Water pipe

Thames Water has spent £4 million pounds on a project to consolidate and transform its operations and control centre in a bid to create a single view of its systems’ data and improve real-time analytics.

The AORTA (Asset Operations Real Time Analytics) project has allowed the utility provider to consolidate data feeds from a number of legacy control systems, including production planning, water in supply and event monitoring, into a single platform.

Thames Water has implemented Wipro’s OSI PI system as this main platform, which it claims allows it to create this ‘single version of the truth’ and is scalable to store 20 years of operational data.

Chris Featherstone, head of operational control and planning for Thames Water, explained that the motivation behind the project was to upgrade legacy systems to improve customer care.

"As a control facility we have tried to adopt a model which allows us to bring into one building the majority of our control, planning and scheduling applications, along with our customer contact facility. This allows us to bring all the information we need to deal with ongoing service issues for our customers on to one floor area,” said Featherstone.

"The main drive was to ensure that we had clearly defined and joined up processes that allow us to drive a higher degree of customer service. It hasn’t been driven from a cost savings perspective, it’s been about trying to deliver the best possible customer service.

"However, if you get that level of customer service right, you are not doing any repetitive work and you are getting those processes right, which is a more efficient way of working anyway."

Featherstone explained that the company’s previous system, OMS, had come to the end of its life and invested in the Wipro tool, which was £700,000 of the total £4 million project cost, to move to real-time analytics and planning.

“As an industry we have historically worked by receiving an alarm and then sending someone out to do a job, but the trend is now to move towards real-time control and the use of data and information to be on the front foot and predict potential problems,” he said.

Thames Water has been operating on the new AORTA platform for over a year now, but is still consolidating legacy systems on to it. Production planning, for example, is in the process of being migrated across and will allow the utility provider to move to a more predictive approach for water supplies.

“A really good example would be if you looked at production planning and water supply in London. What we have previously done is plan each day, each week, each month, each year in terms of what we think the demand is going to be for London – a lot of which was previously done on spreadsheets,” said Featherstone.

“With AORTA we will be able to make this far more automated, efficient and proactively predict how many litres of water will be needed for London tomorrow and in the future.”

AORTA will also allow Thames Valley to improve its view of online data from 40 days on the old OMS system, to 20 years with the Wipro tool. Balivada Rama Krishna, project manager at Wipro, said that getting to this extended view of the data has been the biggest challenge for Thames Water.

“The most difficult aspect of the project has been the data migration, because you are talking about 20 years of old data stored in different formats with different specifics. To transfer that data effectively and efficiently into the new system, into the required format, so that the mapping in AORTA understands it has been the biggest challenge,” he said.

“However, previously people only had visibility of 40 days’ worth of data because of legacy system constraints – but now someone can search up to 20 years in a matter of seconds.”