Monthly Archives: May 2012

DATA IS LIKE JAM

Understanding the complex infrastructure of a utility system is the key to managing its assets and controlling your system. Infrastructure-101 teaches that accurate data is necessary before we can even start to evaluate and manage a utility system. GIS systems with streets, property line demarcations, and customer identification and accounts are only the beginning.

For example: If your interests are water, wastewater, reclaimed water, and storm utilities, on top of the standard municipal GIS database , you want to overlay water plants, storage tanks, pumps, electrical grids, telemetry, thousands of valves and hydrants, millions of feet of mains, backflow prevention equipment, corrosion monitoring, and water meters, and you’re on the right path. On top of these, add wastewater layers with manholes and lift-stations, distributions and collection mains, more treatment plants and pump stations, telemetry and power grids and you’re getting closer to a meaningful database. Now add reclaimed water mains, valves , hydrants, mains, plants and more power grid information. One more layer to add is storm water collections system pipes and structures and environmental monitoring stations. Have we overlooked anything? What about quality results from lab reports from water treatment, condition assessment of mains, valves and hydrants, flushing programs, and all the required reports. Do you want to attach operational assets like fleet maintenance information , computers, software, buildings, and security? Better add and capture historical data too. Mind boggling isn’t it? And, we have not even asked the important questions.

The Queen in Alice in Wonderland might ask you, “If you have data yesterday, and you have data tomorrow, but you never have data today, how many times a week do you have data?” Do you remember the answer? The Wonderland analogy applies to 99% of all municipalities that have data stored somewhere. Ask yourself, “Is the data I have collected complete and accurate enough to be of use? Do I trust it enough to make reliable managment decissions? Is the data being collected in a reliable manner that insures accuracy? Or, do I need more current data before I make a decision?”

Right this moment, today, can you say your database has accurate and current information about all the valves, hydrants and mains in your system? Or, are you not sure? The Queen might tell Alice, “If you are not sure, then you never have data, becasue it’s always today.” To which Alice would honestly reply, “But you always need data today, otherwise why have it at all?”

Everyday you are investing a great deal of money in an infrastructure database, to provide information when you need it for making decisions. You need accurate, current, complete data, otherwise you don’t have data. Your have junk. Remember, “Junk in, junk out?”

So in true Alice like fashion, you scream in frustration! “How can I possibly always have all the data I need? And how can I expect it to be current and accurate. Alice, you’re right, it is always today; but, my systems are evolving and changing by the hour, much less by the day; it’s impossible to have a current history on all my assets!”

Your frustration is understandable and the question is well put. The answer is you cannot expect real time information on all you assets. However, you can expect the data you have collected to be accurate, and verifiable to the best of your ability. You can expect to maximize the quality of your collection effort to insure accuracy and minimize cost. If you are still manually collecting and transferring data into your database, you will have develped many inaccuracies in your overall records.

Today, there is no reason to allow inaccurate data to creep into your information management system. Inexpensive technology exists to automate data collection and verify information already entered. Manual transcription of data is out. GPS locates, test data from valve & hydrant exercising , fire flow test data, unidirectional flushing and c-Factor test data can all be collected automatically and downloaded to any infrastructure management system. All this information is verifiable and accurate. You can rely on it. Plus, automated collection efforts are much less expensive compared to manual systems.

If you haven’t already considered maximizing automation of your data collection effort, you should start today. The answer is out there. Take a minute to search for it. Your will be pleasantly surprised. You might consider starting with a visit to the HURCO Technologies website.

You do know, Alice in Wonderland really isn’t a children’s book?