UAE -- As the public utility charged with collecting and treating all the wastewater produced by the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, RAK Wastewater Agency (RAKWA) has its work cut out.
The emirate covers an area of about 2,478 sq km, has a population of some 345,000 people, and is home to thriving industries including leisure and tourism, manufacturing, cement and ceramics. It also produces 12 million cubic metres of wastewater annually.
To serve the emirate, RAKWA manages the operation and maintenance activities of four sewage treatment plants in addition to 330km of sewage networks and 13 lifting stations across the emirate. RAKWA is also responsible for the construction and management of public wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure, monitoring the trade effluent of commercial and industrial activities and regulating private wastewater systems.
The organization, which is one of four agencies that forms the Public Service Department of the Government of Ras Al Khaimah, is also responsible for managing the reuse of treated wastewater as part of its strategical objective towards enhancing the sustainability of Ras Al Khaimah, which has a bold ambition to re-use 100% of its wastewater by 2023.
Water management, collection and treatment is a complex and intensive task, which draws on a vast amount of heavy infrastructure and assets, all of which need to be maintained efficiently and effectively to ensure optimal performance. Furthermore, in a country with limited rainfall and high demand for water, RAKWA was under pressure to treat as much wastewater as possible in the interests of sustainability.
One of the key challenges that RAKWA faced was managing and keeping track of the maintenance of its assets, and particularly in ensuring that the quality of maintenance was uniformly high across all of its operations, including capital assets such as pumps, motors and pipes. Furthermore, with so many assets to keep track of, it was difficult for the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) department to have clear oversight of exactly where it should direct its maintenance resources. This led to reactive rather than pro-active maintenance, which meant that problems were often being fixed after they arose, rather than before. This approach led to higher maintenance costs, increased downtime and reduced efficiency.
RAKWA was keen to enhance the system and hired experts with the right skills to transform the maintenance function of the operations to increase its efficiency, capacity, and to modernise the systems through automation and digitalisation.
Walid Abdulrehman Mohammed, O&M department manager, RAK Wastewater, joined the organization in early 2017, and saw the need for a comprehensive means of monitoring and managing RAKWA’s assets, to help shift the maintenance from reactive to pro-active, and to enable the organization to make far better use of its resources. “The biggest challenge we used to have was the efficient utilization of man hours and also the accuracy of the operational data which actually affects your decision-making processes,” he said. “The data available about the assets was not accurate and not sufficient to conduct a proper assessment.”
After assessing a number of Enterprise Asset Management solutions from different vendors, the O&M department decided to implement Infor EAM. They chose the system over solutions from rival vendors due to its specific suitability for utilities, and especially wastewater operations.
The solution was implemented by Intertec, Infor’s technology partner in the UAE, in mid- 2018 and took about 6 months to install. This was a sizable undertaking and involved inputting data for all the assets, including pumps, pipes and motors, and key information about them, including their age and lifecycle. In total, some 3,300 assets – spread across 330km of sewerage network,13 pumping /Lifting stations, and four treatment plants with different capacities and technologies – were logged and entered into the system. This information meant that RAKWA could use Infor EAM to fully automate its asset maintenance, including daily schedules for the O&M team advising which assets to proactively check, repair, maintain or replace.
One year on from implementing Infor EAM, Mohammed and his team have no doubts about the immense benefits of the software and its transformative impact, both on the O&M division, and the entire organization.
RAKWA is now using Infor EAM to help manage assets across all its operations, from the collection network to the maintenance and operation of wastewater treatment plants. “All of these assets under each facility are managed through Infor, from the workholder level up to the asset evaluation, performance evaluation and store inventory and spare part management,” Mohammed said. “We have automated the whole process. We have removed all the paperwork and manual processes.”
This allows the maintenance team to plan maintenance tasks in advance and schedule tasks far more rigorously compared with the manual system the team relied on previously. “The most important challenge we face is improving the effectiveness of preventive maintenance. When we implemented EAM, we were able to reduce reactive maintenance. The system allows close oversight of asset performance and detects deviations before turning to failures, so corrections became easier, faster and cheaper, which reflected positively on the operational cost and service quality,” Mohammed said.
“This has an impact on the total cost of the O&M process. By doing the right preventive maintenance at a high quality, we are able to keep the assets running at optimal performance with less corrective maintenance and fewer costs. More assets can be maintained and repaired rather than replaced, and we are able to deal with damaged or worn assets before they break and cause damage or outages.”
The O&M team has also seen a clear reduction in the percentage of emergency-based work orders versus total work orders. Emergency work orders, where an asset is at risk of failing and threatens to disrupt services, have declined to about 0.4 to 0.45%, compared with almost 1% in 2018. This is a significant drop, with major positive reliability and efficiency gains for RAKWA.
RAKWA experienced further savings by using its manpower far more efficiently. Fewer hours wasted on reactive maintenance meant a lot more time spent on more efficient and effective preventive maintenance, creating a positive feedback loop.
Infor EAM is also helping RAKWA’s O&M team at a more strategic level. With access to accurate data, the team is able to make better decisions, particularly in terms of deciding on the timing of large maintenance projects. “Our decisions are made on more accurate data and more real time data being captured,” Mohammed said.
In this way, the system has enabled RAKWA to improve the way it governs and administrates the entire maintenance operation, which has in turn reduced human error. Indeed, the O&A division estimates that the amount of corrective maintenance and related work orders has reduced by 17%.
Mohammed estimates that Infor EAM has reduced costs across the entire operation by at least 3%. This equates to a huge financial saving, as well as helping to create efficiencies that help lead to an increase in the volume of water that can be treated and re-used. “We have a maintenance plan for all our assets, including the frequency, and each has a certain task to be implemented, so the system allowed us to make the plan and its execution far more efficient,” Mohammed said.
Given that the volume of water that RAKWA collects and treats is growing year-on-year, these savings will also grow. These savings are valuable and contribute to RAKWA’s aim of returning 100% of the water it collects for re-use. Infor EAM is also contributing to RAKWA’s ability to reduce its operational cost of collection and treatment per m3. It currently costs AED 0.65 to treat each cubic metre of water, while it was 0.67 two years ago. RAKWA aims to achieve 30% reduction in its operational cost for collecting and treating one cubic meter of waste water by 2023.
Looking to the Future
While the gains from Infor EAM so far have been dramatic, Mohammed and his team are keen to keep building on their current gains. They intend to continue adding more assets to the EAM programme and also implement other digital solutions, with the aim of transforming to become a “digital water” operation – an organization that fully embraces all available digital solutions to maximise efficiency and improve services. “The water industry is transitioning to what we call digital water and the digital technologies are offering us unlimited potential to transform the operations and processes that we have, so we are planning to move towards that,” Mohammed says.
One key part of this will be the introduction of IoT systems, along with the software to monitor and manage them. As part of this plan, the O&M division hopes to implement Infor’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution, to accurately measure past performance and forecast activities. “We are trying to install sensors to the critical assets that can then interlink with Infor directly, so that we will get instantaneous data, as well as building a data pool that will have medium and long term value,” Mohammed said.
This would give the O&M team an unprecedented insight into the performance of its operations, which would in turn help with everything from allocation of resources to the delivery of performance reports.
“Ultimately, it’s about improving water sustainability in Ras Al Khaimah. We’re proud with what we’ve achieved so far and are excited by the prospect of implementing more technologies to fulfil our goals in the near future,” Mohammed said.