By Michael C. Skurla, is the Chief Product Officer of Radix IoT
When Silulumanzi, a subsidiary of South African Water Works (SAWW), needed a reliable and scalable SCADA system to efficiently manage and operate its vast distributed coverage area, they searched for an IoT platform solution that was cost-effective, reliable, scalable and could meet their environmental and water conservancy needs. And one that could enable the utility company to efficiently meet its 30-year concession agreement to deliver nearly 120 million liters of safe drinking water and sanitation management services for 450,000 residents of the eastern City of Mbombela, in light of the ongoing extended water crisis.
Silulumanzi has been, since 1999, a provider of quality water and sanitation services in the municipality City of Mbombela. Climate change has resulted in infrequent rains, that once provided the water supplies of the world’s cleanest water systems– and have left South Africa’s 50-million population facing a dire water crisis. Water conservancy remains a top priority for the power company that requires best-in-class expertise, systems, and sustainable practices with minimal environmental impact. With commonly used water shifting–valves moving water around the network to provide intermittent water supply–most residents are deprived of a 24-hour water service. Water flow and availability must be budgeted regularly.
For nearly six years, working with the South Africa-based process control solutions provider, Vangard Projects (a Radix IoT Africa partner), Silulumanzi has integrated the browser-based Mango OS IoT software platform into its existing connected systems. Now, with the heightened operational efficiency the utilities company’s 350-member team use their mobile phones to tap into Mango’s customized dashboard for real-time data and actionable analytics on all their water reservoirs and operations plants across a nearly 520 sq.km territory.
Colin Thatcher, Silulumanzi’s Operations Manager, says Mango OS provides “a world of difference” from previous operations mode. Used as “almost the Bible” the company’s field team monitors their mobile phones 24×7, for real-time data on water reservoir levels of their managed sites. The data also helps mobilize teams to areas needing repairs or special attention.
IoT Platform Savings Take Off the Blinders With Real-Time Views
Since Mango from Radix IoT was integrated, Silulumanzi has saved up to 100 hours a week in labor related management activities. With real-time actionable data available on all their sites, plants and reservoirs, field service teams have eliminated high fuel costs and wear and tear on company vehicles since they don’t regularly drive across their 250 kilometers of coverage area for manual check-ups.
Before integrating an IoT platform, the company monitored its systems manually. Site operators called to report problems, dispatched field workers travelled to the site to assess the problem and drove back to the home office to obtain necessary equipment and once again return to the site for repairs. All actions were “very reactive” and always “a couple of hours behind.”
Now the field service team no longer wakes up in the middle of the night to drive 50+ kilometers each way to conduct site checks. Instead, they tap into their Mango dashboard on their mobiles to find out if there are any alerts, and then determine if a situation warrants a site inspection or can be remedied remotely.
The maintenance, mechanical and electrical staff, as well as plumbers, no longer fly “blind.” Their web-based access to real-time views and alerts helps monitor the reservoirs’ levels regularly. Alerts and reporting on frequent water outages allows the team to be more proactive and hinder potential risks and service interruptions, while also being prepared with the right equipment and tools when it is necessary to ‘roll a truck’.
Since the company provides bulk water outside of its Concession, it must diligently monitor major water sites to determine raised water levels and the health of the pipes to maintain business continuity on behalf of their bulk customers. While there’s “adequate, 48-hour storage in reservoirs” Mango also helps Silulumanzi:
- Pro-actively reach the problem source, repair leaks and resume water service for customers–without operational disruptions.
- Gain real-time visuals of the equipment health and water sites and ensure water pumps are in full operations.
- View dashboard alerts on pumping stations and pipe breaks to determine if:
- Reservoirs are full or there are other problems to be tended,
- Bulk customers need to be notified,
- Pump stations need to be shut down to minimize water waste out of the reservoir.
- Expedite customer notifications on delivery interruptions.
- Pro-actively conduct predictive maintenance to eliminate major risks before unfolding.
Scalable IoT Platforms Empower Asset Management And Enterprise ESG
As the number of customers served increases, and existing water plants lack sufficient pumping capacity to efficiently meet the daily water needs of the larger population in Silulumanzi’s coverage area, ever more rigorous monitoring of the reservoirs’ water volumes is needed. The Radix IoT solution allows the company to determine whether they can supply water to customers or need to pre-warn residents by issuing announcements.
As the recipient of the prestigious Platinum Blue Drop and Green Drop awards from the Department of Water and Sanitation, and ISO accredited for safety & health, environment, and quality management systems, Silulumanzi is focused on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). It has transformed the City of Mbombela into the “Ultimate Destination.” Its corporate social responsibility initiatives actively reinforce local communities’ economic empowerment through up-skilling projects to alleviate unemployment and enrich the local economy’s growth.
The company’s pilot energy conservancy dashboard, with Vangard Projects’ help, also provides an operational perspective on their second largest cost–electricity. While salaries are the utilities’ largest cost, installed equipment at the main water treatment plant now monitors exactly how much water is pumping at any time of the day–and the amount of power used. Data on how many kW is consumed, daily flow, and power usage allows for predictive maintenance. Real-time alerts show pumps that stop working and load reductions–enabling water conservancy measures and major savings on “time of use tariffs” where certain hours of the day tariffs on water fluctuate between medium and high.
Mango’s monitoring of power consumption, critical overview of the daily operations, and upcoming risks for preventative measures guarantees the company’s efficiency and reputational integrity to sustain their concession agreement.
Michael C. Skurla is the Chief Product Officer of Radix IoT– offering limitless monitoring and management rooted in intelligence–and has over two decades’ experience in control automation and IoT product design with Fortune 500 companies. He is a contributing member of CABA, ASHRAE, IES Education, and USGBC and a frequent lecturer on the evolving use of analytics and emerging IT technologies to foster efficiency within commercial facility design.