Melbourne Water has been adopting new digital technologies, tools and processes to enhance management of its assets, make operations safer and more efficient, and enhance the service provided to customers. As a result, the utility was shortlisted as a finalist for the Digital Utility of Year at the 2018 Digital Utility Awards.

Melbourne Water is implementing technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), remote digitisation and IoT solutions and has so far enabled a number of delivery efficiencies. The utility has also reduced exposure to safety hazards and enabled the collection of data that was not previously possible.

Melbourne Water’s Manager Asset Knowledge and Systems, Michael Gomez, said, “The use of advanced analytics such as Artificial Intelligence has been key to achieving benefits in our digital journey.

“Incorporating digitisation into asset management and operations is critical to delivering efficient services to our customers and supporting safe working environments for our people.”

Virtual Reality in asset design and training

Melbourne Water has embedded the use of VR for design reviews as a mandatory process for all major projects to increase the early identification of potential hazards and design faults. Projects use VR to help pinpoint potential hazards early in asset design, with the utility successfully trialling and adopting the technology to identify design defects and OHS risks during the planning phase of capital projects.

During trials, Melbourne Water identified 20 OHS issues on top of the six items detected using the traditional methods of two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional modelling.

Melbourne Water has also teamed up with Deakin University to design and build the world’s first Virtual Reality Snake Bite Prevention and First Aid Training, which allows snake bite first-aid training to be taught easily and effectively in any location.

Once all of the prevention methods have been learnt, the trainee is bitten by a virtual snake. An interactive bandage application helps trainees learn to apply the correct pressure for a snake bite, a critical step that can sometimes be tricky to master.

As with any introduction of a new way of doing things, it’s important to ensure we provide appropriate training and support to our people so that they can get the most out of using new technologies and the valuable data that we have,” Mr Gomez said.

IoT monitoring

Melbourne Water implemented remote IoT monitoring for assets that previously had been too difficult or expensive to monitor.

This monitoring collects additional data that provides a far better understanding of asset condition, which in turn, assists in the reduction of asset related failures that may impact customers.

The impressed current corrosion protection units installed across water transfer systems are an example of where this IoT monitoring is being used. Approximately 200 of these corrosion protection units now exist, whereas in the past, online monitoring was cost prohibitive.

With the advent of IoT solutions, Melbourne Water is now able to monitor the systems in real time, allowing it to respond to failures quickly, and thereby ensure the protection of water transfer mains worth many billions of dollars.

Advanced automated control using Artificial Intelligence

Melbourne Water has also implemented advanced automated control using artificial intelligence at a couple of water pumping stations, which will reduce the stations’ electricity consumption by around 20 per cent.

Previously, operators would run pumps based on assumptions and regimes, but the pumps are now automated to run in the most efficient way based on historical data.

Looking to the future

We’re extremely excited for what the future holds in terms of further improvements through technology here at Melbourne Water. The use of new technologies and data will provide insights into how we can further improve the operation of our assets and provide our customers with the best service possible,” Mr Gomez said.

“We were delighted to be recognised for some of the work that we are so passionate about at Melbourne Water. We are committed to ensuring the safe and efficient delivery of services to our customers by continuing to adopt new technologies, tools and processes.”

The Digital Utility Awards will return in 2019. Stay up-to-date with the Digital Utilities newsletter to find out more about this year’s winners and finalists and receive updates about entering in next year’s awards or visit our website for more information.

Elisa is an experienced industry journalist and is a regular contributor to a range of energy and infrastructure titles. She has a unique knack for quickly finding the angle in any story her audience is most interested in learning more about.

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