How One Utility Company Increased Productivity While Decreasing Costs Through Integration to its GIS Technology

By Ashley Jones

Western Monmouth Utilities Authority (WMUA), a wastewater treatment service provider for several towns in the New Jersey area, was using GIS technology to capture and analyze its geographic location data. Additionally, WMUA implemented a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that monitored its pump stations in real-time. With 18 vehicles in its fleet canvassing a large geographic area spanning 195 miles of sewer lines and 27 pump locations, Robert Noel, special projects/GIS manager and acting collection system superintendent for WMUA, realized the potential benefits of a GPS fleet tracking solution that could interoperate with WMUA's GIS and SCADA.

After reviewing several GPS fleet tracking solutions, Noel selected the Discrete Wireless MARCUS solution for its Web Services offering. Through an open API, WMUA could transfer data easily between the GIS, SCADA and its GPS fleet management solution. Noel wanted to be able to draw datasets from his GIS map, fleet tracking information and pump station monitoring in one, easy-to-access application and user interface.

The open API uses a particular set of rules and specifications that software programs can follow to communicate with each other. It serves as an interface between WMU's GIS and the GPS tracking solution to facilitate interaction. Noel is able to use open standards and protocols. The protocols and data formats are text-based where possible, making it easy to understand.

WMUA employees received the installation of the GPS tracking devices very well. Noel states, "We discussed the reasoning with our employees, including cost savings and safety, and in the early stages we worked with the staff to address idle time and routing issues."

How was ROI measured from the GPS integration?
Since the integration of the GIS, GPS and SCADA systems, WMUA has experienced increased efficiency for drivers, personnel and equipment." Noel was able to modify driver behavior through the reporting available within the GPS vehicle tracking solution. For example, a "start/stop" report enabled Noel to track driver behavior and make modifications based on the data. Since the tracking functionality was implemented, more work orders are completed in a typical workday.

Noel notes, "Because of the tracking functionality, driver behavior has been modified, making our fleet more efficient. We have increased productivity by 25 percent with the integration of the two systems."

Noel also attributes the GPS solution's Idle Reporting and Alerts to a more productive and cost-effective fleet. "Through user-defined alerts, I can immediately know when a vehicle has been stopped for more than 30 minutes when that is not the normal time for that particular vehicle."

While driver and vehicle safety were one of the main reasons for selecting the MARCUS Fleet Management solution, Noel says, "It was evident immediately that we had dramatic fuel savings utilizing the Idle Report functionality. Fuel costs were reduced by 10 percent."

In addition, Noel has been impressed with the solution's reliability, "The installation was extremely easy and we ran into no problems. As they say, 'time is money.'" Additionally, the GPS tracking solution has provided us with 100 percent reliability; we have had no problems with system availability."

Noel states that his fleet has been able to provide preventative maintenance, an important benefit, when delivering the treated water back into the environment.

One integrated solution, many benefits
Beyond the benefits gained from the GPS fleet tracking solution integration, Noel notes other benefits that have substantially improved his operations and the ability to share data throughout the organization. "With a type of dashboard access into all three systems, the benefits truly are three-fold. Clerks can access SCADA information in real-time and react to pump station alarms and issues. This can be anything from high wet wells when the pumps can't handle the amount of water or power outages."

This information is used to keep WMUA's general business operations, not just fleet operations, working at optimal levels. Case in point: customer service representatives can send the closest vehicle in their fleet to a situation in real-time. According to Noel, "Whether it's a regular part of our driver's day or an emergency, the ability to re-route a vehicle on the fly makes us run more efficiently."

Without all systems being able to integrate with each other, different departments would have limited visibility into different parts of the organization. Now, drivers, clerks, customer service and management can view WMUA's operations in a holistic view. Alternatively, senior management is strictly interested in whether or not WMUA vehicles are being used appropriately. They also plan to check fuel usage before and after implementing MARCUS GPS Tracking to measure results effectively.

Noel has plans to access all of his information from any mobile device; whether he's out in the field with a laptop, tablet or Web-enabled phone. Being able to react while in the field will allow him to streamline his operations through quick decision making and even quicker response times.

Once WMUA goes mobile, it plans to expand the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to report and track work orders through mobile devices, reducing or eliminating paperwork. Besides decreasing its carbon footprint, automating this process will increase productivity. Each team will be assigned routine work orders based on the area of assignment. Additionally, emergency work orders will be assigned based on priority and proximity. When that happens, WMUA will be a state-of-the-art utility organization maximizing revenue through increased efficiencies and decreased costs.

Published Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Written by Ashley Jones

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