How the water sector can benefit from digital transformation
Updated: Feb 27, 2020
With PR19, Ofwat made its expectations emphatically clear: water providers must find new and better ways of delivering their services over the next five years.
The 2019 price review has not only encouraged but incentivised innovation, with the goal of delivering Ofwat’s vision of a future where customers have trust in water companies.
The question is, how can this innovation be achieved, and could water providers improve their performance by investing in new digital technologies?
Digital transformation has become a focal point for forward-thinking utility businesses. Technology has shown itself to be an effective way of freeing up resources and increasing productivity, resulting in a much more agile, efficient and competitive service.
Now is the time for water companies to review their processes and really think about how technology can be of benefit to their operations.
Case study: Yorkshire Water
Yorkshire Water is one water company that has been investing heavily in advanced technology to improve the services it provides.
Reviewing its ways of working, 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.
Field engineers were relying on paper-based forms and handheld cameras to capture information, and then having to travel at least five miles back to the head office in order to load this data into the company portal.
It was costing almost £600,000 per year for the team to operate in this way, based on the price of fuel and employee wages.
Seeking an alternative solution, Yorkshire Water decided to implement the WorkMobile data capture app, so staff working out in the field could record and share information in a more accurate and timely manner.
WorkMobile allows users to create mobile forms relevant to the specific job in 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.
The PR19 benefits
PR19 focuses on four key themes to benefit customers: great customer service, resilience, affordable bills and innovation. By adopting a digital data capture solution, Yorkshire Water is actively working towards achieving each of these goals:
With a more accurate picture of network issues at any given time, it can now provide its customers with real-time updates should a significant problem arise, helping to improve its customer service.
Resilience refers to the long-term financial, corporate and operational resilience of water companies. Now able to diagnose and action repairs much more quickly, Yorkshire Water has taken steps to ensure its operational resilience going forward.
Streamlining its administrative processes has resulted in significant savings, both in time and money. These savings can then be directed to other areas of the business or passed directly onto customers in the form of lower bills.
Yorkshire Water was only able to achieve this by thinking innovatively and looking for ways that new technology could improve their business and benefit their customers. By adopting a tool that truly meets the needs of its workforce, Yorkshire Water has freed up resource, allowing more time to think more creatively about clients’ needs and project risks.
In a long-established industry, the temptation is to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. But in order to keep networks operational, rise to regulator challenges and drive long-term benefits for the customer, water companies need to transform their approach. By encouraging and fostering technological innovation and new ways of working, companies can truly create a more sustainable future.