A strategic, systemwide approach is helping Portland make the most of pump station condition data to plan for the right maintenance investments at the right time.

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) operates a massive network of infrastructure to serve more than half a million customers, including 97 pump stations comprised of thousands of equipment assets. In the past, any needed improvements to the pump stations were identified based on staff input and by reviewing qualitative assessments that were often not kept updated. The nature of the decision-making process made it difficult for BES to accurately forecast and consistently prioritize upcoming needs, to understand the magnitude of the investment needed across the system, and thus there was a sense that the City was falling behind on maintaining a reliable and high-performing system. The City needed a more effective and efficient way to adequately fund and prioritize repairs and replacements.

The City was determined to tackle a challenge common among municipalities of its size: how could they better use their data to optimize equipment lifespans and make the most effective and timely investments in system maintenance? The City partnered with WSC to create a new approach—a strategic plan that takes a systemwide view to identify the right maintenance investments at the right time.

The BES Pump Station System Plan is used to establish a framework for continuous evaluation of system conditions and performance to guide investment decisions and budgetary needs for the next 75 years. With the new approach now underway, two important outcomes have resulted.

Improved Data Management

Few municipalities are data poor. In fact, they can collect so much data that a new, common challenge has emerged: how do operators efficiently and securely use the data to make better decisions and/or to improve the efficiency of pump station operations?

Within the BES, data is collected at several points. Information pertaining to pump station assets such as age, size, capacity, upgrade costs, and more exist in various locations on BES servers. New information is collected every day as operations and maintenance staff perform inspections, testing, and maintenance work, and as SCADA systems report pump station operations. The goal was to build a tool for BES to leverage this data for better decision making, including maintenance cost estimations and projections on when equipment will break down or fail.

The project team designed and prototyped tools to take data from different sources (across several software platforms), integrate that data, and consistently apply a series of calculations to estimate remaining useful life of assets and the potential costs that could result from an unexpected failure. Through this process, the tool enables a holistic and integrated view of the data that supports significantly improved decision making for prioritizing and planning proactive renewal projects based on a quantifiable risk of failing to meet established levels of service for customers.

Enhanced Condition Assessments

Like many other municipalities, systemwide condition assessments have been resource-intensive for the City of Portland. Staff would be required to go to every facility and manually assign assessment scores to assets once every 5 to 10 years. Not only is this approach arduous, but it means that data can quickly become outdated.

The project team addressed these concerns by designing an asset management approach that incorporated data from the City’s growing Wastewater Condition Assessment Program. This approach increased the frequency of data input and improved staff’s ability to access more data, in a more integrated way, in real time. For instance, each time a maintenance operator receives a workorder, they assign a condition score to the asset(s) involved in the maintenance procedure. That provides immediate value to the City, as more frequent collection of condition data means more and better data overall. Staff can now make maintenance decisions based on the specifics of their equipment and their ability to model and predict maintenance needs in real time.

BES’ Pump Station System Plan elevates existing practices and incorporates new processes using powerful but accessible data integration platforms to cultivate a living plan. Implementation of robust yet targeted data collection efforts are yielding a program that is informed by geospatial information, BES asset statistics, and operational preferences and capabilities.

With the first steps in place, BES looks ahead to the possibilities for continual improvement, specifically more asset failure data to better predict remaining useful life, diagnostic testing to inform asset condition beyond visual assessment, preparedness for technological obsolescence and component-level replacement opportunities to maximize asset life, and increased monitoring to provide real-time understanding of system needs.