Water & Wastewater Asia Jan/Feb 2019

Water & Wastewater Asia • January / February 2019 22 | IN PERSON Digital transformation is bringing sweeping changes to the water industry. As necessary as it is daunting, water companies may find themselves in a position of uncertainty as they step into unchartedwaters to seek the right digital solutions. N onetheless, Industry 4.0 is a timely arrival as both water infrastructures and workforce in developed countries age and face increasing pressure to be rejuvenated as cost effectively as possible. Technology can provide solutions for asset management and operation optimisation, even create new business opportunities —Schneider Electric’s digital line in its water and wastewater segment has been seeing double digits growth for years now—but the human factor is still very much at play in deciding the eventual success of a company’s ability to transform digitally. WWA had the chance to speak with Sophie Borgne, Schneider Electric’s senior vice president of digital plant line of business, and Lukas Loeffler, president of water and wastewater segment, and strategic customers and segments, who reminded us of just that. CHALLENGES IN AN AGING WORKFORCE One of the common issues many water companies face today is an aging workforce, and one of the main drivers for introducing automation at almost all levels in water plants or networks is to provide a substitute for people who are no longer there. Another common problem is that water and wastewater plants often experience high turnover rates, specifically in desalination and wastewater plants, and training processes need to be quick. And these digital solutions for such customers come in the form of providing a more efficient training programme aided by virtual simulation. “What we do specifically for these customers is we have very new training tools and approaches to quickly retrain the workforce. We have virtual simulation to simulate the complete plant before it is even being built, training the workforce before the plant actually exists. We can also provide augmented reality solutions that are part of the asset management,” said Lukas. “Other drivers for digitisation is that it can also help workers in these environments solve their problems as easily and quickly as possible. For example, when workers have to fix something, they can use their tablets to access the wiring diagram or supporting documentation before they leave for the site so they do not have to drag paper with them, helping with maintenance and support more efficiently, effectively and quicker is another.” COMMON MISCONCEPTION For water companies undergoing digitisation, one main challenge is the misconception that digital transformation needs to happen in one big sweeping move. As expected, such a move is overwhelming for both managers and workers. “Digitisation is a very wide statement now, a little scary, it sounds like you have to transform your whole company. But this is not true, you can start on a small project, and understand what is your biggest pain point — if it is leakage or operational issues, for example,” Sophie emphasised.