Less than one percent of water on earth is directly usable as potable water, which is why it is important to conserve and properly manage this and other resources. Energy consumption has to be optimized and water loss avoided.
Digitalization of water management
A water-tight solution
A steady flow of change: The need for high-quality water is growing around the world, yet at the same time demographic trends mean that new structures are needed. Siemens water expert Oliver Goldbach sets out clear arguments for digitalized data management.
It will take forward-looking planning and maintenance of water management facilities to achieve this goal. The advantages of an integrated data management solution are plain to see: When data from different sources such as sensors and water meters are digitally connected, water management facilities can be seamlessly tracked throughout their entire lifecycle.
We spoke with Oliver Goldbach, sales executive at Siemens, about the opportunities that digital solutions can offer.
Mr. Goldbach, anyone who takes a closer look will find that integrated solutions are desirable but that they’re not implemented in most cases. What does this mean for water management?
Oliver Goldbach: It is true that many water management facilities are still strongly influenced by a data silo culture. As a result, it is very difficult to clearly display and maintain data.
In addition, knowledge about processes and connections is often tied to individuals. That is a big problem for countries like Germany and Austria, where plant builders and operators are confronted with a generational change – meaning that new colleagues enter the field and experienced ones take their knowledge with them into retirement.
For the same reason, companies need to find a way to convert this knowledge into data that can be managed and maintained easily and sustainably.
Siemens is taking just this kind of approach with its concept “From Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations.” What are the advantages of this solution?
Goldbach: The centerpiece of our concept is the Comos software solution as the central engineering and data management platform. All data is stored here uniformly and updated continually throughout the entire plant lifecycle. This solution creates a digital representation of the plant at an early stage, in the engineering phase, that can be used to optimize planning, commissioning, operation, and maintenance.
Let me give you some details. The initial situation is a large number of interdependent planning steps that involve a wide variety of subject areas (disciplines). These range from process engineering, mechanical engineering, EMSR technology (electrical engineering, measurement and control engineering) to software development. Each discipline relies on different methods and tools. Thanks to standardization with Comos, individual planning steps can be better distributed and processed concurrently in the plant engineering phase. Project plans are condensed during this process and the transition to operational use is faster. The plant documentation always stays up-to-date and consistent, even during operation.
The plant is commissioned after the planning phase. This means a change from the planning tools to the process control system and the maintenance management solution. How can an integrated approach improve water management?
Goldbach: We believe it is a very important key to greater efficiency. The process of importing data from one system to another is often very cumbersome. By integrating engineering with process control, the data collected during the engineering phase can be simply re-used and supplemented with operational data – with no need for time-consuming and especially error-prone extra step.
The data can be transferred in both directions, making it easy to identify changes at any time. Using this software solution, improvements to the water management facility can be easily identified and documented so that the information in the database always reflects the current condition of the facility.
In combination with Simit, a virtual simulation of the commissioning is possible. This additional step eliminates manual and thus error-prone operations and interfaces early on, in the planning process, making repetitive extra work no longer necessary. This ensures cost savings as well as an increase in quality in automation projects in the water sector. The combination of these solutions creates the digital image of the facility...
… like a digital twin?
Goldbach: Exactly. This digital twin is based upon the merged data from Comos and Simatic PCS 7, or in other words from engineering and operations, and Simit enables the simulation of commissioning, automation, and of individual process steps. This approach ensures an efficient and, above all else, comprehensive plant management.
What challenges need to be overcome in order to integrate data in existing facilities, so-called brownfield projects?
Goldbach: Brownfield facilities can be modernized step-by-step in order to meet the standards of Water Management 4.0. This is a genuine challenge: The data in question is often unavailable in digital form, or is incomplete or outdated, and therefore can’t be used in its current form. In cooperation with Bentley Systems, we offer customers the opportunity to use Context Capture to digitally record existing plant assets. This process verifies the data and facility operators obtain a three-dimensional representation of their facility.
What experience do water management companies already have with digital solutions?
Goldbach: By now, some water and sewage utilities have already implemented their first integrated data management solutions. The successes speak for themselves: These operators enjoy lower operating costs, as well as greater process availability and reliability. It is also easier for them to supply government authorities with documentation they require on process and water quality.
Siemens is currently implementing projects worldwide in which plant data is being imported into a centralized management tool that integrates facility planning and automation. Naturally, it makes us very happy to assist them with this process and it’s a step in the right direction. It will allow water management enterprises to master the global challenges of the future.