IT changes working practice
Severn Trent explains how laptops will streamline maintenance work
Workers responsible for mechanical, electrical and instrumentation maintenance
at Severn Trent Water will be given laptops in the near future. The company
is investing in over 300 Panasonic Toughbooks which will give maintenance staff
access to all the information they need to carry out their work and provide
instant records on completion of the task. The need to improve dependability
of assets is the driver of the project, as well as the need to meet OFWAT’s
price determination, but the company believes it will have many other benefits.
Under the present scheme, operatives dealing with the maintenance of equipment
and instrumentation at Severn Trent’s water supply and sewage treatment works
will have their own laptops. Through this they will be able to access all information
required, at any time and from any location. They can then feed-back all the
relevant data. “The way things operate at the moment the men come into
the depot, collect the day’s job tickets and then complete their jobs,”
explains Julian Garner, project manager for the MFW scheme. “Once a job
is completed, the details are recorded on the tickets which at the end of the
day are passed to the central office for recording. The details have then to
be input manually, which takes time.”
Under the new system, men can work independent of the depot. Job tickets and
health and safety information will be issued electronically, so staff can go
directly from home to their first job. Details of work carried out will also
be passed electronically into central records. This means asset management information
is available within 24h rather than several days later.
Severn Trent Water has more than 1,000 works spread over an area of 21,600km².
Maintenance operatives are required to visit a larger number of sites in a day
and cutting out the time spent travelling from home to the depot can save anything
up to an hour. With larger areas to cover, local knowledge is often less readily
available, but the laptop will give maintenance staff on-site instant access
to the relevant information. This is now possible through the Navigo system,
developed for Severn Trent by Cognica, in which all Severn Trent operating manuals
were made available electronically. Once the laptop is plugged in on-site the
engineer has everything he needs to carry out the work.
Severn Trent Systems is currently in the final stages of refining the dedicated
software for the laptops and integrating it into the existing business procedures.
The programme incorporates elements of the existing Scheduler resource management
application and FieldIT mobile work manager. Once the software has been finalised,
the company will start on an intensive training programme to familiarise staff
with its use.
The software is designed to be simple and straightforward, and is specific
to the proposed application. The hardware has also been selected after careful
assessment. The Panasonic laptops have been chosen because they are designed
to tolerate tough handling. “They are waterproof and can put up with the
odd bang without damage,” says Julian Garner.
The MFW project will mean a new way of working, and the effects on the whole
organisation are considerable. “This is a substantial change in practice
and involves re-engineering business processes to support the use of IT,”
Garner points out. “Also, we need to find out how the workmen respond to
working from home, and it’s not just they who will face change. Currently managers
see their maintainers on a day-to-day basis, and under the new system this will
In spite of the radical nature of changes in business practice and the substantial
investment in hardware and software, Severn Trent is confident it will pay-off.
More efficient deployment of staff, swifter completion of routine maintenance
and repairs, speedier response to emergencies and more effective and up-to-date
information on asset condition will all contribute to better asset management
and better management of resources. Severn Trent is already considering a similar
fieldworking system for those responsible for pipe laying and pipe maintenance.
The company expects to begin testing the system in August 2002 and will then
begin a roll-out programme on a county-by-county basis. “We hope to go
live early next year”, says Julian Garner, “and complete the project
in September 2003.”
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