By: Srinivas Jalla, CH2M Client Account Manager

Srinivas Jalla will be participating in this year’s Utility Management Conference, jointly hosted by the Water Environment Federation and the American Water Works Association. He will co-present the paper, “Changing the Culture and Implementing Best Practices to Achieve MORE (Maintenance, Operations, and Reliability Excellence),” with Clinton Davis, Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources (GCDWR) on Thursday, February 25.

See our full schedule of presentations at UMC 2016.

Leading utilities around the world have been striving to improve asset management. A critical way to improve asset management is through implementation of a robust asset maintenance and reliability program; however, for many utilities, despite leadership support and a concerted effort of staff, such programs do not live up to their promise.

Over the last eight years, Gwinnett County Department of Water Resource (GCDWR), in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, has worked to improve maintenance and reliability and is leading the way for other utilities. The GCDWR owns and operates almost $9 billion worth of water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and serves more than 850,000 residents of Gwinnett County, Georgia. While its asset programs were effective at operating and maintaining almost 8,000 miles of linear assets, the facility maintenance program (26,000 assets) was only marginally successful.

Revenue shortfalls, aging infrastructure, impending staff retirements and advanced treatment technologies at newer facilities led GCDWR to adopt a data driven decision making approach to identify and implement best practices for optimizing asset performance. By 2011, this best practices implementation effort included developing new work management processes, creating and hiring maintenance planners/schedulers for each plant, reorganizing the management team and creating an Asset Reliability Team with representatives from all facilities to standardize practices across the organization. However, after almost two years of these implementation efforts, some of the anticipated benefits had not been fully realized.

The utility modified its organizational structure in 2013 to improve effectiveness of best practices implemented and focus on core business functions (maintenance and operations). The vision for the program was named MORE—maintenance, operations and reliability excellence. The realigned structure and team based program implementation approach resulted in completing 60 percent more maintenance work and increasing the time spent on maintenance by more than 4,000 hours (the equivalent of two additional full time staff). Additionally, equipment availability, a reliability and maintainability metric, increased from 70 percent to more than 84 percent at one of Gwinnett County’s largest and most advanced water reclamation facilities.

However, one of the biggest success metrics was demonstrated by the visible change in employee engagement throughout the utility. The culture change and peer support network that the utility experienced as a result of its team based implementation approach is helping GCDWR sustain its continuous improvement journey to becoming a best in class benchmark utility.

I hope you will join us at UMC 2016 to learn the benefits and lessons from GCDWR’s journey for best practices your utility can implement for improving maintenance effectiveness. Follow the conversations happening at UMC by following us on Twitter (@CH2M) and use the hashtag #UMC16.

With more than 20 years of experience in consulting and local government, Srinivas Jalla works as a client account manager at CH2M. He is a certified project manager with experience in process selection, design, permitting, and operations optimization for wastewater systems. His passion for supporting utilities explore best practices and reduce cost of operations led to development and implementation of renewable energy, operations efficiency, asset reliability, energy management, and sustainability related projects. He works out of our Atlanta, Georgia, office.