Case study: Spanish Water Utility drives Efficiencies with IoT-enabled digital transformation

Water -

By Carla Jardón /

13 March, 2019

We are very excited for what we are going to share in this post, and not in more or less the article published by IoT Now in paper format about our case of success in Global Omnium. There it goes!

Global Omnium is the second largest Spanish private water utility company. Currently, it manages all aspects related to the collection, treatment and distribution of drinking water in many Spanish cities of Andalusia, Cantabria, La Rioja, the Basque Country, Navarra, Castilla La Mancha and Castilla León and its metropolitan areas.

For this, it operates drinking water stations that are supplied by surface water from different rivers, plants such as the Presa de Manises, the Realón de Picassent, the water treatment plant of Teruel or Ull de Bou de Gandía.

Global Omnium focuses its activity on the management of the Integral Water Cycle, developing various complementary business lines that generate the right synergies to optimize water resources – supply and sanitation, wastewater treatment, denitrification or irrigation management. Likewise, it manages a network of 15,000 kilometers of pipes, guaranteeing the service to more than 3 million people.

Global Omnium, the second largest Spanish private water utility company, turned to Nexus Integra to support its digital transformation with its Industrial IoT platform

The operational activity of the company is therefore based on the management of hundreds of distributed assets that make up the water collection network, its transport to the purification centers and, finally its distribution to final consumers.

The company has had a sustained growth throughout its history, which has involved creating an operational organization segmented in areas close to the assets they manage. In this way, decades ago, it became possible to manage the different systems and respond to the tasks of monitoring, control and maintenance of the entire infrastructure in a practical way.

However, once the company reached a sufficiently large business volume, the coordinated management of all these areas of operation became difficult and administrative inconsistencies were generated since the operations management is not able to supervise all the related tasks. Decisions were made independently in each delegation, different operating technologies were chosed for automation purposes and, finally, there was a technological and operational isolation among the different areas that ended up operating as independent companies.

The digital transformation plan that Global Omnium designed and began to execute more than ten years ago included the need to unify all asset management systems in a single data environment. The purpose was to homogenize and centralize the supervision of the state of the infrastructures through the creation of a control center operated by specialists.

The Nexus Integra Platform

The tool chosen for this purpose was the Industrial IoT Nexus Integra platform.

In a first phase of the implementation, the platform was deployed and approximately 70% of signals coming from the production systems were integrated into it. This integration was made starting from some of the existing control systems (SCADA systems), so that the process was considerably agile and of low impact taking into account the complexity of the tasks. In less than a year, the system was validated and operational, already serving as a basis for monitoring and reporting production.

The next stage consisted in the creation of a work team that, based on the real-time and historical information already available in an integrated manner in Nexus Integra, founded the unified operational control center of Global Omnium. Not only were the data integrated and their supervision allowed, but there was also the possibility of remote commandment all the assets and of having the necessary models to simulate over the network the possible states of particular scenarios that could happen.

The third and final phase of the implementation consisted on the integration of the remaining totality of assets within it, while designing expert systems based on artificial intelligence capable of automating tasks. These systems were able to take into account not only information of the process but any source of information, coming from the internal systems of the organization or even external sources, such as the weather forecast or the price of energy.

In this way, not only a tradicional control center was deployed, but as well an actual digital twin of the entire assets network of whole the company, that is capable of operating in real time and sustain advanced applications for operation purposes, facilities maintenance or energy efficiency, among others.

The integrated operational environment can be controlled in beautifully simple way, by integrating applications that guarantee the water quality, algorithms that are able to control the probabilities of infection or microbiological risk in the water supply that is distributed to the customers, or through the simulation of the scenarios that could happen in the case of needing to carry out maintenance tasks in sections of the network without needing to actually operate them.

The digital transformation of the production process in Global Omnium is a success story that happened in an unexpected situation

The digital transformation of the production process in Global Omnium is a success story that happened in the unexpected company, since water utility companies that manage those kind of resources tend to oppose a strong resistance to the internal change. And even more when talking about a company that has more than 125 years of history.

However, this bet has proved to be very successful since, by the mere fact of being able to integrate its entire operating structure, the company has improved by 15% the costs associated with the maintenance and supervision of its assets, by implementing an integrated alarm system and homogeneous data operation.

In the same way, the unified energy efficiency system that has been implemented in many of their facilities and that automates the operation of the water extraction pumps that feed many of the towns supplied by Global Omnium, reduces between a 7% and an 11% the total energy cost, representing savings of more than one million euros per year.

It’s important to highlight that all of this has been achieved by bringing together the appropriate technological solutions for the collection of process data and generation of an integrated operating environment, as well as with the strategic will of a large organisation that has more than 3,000 workers and three million customers.

In spite of being a strategic and ambitious project, its results have been able to improve the internal organisation of Global Omnium at different levels, enabling it to implement pioneering technologies in the management of resources such as artificial intelligence and to make it possible for the company to open new business lines in areas far from its traditional expertise, such as the technology market.

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