I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic changed my life and the lives of my family and friends over the course of the last year. As we leave our masks at home and get back to life as it was B.C. (Before Covid), I’d like to keep a few of the habits I’ve developed during this time at home. For example, I’ve come to really enjoy the ritual of cooking fresh meals for my family each night. Selecting a recipe, shopping for the ingredients, and turning a group of items into a hearty meal takes a little more effort than just calling in delivery, but the results are a hundred times better.
Recently, I spoke with Esri’s David Wachal about the impact of the pandemic on the water industry, and what new practices utilities have adopted over the last year. This was the second time I spoke with Wachal about the subject in as many months.
“When we first began this conversation a year ago, we were all kind of settling in on how our lives and work had changed, and there was still a lot of uncertainty around what was going to happen,” Wachal said. “At that time, the utility industry was starting to experience [more] revenue shortfalls and there was a lot of nervousness about how things were going to play out.”
Indeed, the rapid shift to remote work was harder on utilities that had not yet started on their digital transformation journey, but when adopting a digital strategy was no longer an option but rather a necessity, the collective water and wastewater industries simply had to step up to get the job done. Today, the move toward digital strategies is growing in scope.
“[Utilities] are taking what they’ve learned [in 2020] and are now turning that toward the common everyday challenges that they’ve always had, including how to share and collaborate around a common source of data, how to optimize their work activities in the field and how to minimize service disruption to their customers,” Wachal said.
What seemed like a short-term solution has radically changed the way we do business, and we should continue that forward momentum if we want to be the best at our jobs. On page 10, author Obe Everett outlines how the Louisville Water Company, Kentucky’s first public water provider, embraced digital technology to transform its operations.
Everett writes: “With an eye on efficiency and service excellence, we sought to completely rethink our asset management program.”
Although the transformation was a massive undertaking for the utility, Everett says the benefits have been well worth the time and financial investments. Today, Louisville Water has reduced manual data entry by 530 hours per month, improved on-time arrival for customer appointments to 97 percent (despite a 226 percent increase in appointments made), and increased work order throughput levels by 23 percent.
“The use of real-time information for monitoring is quickly increasing, which is improving operational awareness and the decision-making capabilities of these organizations,” Wachal said.
As we leave the pandemic in the past, I hope that you’ll take some of the positive changes from the last year with you into the next one, whether that’s making more home-cooked meals or keeping up with new ways of getting your job done — wherever your work may take you. If you’re still thinking about your digital transformation, there has never been a better time to pick up the pace.
Thanks for reading! WW