Water Sector | Cloud technology could save millions

The water sector is coming under immense pressure to improve the quality of its service after Ofwat announced it will intervene in water companies whose business plans for PR19 don’t match the “high bar” it expects for customer service.

With an increased demand for water, an ageing infrastructure and rising costs, some large water providers are exploring the use of cloud-based technologies, as a way to make considerable cost savings and manage the network more effectively.

Yorkshire Water is one such water company that has been investing heavily in advanced technology to improve the services it provides.

Since adopting the WorkMobiles’ mobile data capture app, the company has used it to become more agile and efficient compared to its previous method of data capture.

Previously, field engineers were relying on paper-based forms and handheld cameras to capture information on jobs and projects and were then having to drive at least five miles back to head office to load their job data into the company portal. Yorkshire Water recognised that it needed a digital solution that would help to collect and manage essential project information more effectively and also reduce administration costs based on the price of fuel and non-productive wage costs.

After trialling the cloud-based application with a team of 400 workers, the water provider has deployed the WorkMobile solution to over 1,800 of its employees. They are also continuously looking for new ways to further increase usage of the app.

WorkMobiles’ flexible form designer allows users to create mobile forms relevant to the specific job at hand, including site inspections, health and safety forms and timesheets for all workers on site. Using a digital form to capture the information for these important documents reduces the risk of data being lost or incorrectly collected.

Job details can now be sent to employees in the field and project data can also be captured in real-time, with all information integrated into internal project management systems. Work can now be completed quickly and recorded more accurately, making for a more efficient network management process.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “There is an increasing pressure to become more efficient and innovative in order to remain competitive and deliver an even better customer service. However, with new, emerging technologies, water companies are now gaining the ability to streamline their working practices and meet the needs of their customers more effectively.

“Our main challenge was that our previous data capture process was simply not cost-effective and meant that our teams were spending extra hours travelling back to base to record their job details. We needed a solution that could provide greater efficiency and connectivity, so staff working out in the field could record and share information in a timely manner.

“With our aim to roll out the WorkMobile application across various departments in the business, we have calculated that this will result in huge cost savings for us and our customers. The money we save as a result of this switch will help to relieve some of the pressure on our resources and will also help us to provide a better quality of service to our customers.”

Colin Yates, the chief support officer at WorkMobile, said: “With pressure mounting from Ofwat to provide a better quality service through the use of innovation, water companies are looking for ways to become more agile and efficient so they can work more effectively. The sector is facing a number of challenges, particularly due to ageing networks that can’t cope with the rising demand for water and the inherent leakage synonymous with older pipes. In order to keep these networks operational, now is the perfect time for water companies to get smarter and embrace new technologies so they can deal with issues quickly and successfully.

“It’s great to see that solutions such as ours are helping the water industry to combat its current issues. Yorkshire Water, for example, now has a tool that can help meet the needs of its workforce, so that work can be quickly recorded by employees and information then sent back to the office. The business has now seen greater efficiency amongst its workforce, along with huge cost savings. Every water company across the sector should be looking to embrace technology to achieve similar results in order to create a more sustainable future.”

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