Data is redefining the water industry and manufacturers should take note

The real-time visibility provided by digitalisation is helping the water industry to achieve what every manufacturer strives for, namely: increased uptime, greater asset performance and maximum efficiencies.

Data collecting and display Stock Image
A TotEx approach means that when new investments are considered, they must include factors such as energy usage and maintenance, not just the capital value.

Much has been made of the recent move from a sole focus on CapEx to a more holistic ‘TotEx’ view by the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales, Ofwat.

TotEx represents total expenditure – i.e. both capital and operational expenditure. Put simply, it is the amount of money water-only companies (WOCs) have been given to achieve what they said they were going to do, explains, Steve Hanslow, business manager for water and waste water at Siemens UK.

A TotEx approach means that when new investments are considered, they must include factors such as energy usage and maintenance, not just the capital value. By defining the true cost of an investment, it’s hoped that the business case for projects which may have at first been overlooked, will become more compelling.

Alongside new investments, TotEx also emphases the performance existing infrastructure, particularly how efficiently assets already in operation are running. These assessments could play a major factor in determining which parts of legacy infrastructure should be replaced with modern, more energy efficient alternatives.

Tangible outcomes

All water and wastewater companies in England and Wales have to commit to delivering the levels of service – known as ‘outcomes’ – that their customers expect of them. As such, Outcome deliverables (ODIs) form a critical part of every company’s published performance reviews and Ofwat’s regulation of the sector.

“With the right digitalisation strategy, all water companies will be enabled to meet their stated ODI objectives,” Hanslow says. “The starting point for many organisations adoption of digital technology is the need to understand exactly what assets are doing and how they are performing at any given point in time.

Water is a precious resources which needs to be protected - image src DPC.
Water companies have to commit to delivering the levels of service, i.e. ‘outcomes’, that their customers expect of them – image courtesy of DPC.

“That is the absolute bedrock of TotEx, because it requires businesses to appreciate the impact of each individual asset on their outcome deliverables. It also offers the opportunity to drive investment towards those assets which are having the largest negative impact.”

The scenario has clear parallels with manufacturing, Hanslow adds, because manufacturers want to become more competitive and better able to respond to market opportunities.

Two goals predicated on having accurate real-time visibility and maximising operational efficiencies.

Real-time visibility

When it comes digitalisation, the water industry may initially appear more challenged than manufacturers due the nature of their assets being widely distributed, remotely located and, in many cases, underground. Yet the manufacturers who have hundreds of pieces of equipment in operation around the world, sometimes in the most hostile of environmental conditions, face the same challenges.

“Utilities providers, much like manufacturers, are absolutely focused on uptime and asset performance,” says Hanslow. “Unplanned downtime can quickly become a critical factor in terms of TotEx, and the fact that so much of the water industry exists below ground makes preventative and predictive maintenance so much greater.”

“Using digital tools to gain an understanding of how assets are performing offers an indication as to when faults or breaks are likely to occur, or when routine maintenance, upgrades or replacements should take place, rather than at the end of an arbitrary time period.”


Increasing numbers of businesses have realised that digitalisation enables them to monitor and measure the performance of an asset in real-time and therefore start driving interventions around condition monitoring.

Industrial IoT - IIoT - Siemens’ ‘Mindsphere’ IoT operating system can use digital twins to help optimise product development, production management and in-service performance – image courtesy of Siemens.
Mindsphere is Siemens’ cloud-based, open Internet of Things (IoT) platform that connects real things to the digital world – image courtesy of Siemens.

What is less understood, however, are the steps businesses need to take to move from where they are today towards starting to operate within a more connected ecosystem.

Mindsphere is Siemens’ cloud-based, open Internet of Things (IoT) platform that connects real things to the digital world, and enables powerful industry applications and digital services such as preventative maintenance, energy data management and asset optimisation.

In the case of the water industry, Mindsphere has specific applications that enable WOCs to understand the performance of remote devices and their distribution network.

Due Mindsphere’s open nature, Siemens third-party software developers or even the WOCs themselves can develop apps that leverage the platform’s expanding suite of capabilities.

Learn more about how MindSphere can help your company exploit the full potential of data and transform it into measurable business success here.

Steve Hanslow headshot - SiemensConnect with the author, Steve Hanslow, on LinkedIn.





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