AWWA 2001: Westin introduces web-based visual management solution

At the AWWA national conference of water industry professionals Monday, Westin introduced its electronic Visual Management System (eVMS).

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2001 — At the AWWA national conference of water industry professionals Monday, Westin introduced its electronic Visual Management System (eVMS).

The new custom-tailored web-based solution correlates essential, previously unreachable information about a business enterprise - and can help enhance productivity, system reliability and public safety.

Westin's development and implementation of an information- and management-oriented eVMS for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) was recently profiled as the cover story of a leading water industry magazine. The DWSD is the nation's third largest water utility, serving 113 communities, and has the largest wastewater treatment plant in the United States.

eVMS provides access to information through a web-browser interface that is linked with enterprise applications, business-critical systems, regulatory requirements, eCommerce sites, news and weather. eVMS then aggregates this information and presents it in an intuitive, visual format that helps utilities effectively plan and manage daily operations.

"We identified the market need and a strong desire for a solution of this kind about two years ago," said Doug Harp, Westin's president and chief executive officer. "Since then, we've developed eVMS to meet many common water and wastewater business and operational requirements."

Harp said the cost of each system depends on the needs of each customer: "It can range from several thousand to several million dollars — but eVMS can also pay for itself within 24 months of implementation, and we offer multiple payment and delivery models."

"Our clients range from relatively modest water districts to enormous, regional systems," Harp said. "For example, we recently were selected by a mid-sized water district in Sacramento County, California, which has fewer than 19,000 water connections. For that contract, we'll probably base our billing on a subscription basis. At the other end of the spectrum, of course, is our implementation of eVMS at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. For that contract, DWSD is hosting the system on its own networks."

Libby Alumbaugh, Westin's vice president for information technology, pointed out that before any system is installed, "We always do a thorough needs and budget assessment for a potential eVMS customer. As an engineering solutions firm, we share a very important trait with our customers: we hate surprises."

eVMS integrates, extends and connects all business functions related to an organization's customers, employees, suppliers and stakeholders. Information from business, operations, energy and asset management can be seen in a single, aggregate view that is personalized for each user, from operator to executive. Within this view, complex data can be rendered graphically and geographically; this streamlines decision-making by tying together disparate information resources, then distributing information to those who need it.

Users can quickly drill down or across systems to access needed information. This combination of user interface, data and application access and transactional tools provides a portal for utilities to conduct business.

"eVMS encourages collaboration between employees throughout an organization," Alumbaugh said. "Because information is aggregated, users spend less time searching for information and more time collaborating, communicating and taking action."

Through visual-alert triggers, users can identify key information they want to track or act upon. Performance thresholds can be defined that send alerts to any personal computer or device with Internet access - including smart phones, beepers or mobile-computing devices.

Users can also report or track trends on a targeted system environment or business condition. "For example, a pump malfunction could simultaneously initiate a work order to a maintenance crew and appear as a piece of data in a workload report," Alumbaugh added.

Because of its reliable, proven architecture, eVMS system administrators can configure, maintain and manage eVMS without high-level skills or extensive training. "The technology used to build eVMS is the exact same technology used to build AOL, Yahoo and NASDAQ," she said.

Solution Delivered in Detroit

As part of an extensive system upgrade aimed at achieving long-term, sustained compliance, Westin delivered eVMS for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). Westin customized DWSD's eVMS to coordinate internal communication, centralize oversight and promote proactive management. The system correlates previously unrelated systems, enterprise applications and databases, business processes, capital improvement projects, maintenance activities, asset status, industry research, guidance documents, plant operations, activities and events. Through its transactional capabilities, eVMS automates manual-data collection processes and streamlines workflow across departments. In addition, eVMS provides reports required for regulatory compliance.

"I am such a believer in eVMS's ability to improve the department's efficiency and productivity that I am tying my next performance evaluation solely to the successful delivery of eVMS," said Gary Fujita, assistant director of Wastewater Operations, City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Detroit, MI.

Westin Background

Westin, which has offices throughout the United States, has been delivering technology solutions to a number of industries for more than 20 years. The company's mission is to replace problems with innovative solutions by combining leading technology, proven business strategies and business-critical systems.

The company delivers tactical and strategic outcomes tailored to meet clients' specific business requirements, specializing in the delivery of effective business solutions to water/wastewater utilities and public-sector agencies. Westin's projects include some of the largest information technology and real-time control system implementations in the utility industry — as well as custom IT applications, business solutions, telecommunications and networking solutions.

"Westin conducts extensive research to help our clients further define common requirements, information needs and tools," said Harp. "This knowledge enables us to tailor information that's important to the operator, engineer or the general manager as well as to a utility's specific needs and requirements."

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