A leading water utility serves about 4.6 million customers in the United Kingdom and operates more than 3,200 wastewater pumping stations and 365 wastewater treatment facilities. Alarms generated from instrumentation and control systems at each facility are an operational necessity; they signal problems or potential problems that must be acted on quickly – and critical pollution alarms must be reported to the UK’s Water Services Regulation Authority. All alarms require time and attention, but some are “nuisance” alarms, triggered by poor alarm tunings or faulty sensors. Differentiating serious alarms from nuisance alarms is important to the utility’s business teams as well as its compliance department. By transforming its alarm system, the utility hoped to analyze and handle all alarms more efficiently, ultimately ensuring safer, more reliable, and uninterrupted operations.
In the first phase of the work, Wipro transformed the alarm systems for more than 300 of the utility’s wastewater pumping station sites to integrate them with the utility’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system and to mimic the new alarms on the utility’s graphical interface to provide real-time visualization of alarms and signals. This effort required decommissioning of legacy devices and deploying new remote terminal units (Wipro collaborated with the existing outstation vendor and field partner). In addition, critical asset health signals were made fail-safe on the SCADA system so they will continue to operate in the event of a power failure. Wipro also collaborated with the field partner to conduct end-to-end testing of the new alarms and signals.
The project required substantial collaboration between Wipro and several teams from the utility, including its telemetry team, alarm optimization team, industrial automation partners and the field partner (who handles all site-related services like surveys, installations, cabling, repairs, and maintenance). Wipro delivered the program while ensuring compliance with utility’s alarm standards and guidelines by standardizing alarm levels and priorities across systems with a central configuration management system. This resulted in clear classification of individual alarm priorities, severities, risks and impact, providing the utility’s control room with critical information for effective decision-making.
Transforming more than 300 wastewater pumping station sites created a more standardized and more centralized alarm system across plants and processes. The results have been substantial, including a 60% reduction in the total number of alarms, which allows the utility to devote more attention to each alarm. Better and clearer alarm classifications have helped reduce pollution incidents by 10%, minimizing their risk and impact including compliance breaches. Operational efficiency also improved, with a 4% reduction in work orders, generating substantial cost savings. Finally, by proactively handling alarms at the initial stage, the project has enabled the utility to identify potential failures in assets and processes before alarms escalate; this results in fewer outages and improved control over its entire wastewater network.