I once worked for a concrete pipe manufacturer who had an inventory management system we affectionately named “GLOB” – Go Look Out Back. When a customer placed an order, we walked out back and looked at what we had in stock. Later, when an integrated inventory system was installed, we were all cautioned about “GIGO,” not the insurance company, but Garbage-in-Garbage-out.
Program bugs exist in every automated integrated system, but the biggest bug of all is the Human Bug. Everyone wants to be honest, so you must reluctantly admit that machines make fewer mistakes. The dumb mentality of computers insures an error free environment. (Remember program errors are human errors too.) The more jobs you can delegate to a machine the more productive humans are, and the more accurate is the information you are gathering.
Let’s face it, GLOB and GIGO don’t work when you are building and maintaining an Infrastructure Management System. Although humans will make mistakes inputting the data, or the historical data itself may be inaccurate, manual input and transcription of existing historical records is still the logical place to start building your IMS database; but, you will have inaccuracies you need to correct and information that needs to be verified,
The key question is what you do to correct, verify, expand, and maintain the database? Do you still use the GLOB system to determine if your valves and hydrants are operating? Do you know how much water is available to fight a fire from each fire hydrant? How much water do you have for that new sub division? Do you accurately account for you flushing water? Do you continue to use manual methods to input collected data generated from the field; or, do you strive to eliminate human error, the GIGO factor? Do you rely on typing data into hand-held computers in the field, or do you find ways to automatically record field data directly into wireless hand-held computers and transmit data instantaneously over wi-fy to your IMS database? Do all your departments share access to your IMS database? The are tough and important questions you need to consider.
Any stone age argument that automation isn’t cost-effective just doesn’t examine the total cost of trying to manually maintain an IMS database. Incorrect and incomplete data often results in costly decisions that are just plain wrong. Improving management decisions more than out ways the cost of automating the data collection process.
Utility managers and politicians must realize the best solution doesn’t really cost more. Start searching today for ways to automate the collection of field data gathered during the simple work order events your crews do every day:
- Valve & Hydrant GPS Locates
- Valve & Hydrant Exercising;
- Fire Flow Testing
- Unidirectional Flushing
- c-Factor Testings
- Valve, Hydrant and Main Maintenance and Repair.
Every day these common work order events generate important information that can be used to determine the condition of your waterworks system infrastructure; automated equipment solutions exist to capture the information generated during each of these events in an accurate and verifiable manner. Start today collecting your data the right way. Move away from the GLOB mentality and search out automated solutions to eliminate the human condition that results in GIGO. I guarantee you will make everyone’s job a whole lot easier.
For a place to start your search, take a look at http://www.hurcotech.com/
(To be continued)