Managing water information is important to any water or waste water treatment facility, either industrial or a public municipality.  There are many requirements that would help define the ideal Water information management solution (WIMS).  This article covers some of them and puts them into context that helps you make a better purchase decision.

Look for solutions that are:

Based on Current and Mainstream Technologies – Let’s face it, the world of water treatment is a niche of the industrial automation niche market.  As a result, the needs of this market are addressed by small companies that develop unique and targeted solutions.  These solutions don’t benefit from economies of scale that come from widespread use.  As a result, they don’t keep up with the latest technologies and don’t have the broad feature set that comes from wide spread use.

When selecting a product, you’ll want to make sure it can handle your specific requirements, but consider selecting something that also addresses a broader range of capabilities.  You’ll benefit from being able to do more with the product, and you’ll benefit from the fact that the technology provider has a larger market to serve and can apply that economy of scale toward making a better product, even for the niche of WIMS.

Purpose Built – You’ll want to make sure the solution is built for this purpose and isn’t general purpose technology that needs lots of technology integration to get your job done.  Some crafted solutions try to repurpose business tools like Relational Databases, Excel, and SQL Server Reporting Services, combined with custom software, to meet the needs.  The result may work but will be plagued with higher long term costs, the need for solution specialists, and will exhibit lower reliability due to the integration of technologies that has to me maintained.

You’ll want to select a solution that has database connectivity built in, without the need for extensive configuration.  Ideally, it should be aware of the database schemas that are in place and will just use them.  This is especially true if you are using automation oriented solutions like Data Historians.  These will require proprietary interfaces to deliver the best performance or broadest range of features.  Don’t select solutions that have been cobbled together from standard business products that have been integrated or customized with programming or scripting.  Avoid products with Plug-ins as they deliver complexities with respect to downtime and forced reconfigurations when products are upgraded.  A service pack for example may break an integrated solution.  Look for all encompassing solutions “One and done.”

Think about Continuous Improvement – That means selecting a product that works as easily and efficiently as possible, promoting broad adoption.  It needs to integrate with other tools that you use and should not be a standalone solution.  It should deliver information where, when and how you want it.  That should include emailing information, managing information over long periods and providing you access through a Web Portal – even through mobile devices, and promoting interaction with your information with the ability to slice and dice your information as needed to gain knowledge.  While some of this functionality can be added with system integration, you’ll benefit from a lower cost of ownership if it’s built in from the start.

Reduce Your Overall Costs by Leveraging the Solution Broadly – If you can add multiple functions to your WIMS (some beyond the initial WIMS requirements), then you are spreading the cost of a WIMS system over additional features and functions that would have cost you if you bought them separately.  For example, investing in an advanced analytics product to slice and dice data, or investing in Asset Management Software or Operator Log-book Software.  Just the act of automatically scheduling or emailing can be a significant additional expense.  A solution built to log data and report on that data, with lots of bells and whistles beyond just that, can deliver a great deal of functionality in other adjacent applications.

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Keywords – Water, Wastewater, EPA Reports, Compliance Reporting, Performance Reporting, Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) federal and state

Alternative technologies – SAP Crystal Reports, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, Iconics ReportWorx, Matrikon OPC Excel Reporter, SyTech XLReporter & Report Manager, Hach WIMS