The silver tsunami — much talked about, less prepared for. As the older generation of the water industry workforce ages out — taking their qualifications, skills, and knowledge with them — information management becomes ever more critical.
As a younger workforce ages in, however, there’s an opportunity to introduce new, flexible, technology-based solutions that create collective operational intelligence and ensure consistent, evidence-based decision making.
Top five takeaways:
- Determine the steps your business can take to mitigate the information exodus now.
- Consider how a digitally native workforce will embrace digital solutions and find the opportunities where you can to change.
- Implement agile, flexible processes in place to allow your organization to respond effectively to external demands, wherever possible.
- Ensure that you’re putting sustainability at the heart of everything you do — digital transformation is key to sustainable solutions.
- Embrace a more effective and innovative way of working, and benefit from savings of up to 20% on older, more traditional methods.
Highlighting the large percentage of the workforce aging into retirement, the silver tsunami (which refers to the aging population) is driving growing concerns about the collective intelligence and historic knowledge that will age out with older workers. As many as 3 million workers will need to be replaced by 2030 — approximately one-third of the total US water and wastewater workforce.
That's a slightly overwhelming figure. But opportunity lies within it, and water utilities can take action right now to mitigate information loss.
All eyes on asset management
All this institutional knowledge is leaving the industry at a time when the landscape has never been more complex. From shareholder interest in the bottom line, to public concern over climate change, to customer scrutiny about rates — and all eyes are on asset management to alleviate the pressure to do more with less. Sustainability is critical, and water utilities have a responsibility to optimize utilization of our most valuable resource.
Effectively managing risk and performance across above-ground water assets makes new ways of working essential. It means a smarter network, it means flexible tech that’s built for the specific challenges the water industry faces.
Turning institutional knowledge into universal data
Digital transformation is key to creating more sustainable solutions. But precise, lean operations — the kind that will genuinely help asset managers manage both their assets and the resource that runs through them more effectively — can only be achieved by employing technology that’s purpose-built. Technology that speaks the right language. Technology that’s designed to complement and build upon processes that are already in place.
You need technology that helps answer the questions you’re already asking, to take historic and institutional knowledge out of operators' heads, and turn it into quantifiable, shareable data and insight. Questions like ‘How much should I spend on above-ground assets as part of my CIP?’ or ‘How am I optimizing budgets for different regions and sites?’, ‘Which equipment replacements should I prioritize? or ‘How do I move from reacting to failures, to anticipating them?’.
Turning to technology
Look for tools that are capable of creating this common, universal language across the organization. A good example of this kind of purpose-built, business-wide tool is Arcadis Gen’s Water Above Ground Optimizer (WAGO). It's used both strategically to understand budgets for CIP on above-ground assets or more tactically to financially prioritize processes and equipment. It’s also a good way to set budgets across different regions or sites, giving the operations team complete oversight of which projects should be prioritized and which assets are optimal for replacements — information that may have previously been lost in siloes.
WAGO takes users all the way from data to optimized outputs, using a well-proven methodology employed by Arcadis Gen across many states across the US. With a focus on targeted technology, Arcadis Gen has encoded the unique engineering logic of the above-ground assets into the app, and simplified what’s traditionally a very complicated process. It can be used across wastewater sites, too.
Building the business case
Existential climate issues, the information exodus, digital transformation. It can all seem a bit overwhelming. But investing in technology — the right technology — is just good business sense. Investing in the right asset, at the right time, with the right intervention, can provide 20% efficiency improvements compared to traditional approaches. But that only happens by investing in newer, SaaS-based methods of asset management, which are capable of processing the vast amounts of data needed to successfully optimize your portfolio today.
By establishing centralized, technology-enabled procedures that capture critical information and provide evidence-based insights aligned to your existing processes, you can start to digitally transform, and square up to the overwhelming issues with more confidence. The new wave of digital workers will thank you for it.
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