Journey to the Center of Efficiency

Authors:

  • Ryan Nagel - Hazen and Sawyer
  • Colin Martin - Berkeley County Water and Sanitation

In 2007 BCWS began a journey to be a more effective and efficient utility. It set about to create a new culture and to find better ways to deliver superior service to its customers. In order to accomplish these goals, BCWS began creating a culture where old practices are questioned, innovation is rewarded, and change is not something to fear.

One of the first areas that BCWS focused on was financial stability. Over the years, BCWS had relied on too much debt, variable revenue sources to support fixed costs, and SWAP bonds that had turned into cash sinkholes. In addition, BCWS assessed its tools and equipment and found that much of it was old and too costly to maintain. Its information management systems were dated, with little integration and sharing of vital information. BCWS made significant strides in each of these primary areas.

Although much was done to improve its overall organizational efficiency and effectiveness, BCWS recognized there was more to do to bring it further along the improvement continuum. Therefore, it initiated a Performance and Efficiency Assessment effort.

The primary goals of the Performance and Efficiency Assessment were to identify the current performance state of the BCWS organization and to develop a list of high priority improvement initiatives, along with an implementation roadmap.

This presentation will discuss the Lean Six Sigma approach that BCWS employed to ensure that the management, operations, and maintenance of its water, wastewater, and solid waste enterprises are being performed in a highly efficient manner, and will identify improvements and efficiencies gained from the effort.

Specific activities undertaken included:

• Formalizing a Project Charter to document program objectives, coordination, stakeholders, communications, assumptions and constraints, and performance metrics.
• Reviewing documentation to establish a baseline of current performance and understand opportunities.
• Interviewing stakeholders to better understand the current organizational strategies and issues.
• Conducting “Day In the Life Of” observations to analyze optimization opportunities and measure the effectiveness and value-added components of individual process steps.
• As-Is process documentation to depict the flow of data, materials, and deliverables.
• Developing a Responsibilities Matrix and Human Performance System to identify specific people responsible for each process step compared to each process performed.
• Conducting Cause and Effect Analyses to identify potential root causes for each optimization opportunity.
• Conducting “Solutioning” Workshops to validate individual improvement ideas.
• Formalizing and quantifying opportunities and benefits.

The organizational improvement efforts conducted by BCWS have resulted in excellent system reliability, regulatory performance, and financial stability. The Performance and Efficiency Assessment was a more focused effort at taking the next large improvement step to ensure that a performance management and continuous improvement culture and strategy are in place to foster operational optimization and financial and infrastructure sustainability well into the future.

For more information, please contact the author at rnagel@hazenandsaywer.com.

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