its partner, Rockwell Automation (, to implement a manufacturing intelligence strategy. Grantek’s solution uses FactoryTalk VantagePoint software to tap into systems data that has been automatically identified, gathered and stored by FactoryTalk Historian software. VantagePoint provides visibility into production by putting all this data into context through a Web-based reporting tool.

Grantek modeled the physical units of the facility (high lift pumps, intake pumps, e.g.) and plant processes (chlorination, filtration, e.g.), logged those names into a library, and created drag and drop functionality that provided an easy migration. The software is scalable and compatible with the operation’s legacy systems.

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Grantek’s solution also provided reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs), enabling operators, line supervisors, plant managers or executives to find a suitable level of detail for their role. “Role-appropriate visualization is critical to creating value for our customers,” says Rick Hargreaves, Grantek regional manager. “While an operator needs particular information to make quick decisions on the floor, a manager may only seek high-level dashboard displays that allows taking the measure of the whole system with a quick glance.”

The software further simplified the water/wastewater plant’s systems management by eliminating the need to know where the data came from. “Water facilities use a lot of chemicals,” for example, says Hargreaves. “Want to know how much? We created a reference tag that combines data from all the chlorine monitors across the enterprise with the click of a mouse. It significantly enhances an operator’s ability to access information with very little training.”

FactoryTalk VantagePoint software changed the water/wastewater operation’s information gathering and reporting process from a four-day ordeal consuming an average of two to four people, to about a half-hour of a single employee’s time. Not only that, but after Grantek used FactoryTalk VantagePoint to create a billing system for the facility to replace its manual entry spreadsheet system, management found a $100,000 billing error that had previously gone unobserved.

Says Hargreaves, “We know from experience that FactoryTalk VantagePoint software can fix the problems our customers bring to us, but it can also fix problems they don’t even realize they have. It’s this access to data that empowers operators with the ability to make improvements that ultimately save time, money and create a culture that promotes continuous plant improvement.”

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Renee Robbins Bassett, [email protected], is Managing Editor of Automation World. 

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