Barwon Water deploys Formbird to help maintain $2.3b of assets

The Barwon Region Water Corporation (Barwon Water) is the largest regional urban water corporation in the state of Victoria, Australia. Barwon Water provides high quality water, recycled water and sewerage services to almost 300,000 people spread across an area of 8,100 square kilometres on Victoria’s south east coast.

Barwon Water owns and operates assets worth approximately $2.3 billion, including: 12 major reservoirs; more than 20 water treatment and recycling plants; 243 pumping stations; water storage facilities; and almost 7,000 kilometres of pipes.

Ming Chua, Asset Management Planning and Systems Engineer in the Asset Management section, is in charge of Barwon Water’s asset management information system. He uses data gathered through the system to predict maintenance requirements and to make long-term strategic plans for the maintenance of all assets.

Barwon Water had one system for tracking maintenance of its water pipe network and another for keeping tabs on the maintenance of its other assets, but these systems did not communicate with each other.  A decision to transfer asset maintenance from a third-party contractor to a new, wholly-owned subsidiary, created to maintain the network, meant a new approach to tracking and managing asset maintenance was required.

Barwon Water opted to use Formbird to develop a bespoke application after being unable to find suitable off-the-shelf software products.

“The current application covers only the water reticulation network. Its main purpose is to keep track of our response times to meet the requirements of Victoria’s Essential Services Commission covering customer services,” Chua said.

“Our scheduled maintenance is covered by another system. So for a long time we have been running two systems. Getting those two systems to talk to each other required a lot of work. Formbird has now replaced both of these systems.”

“I require information from the field to decide when to do maintenance, when to do renewals,” Chua said. “The management system holding maintenance information was outside my control and the information I was getting back was not up to scratch. I kept having to go back to the source. I needed something that would give me good quality data to input into our predictive maintenance model.”

The Formbird application enables Chua to plan and track scheduled maintenance and to track ad-hoc maintenance from the time a maintenance request is received to the time the job is completed. It interfaces to Barwon Water’s financial system so costs can be correctly allocated.

“With our Formbird application, I can get, in an easily accessible form, details of what maintenance is scheduled, what maintenance is required, what has been done and who did it,” Chua said. “I now know what questions to ask, how those questions need to be answered, and how quick the response needs to be.”

Before choosing Formbird to develop its application Barwon Water assessed available applications but found these offered functionality in excess of its requirements and with a correspondingly high price tag.

“We looked at a full enterprise management system, but that would have required us to bring our financial management and asset register into one, Chua said.

“We had expressions of interest, but there is not much else on the market without a big ticket price. The proposal from FieldTec to use Formbird looked very attractive.”

Formbird’s low-code development enabled Chua to take a very hands-on role in the development of the application. He made sure the application met his needs.

“My original role required me to extract high quality maintenance data from the field. The old system did not allow us to do that. So to achieve our long term goal, I got involved in developing the application to make sure it satisfied not only our operational needs but also our asset management needs, and to reduce the impact of process change.”

Barwon Water has now completed user acceptance testing of the maintenance application built with Formbird.  The application went live in March of 2018.

“We had 16 people from the field come in to test it,” Chua said. “When fully rolled out, we will have about 150 users.” Field staff will access the Formbird application from Toughbooks; office staff will use Surface Pros, and they can also use their phones.

Chua said Formbird had enabled his staff to easily incorporate new business processes into the application, and much of the two-year development processes had been taken up formalising and documenting these business processes.

“We had to define processes as we went along, and Formbird allowed us to do that. We were able to come up with a process, put it in place in Formbird and let everyone see how it would work.

“This was so quick that we struggled keeping documentation up to date. We would decide how we were going to do something and have it there for people to test before we had even put it on paper.”

Such was the ease of completing processes within the application that it became necessary to make sure application development did not get ahead of process development.

‘With Formbird’s capabilities it is easy to add features and go beyond the scope. We had to put everything through a proper change request before we implemented it in Formbird,” Chua said.

Go live for the Formbird application coincided with the transfer of asset maintenance from the external contractor to the wholly owned subsidiary.

Although wholly owned, the new maintenance company will be managed like any external contractor. “Another reason we chose Formbird is that it will allow us to keep track of a third party contractor and evaluate their performance,” Chua said. “That is something we do not have at present.”

Managing asset maintenance under the new regime will be just the beginning for Barwon Water’s Formbird application.

“We are drawing up a list of improvements we can make to develop the application,” Chua said.

“We see that we can easily configure Formbird to manage our asset inventory as well as our compliances management and building maintenance. These will have a huge impact on the business, but we won’t be starting work on them until we have the necessary resources available.”

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