Automated response

21 March 2007

A PDA-based planning and scheduling solution has cut costs and paperwork for Southern Nevada Water System. Here we learn how the system was put to use and how it could be used at hydroelectric facilities in a similar manner

Southern Nevada Water System (SNWS), a department of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, manages treatment of up to 900 million gallons of treated water every day. Thirty pumping stations distribute that water to users throughout Southern Nevada across 262km of pipeline equipped with more than 15,000 asset entities, including high volume pumps, valves, and instruments.

‘Maintaining a system of this magnitude is an enormous undertaking, requiring mechanical skill, system performance monitoring, information analysis, and efficient resource deployment. Efficient planning and scheduling is the key,’ says Jeffrey Deitch, business systems analyst with the Technology and Special Projects Division of SNWS.

The southern Nevada valley is one of the fast growing regions in the country. As the population grows, so does the water system that serves it, which means more technicians travelling greater distances to maintain that system. Non-wrench factors such as windshield time, route optimisation and paperwork, become as critical to cost-effective operation as the actual wrench time and cost of spares. Maintenance planning increasingly becomes focused on streamlining and optimising maintenance processes to maximise availability of wrench time.

SNWS took its first step toward automated maintenance planning and scheduling in 2000 with the installation of Avantis.PRO enterprise asset management software from Invensys, automating entity, work order, and inventory management.

This streamlined management of operations and reduced paperwork considerably, but once the technicians left the building and were no longer connected to the information network they had to revert back to a paper-based system.

‘We wanted to reduce paperwork that was needed to manage field activity. Less paperwork would mean more wrench-time for the technicians, and that means more availability of equipment and better service to the Authority. And less paperwork in the back office would free administrative staff to perform other value-added activities to improve the efficiency of our operation,’ says Deitch.

Deitch envisioned a mobile maintenance management system that would reduce paperwork by enabling technicians to receive work orders and log progress electronically. Enabling them to track work progress during the day, he reasoned, would save planning and scheduling time, data entry, and improve accuracy, and if the program would run on PDAs costing less than $500, he was confident that the investment would pay for itself quickly and many times over.

The Avantis solution

Following investigations, Deitch learned that Invensys was offering a planning and scheduling PDA client for the Avantis.PRO enterprise asset management system that would run on either Pocket PC or Palm operating systems. The Avantis VIP Advanced Scheduling module of Avantis.PRO software is a mobile work order system and scheduling application that combines availability of materials, people and equipment on a single scheduling display. Mobile work management functionality includes automatic work assignments, on-going asset availability tracking, employee qualification tracking, and predictive maintenance forecasting.

The mobile system played very nicely with a major workflow reengineering initiative that was also underway at the utility. Under this programme, management determined that assigning a planner/scheduler to work with field technicians would improve productivity of the entire maintenance team significantly. The mobile system provides the planner/scheduler a valuable tool for organising, managing and reviewing workdays of the maintenance team.

SNWS tested the Avantis VIP system on both Pocket PC and Palm OS operating systems and now runs its systems mostly on HP IPAQ handheld computers, which use the Pocket PC operating system. Instead of receiving a paper stack of work orders for the day, technicians now receive the PDA, into which the planner/scheduler has already uploaded work assignments for the day.

At the end of their shift the technicians return the PDAs for synching with the Avantis.PRO software, which consolidates all activity into a single database view. The planner/scheduler can then see the status of all existing and pending work orders instantly, including emergency or break schedule work that came in during the day. The planner /scheduler also uses VIP tools to coordinate sick call-ins or any other schedule changes that need to be made, and reconcile them with new work orders so that updated PDAs will be ready for crews when they report to work the next morning.

The software also helps ensure that all required people, tools, assets, parts, and other resources are lined up and available to the technician. A calendar wizard, for example, helps schedule the maintenance and also measures schedule compliance.


SNWS now has 12 technicians on PDAs, supported by one planner/scheduler. This streamlines the coordination of field maintenance and timely communication with the enterprise system. In its first year of operation, SNWS is expecting to save about $17,000 in work order processing and $33,000 in reduced administrative costs, while improving maintenance efficiency and ultimately system uptime.

Most of the savings come from reducing the sheer volume of paperwork required to get work orders out to hundreds of people in the field and then to manage those work orders. Automating this process reduces the cost of producing, filing, and exchanging work orders between operations and supervisory staff. It also improves tracking of work and maintenance to ensure that preventive and repair work is done efficiently and that a detailed history of the work on any entity is easily accessible. There is also a significant benefit in managing the activities of the maintenance team.

‘This type of technology allows us to see daily or weekly availability of our entire crew. It tells us where they are, what work has been started, and what has been completed. It is accurate up to the preceding day. Getting that kind of information would otherwise require a tremendous administrative effort, which would take away from wrench time. This type of software also helps make better use of the new time they have available,’ says Deitch.

In addition to helping the maintenance technicians make better use of available time, it also helps maintain an accurate record of how they spent that time through electronic time sheets.

‘The technicians enter their time as soon as they complete the job, which helps maintain accurate records of staff time, and automation can improve on the job performance as well.

‘A typical work order to rebuild a motor for example, might enumerate a number of steps, and require logging of how much time each step took. By utilising an electronic system, we can easily log the progress of a job. It can also provide a very effective checklist that ensures that each step is completed correctly and in the proper sequence, and if this project is going to be handed off to other technicians, it’s very easy to figure out where the last guy left off,’ explains Deitch.

As another example of how shortening the information cycle can contribute to system uptime, a technician going into the filed to do maintenance on a pump may notice that a belt or other component needs to be changed. They might make a note on the work order, but that work order may not have gotten back into the system for a week or more, a span in which a break could very likely occur. Now those comments get into the system daily, and it is more likely that corrective action will be taken right away. If the technician sees something that can be repaired in less than 30 minutes with parts available from stock, he his authorised to make the repair. If he does so, his notes will be entered into the system at the end of the day and the planner/scheduler will connect the future activities regarding that belt and system.

Deitch concludes: ‘Incorporating this type of automated process helps eliminate paper shuffling, and we can avoid problems related to lost or inaccurately completed forms. We can save the cost of producing, filing and sorting work orders, and we can efficiently track employee performance and equipment status.’

Aerial view of the water system Aerial One of the dams operated by Southern Nevada Water System Dam Jeffrey Deitch, business systems analyst with the Technology and Special Projects Division of SNWS training to technicians on how to use the PDFs to improve maintenance efficiencies with Avantis VIP software Training Author Info:

For more information visit

Aerial Aerial
Dam Dam
Training Training

Privacy Policy
We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.