Guest Column | September 22, 2014

The 'O' And The 'M' In Operation And Maintenance Of Water And Wastewater Treatment Plants

By Mufid Noufal

According to Sullivan in 2010, “Operations and Maintenance are the decisions and actions regarding the control and upkeep of property and equipment.” Operations are the activities to make sure the plant produces the desired quality and quantity of treated water and meets the current legislation, while maintenance are the activities to make sure the plant equipment continues to work efficiently to achieve the operational objectives.

Water and wastewater treatment plants are no longer traditional plants; monitoring is not just taste, odor, iron and manganese; water treatment facilities are more complex now a days, new technologies have emerged, raw water is more difficult to treat, the treatment requires more innovative solutions, there is an increasing demand for services, diminishing resources, rising service expectations of customers and increasingly stringent regulatory requirements. This all leads to analyzing and enhancing the way we look at operation and maintenance in the water and wastewater industry and the treatment facilities that should be developed and expanded to accommodate these dramatic changes.

Another reason is the growing trend in outsourcing the operation and maintenance of water and wastewater treatment plants. O&M is outsourced for the main following reasons:

  1. You are better
  2. You are less expensive
  3. The client can transfer operational headache (risk) to you, allowing them to focus on their core business

There are many books and articles talking about operation and maintenance and some are talking about the water treatment plant operation, but it seems that we are missing that comprehensive approach between them to successful operation and maintenance. This article will provide a comprehensive approach on the ‘O’ and the ‘M’ in the operation and maintenance of water and wastewater treatment plants.

The operation and maintenance of water and wastewater plants has been generally been broken up in to five main critical elements; operation, maintenance, engineering, training and administration – also known as OMETA (Sullivan, 2010).

OMETA Program (Sullivan, 2010)

The new approach is broken down to eight critical elements; WH&S plan, Scope of service, Operation plan, asset and maintenance plan, people, analytical protocols, communication and reporting, and administration.

The main objective of all elements is to support the effectiveness of the fundamental core element; operation and maintenance.

New O&M Program Plan

All of these elements should be well defined before starting an implementation process and analyze should be undertaken as to how these elements are linked to form a sound program structure. However the link is very obvious – O&M work together. These elements are analyzed below.

1. WH&S Plan

This is primarily a communication tool between the company and its employees, customer and contractors, to ensure that relevant site information is regularly updated between all parties and that safety is monitored, recorded and acted upon.

Benefits (why it matters):

  • Protect people and equipment
  • Reduce downtime and absenteeism
  • Legal compliance
  • Increase the skills and awareness of safety to all involved

Suggested components of WH&S plan:

A WH&S plan should include but not be limited to the following:

  • Site Safety Manual;
  • Safety Training;
  • Safety Audits;
  • Housekeeping Audits;
  • Safety Meetings;
  • Safety Reports (Near miss, incidents, observation, etc.);
  • Customer Specific Requirements;
  • Work permits;
  • Safety procedures (Lock-Out Tag-Out “LOTO”, confined space, working at heights, etc.);
  • Statement of responsibilities;
  • Incident Management;
  • Site Safety Rules; and
  • Identifying and managing risk.

2. Scope of Service

This primarily defines what, when and where work will happen, supply responsibilities and liability for deliverables.

Benefits (why it matters):

  • Clearly define deliverables to the team
  • Base for O&M planning
  • Inputs and outputs are clearly defined and executed to delight customers

The scope of service is usually extracted from the operation and maintenance contract; it defines the main objectives of the O&M service provided to the internal or external customers.

The scope of service should include the following as a minimum:

  • Take Of Points (TOPs) – these are the points where the scope of service starts and ends;
  • The raw water quality or influent window/s;
  • The treated water quality limits and KPI’s;
  • Reporting requirements both internal, external and regulatory;
  • Legislation and regulatory requirements;
  • Services Performed;
  • Maintenance Performed;
  • Overall Key Performance Indicators;
  • Liabilities;
  • HR requirements;
  • Billing details;
  • Contacts list; and
  • Organisational charts & responsibilities.

3. Operations Plan

This is the primary main operational objective which is to make sure the plant is operating in producing the design quality and quantity efficiently and consistently.

Benefits (why it matters):

  • Enhance tracking and decision making and control of KPIs;
  • Provide optimal operating efficiency;
  • Reduce waste;
  • Support proactive operation;
  • Support continuous process improvement and optimization; and
  • Reduce operating errors

The operations plan should include but not be limited to the following:

  • Operating Schedules;
  • Operating KPIs;
  • Data collection and monitoring;
  • Responses with corrective actions;
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP);
  • Work Instructions;
  • Checklists / Task Lists;
  • Operator Logs;
  • Product / Process Change Processes;
  • Chemical details (dosage, preparation, storage and inventory);
  • Process balance sheets;
  • Operation Sequence Charts (OSC); and
  • System settings & alarms list.

Once operating quantifiable parameters such as pressure, pressure drop, flow, temperature, pH level, turbidity and visual checks are properly defined, they are considered indicators that a control device is functioning as designed in accordance with the Operation Plan. Operating limits for each parameter may initially be suggested by the equipment manufacturer but may later be modified by the facility based on experience or operation during a performance test and operation of the plant.

Data collection is only one part of plant and equipment operational monitoring. Cumulative data collected should be used to produce beneficial information, represent key performance indicators and further enhance the defined operating parameters.

Proactive operation schedules include seasonal changes, shutdown periods, peak demand, low consumption periods, water quality changes and public holidays are all important factors to monitor and manage to increase overall plant efficiency. A response plan should be developed to deal with such different occasions and adjust the plant until the team gains more experience with such future proactive operation instances.

Important factors about data logging:

  • When and what data is collected;
  • How often it is collected depends on the criticality of the process;
  • Using online or manually collected data;
  • Transferring data into information summarized by KPIs;
  • Using the information to control and correct deviations; and
  • Consult with the equipment manufacturer.

4. Asset & Maintenance Plan

The asset and maintenance plan is primarily the processes and structure to ensure that equipment continues to deliver maximum value throughout its expected life and at the lowest cost.

Benefits (why it matters):

  • Protect asset value;
  • Reduce down times;
  • Reduce breakdowns;
  • Increase operational performances;
  • Increase resource utilisation; and
  • Improve profit and profitability

Maintenance items can include; inspections, cleanings, lubrications, adjustments, replacements and calibrations. Maintenance procedures may initially be suggested by the equipment manufacturer but may later be modified by the facility based upon experience.

Other important elements in the maintenance plan are:

  • Asset list which includes; asset name, description, asset number, location, criticality, condition, usefulness and value. The asset list will give the operator an understanding of the physical asset capability to meet the stakeholder’s expectations and regulatory requirements;
  • Implementing maintenance best practices such as; 5S, Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA) or Root Cause Analysis (RCA);
  • Proactive maintenance programs, especially for critical equipment;
  • Preventive maintenance programs which can include; cleaning, calibration, oil change, greasing and replacing consumables;
  • Critical spare parts list included items such as; correct quality, correct quantity, correct time, correct cost and correct supplier;
  • Tracked Work Orders;
  • Useful maintenance software such as ‘CMMS’ or even a similar style maintenance spreadsheet;
  • Tools list and the inclusion of some tools for proactive maintenance; and
  • Spare parts inventory.

5. People

This primarily includes managing employees and contractors.

Benefits (why it matters)

  • Right person, in the right place;
  • Continuous people development based on requirement; and
  • Increase employee’s satisfaction

Important items to address in managing people include:

  • Training based on skills matrix and training matrix;
  • On Job Training (OJT);
  • On Boarding and induction;
  • Communication;
  • Selection Process;
  • Performance reviews;
  • Job Description and responsibilities; and
  • Recognition and motivation.

6. Analytical Protocols

This is primarily defined as the quality monitoring of process efficiency.

Benefits (why it matters)

  • Optimizes processes and chemical dosing
  • Supporting decision making to control KPI’s
  • Proactive actions
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Reporting basis

In addition to the quality monitoring, the analytical protocol should also include the response plan to any deviation from control limit/s.

7. Communication and Reporting

This is primarily addressed as the communication of KPIs to the stakeholders and regulators.

Benefits (why it matters)

  • Forms basis for measurable business value
  • Provides mutual agreement of value delivered
  • Allows tracking and implementation of Best Standard Operation procedures
  • Fulfilling regulatory requirements
  • Identifies opportunities for improvement and expansion

Reporting may include:

  • KPI Communication;
  • Operational Activities;
  • Maintenance Activities;
  • Safety Compliance;
  • Non-Conformance Actions;
  • Profit and Loss “P&L”; and
  • Improvement of projects capital output.

8. Administration

Administration are all the supporting activities to main structure of O&M, this include:

  • Procurement
  • Contracts management
  • Budgeting
  • Book keeping
  • Public communication

Benefits (why it matters)

  • Effective management
  • Control of KPIs
  • Support meting regulatory and contractual requirement
  • Better public awareness
  • Provide a documents repository

Key Success Factors to the ‘O’ and the ‘M’ in Operation and Maintenance

  1. The size and complexity of the plan should match the size and complexity of the plan;
  2. Know your team skills and capabilities for effective resource utilization and understanding of training needs;
  3. Develop clear key performance indicators and metrics to measure cost and progress;
  4. Obtain senior management support and engagement;
  5. Program sponsor with authority to change;
  6. People, process, then equipment;
  7. Balance quick wins with continuous improvement;
  8. Focus on the trouble areas;
  9. Engage people with trust and respect; and
  10. Update stakeholders continuously on the progress