Easier, Safer, and Better: Using Data to Improve Operations and Asset Management

Easier, Safer, and Better: Using Data to Improve Operations and Asset Management

Before coming to work at Woodard & Curran, Celina Bland managed an industrial pretreatment facility where she participated in peer review of other operations with the goal of improving efficiencies. She and other plant managers visited different facilities and evaluated how they collected data, managed chemicals, planned for capital improvements, budgeted for maintenance, and more. She says, “It was really interesting how much I learned going from one plant to another and seeing best practices other plant managers employed.” 

After joining Woodard & Curran, Bland jumped at the opportunity to become an operations and management specialist. In this role, she works with facilities as operations contracts begin, assessing the data that will be used in our operations and maintenance software systems. For example, when our firm was hired by Groveland, Florida to operate its five water treatment plants, two wastewater treatment plants, and a reclaimed water operation, Celina linked all the reporting and input a year’s worth of data into Hach WIMS for 18,000 assets to create a management plan. “This was a huge undertaking,” says Area Manager Glenn Burden. “Celina used her background in the wastewater field and her amazing technical knowledge to get our asset management platforms up and running.” 

Climbing the Ladder in a Male Dominated Industry

“My father was a water and wastewater contractor,” says Celina. As she prepared to attend college, he told her that if she wanted him to pay for her education, this was the field she had to pursue. “He gave me no choice, but I also saw it as a field that robotics could never replace. No matter the level of technology, there will always have to be a person on to double check for automation errors.” 

In 2001, she obtained her associates degree in environmental science and began working as a lab technician and operator at a 2.0 million-gallons-per-day extended aeration municipal wastewater facility in Missouri. By 2004, she became a manager in training at an industrial wastewater facility in Minnesota and then found a facilities manager position at an industrial pretreatment plant in Tennessee. Along her career journey, she admits there were challenges being a woman working her way to a leadership role in a male-dominated industry. 

“It was difficult as a young woman dealing with clients, vendors, and regulators,” she says. “I had to just roll up my sleeves and jump in. Once they saw that I was willing to get in the trenches with them, I earned a lot of respect.”

Leveraging Experience and Technology for Efficiency

Often when Woodard & Curran assumes operations at a facility, the procedures for tracking and managing data are antiquated. It may mean the facility is using a convoluted spreadsheet to input data and use various equations to generate compliance reports. While this may work, it leaves significant room for human error and lacks efficiency. With data management software, the operations profession has become increasingly high-tech in recent years and the trend toward implementing such software has proved effective and is widely accepted for its positive impacts in operations and management. 

For all its operation contracts, Woodard & Curran utilizes Hach WIMS for data management. This software allows data, such as water quality or flow meter readings, to be input and used to easily create monthly operating reports for clients or regulators. Assets are input to asset management software Utility Cloud to manage preventative, predictive, and corrective maintenance for an overall asset management system. Business analytics software PowerBI is then leveraged for highly visual, user-friendly reports that pull from both pieces of software and manipulate the data to determine where changes need to be made or savings can be reaped. Celina handles this all. 

“I’ve learned more in four years as an operations and management specialist than I did managing one plant, one set of data for 11 years,” she says. Adding that this technology has really improved how a facility’s staff interacts with the information. The facility’s staff has access to all the data, and can access and view information whenever needed, on site or remotely. Celina says, “I know the pressure of being a plant manager. I have been in their shoes. It is my goal to get to know our new staff as we take over new contracts and get them engaged and trained on our systems and technology. It can be intimidating coming under new management with a new company who uses new systems, but my job is to make it more comfortable."

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Business Unit Leader
Operations & Management

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