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Customer Story

Riverside Public Utility goes digital with the PI System

  • Challenge
    Disparate systems, people-dependent processes, low visibility into systems and performance.
  • Solution
    Implementing the PI System connected over 10 enterprise systems and applications, automated processes, and streamlined reporting.
  • Benefits
    The PI System created a digital and connected utility that resulted in an ROI of over $3M in 3-5 years from process automation alone.

Riverside Public Utility goes digital with the PI System

Just a few years ago, the City of Riverside Public Utility (RPU) had a “spaghetti” problem: a tangled web of data and systems—and piles of paper records—but no centralized place for all that information about the grids, substations, water plants, and maintenance fleets that provide power and water to 120,000 residents in the Southern California city. “We had disparate data and systems—everything was everywhere,” said C.J. Smith, a project manager for the City of Riverside Public Utility.

Four years ago, the city invested in an ambitious initiative to connect myriad systems into one data-rich integrated system. The result has transformed how the city operates. Today, the city of Riverside has a connected, digital utility that streamlines reporting, maintenance, and emergency response. The City of Riverside expects to save an estimated $3 million between 2016 and 2021 to boot.

The PI System brings structure

In July 2016, the City of Riverside signed an Enterprise Agreement to use the PI System as the city’s data management platform. Teams from the City of Riverside’s IT department and Riverside Public Utility designed an architecture that could support an ambitious five-year plan for the city’s digital transformation. The teams’ first priority was to wrangle data scattered across different systems into a single place. The PI System became the data hub and systemic glue that helped RPU turn disparate reports and data streams—including financial data, work orders, weather data, customer information, and even call center data—into meaningful information. By October 2016, 80% of RPU’s systems were connected to the PI System.

A major transformation like this required a nimble approach. Teams developed agile software based on an iterative process. This collaborative process allowed the cross-functional teams to analyze requirements and find solutions together.

A core implementation team of five people did a 4-to-6 week “sprint” to develop applications feeding off PI System data. With every sprint, they delivered a new dashboard, report, or solution based on end-user needs. Smith and her team aimed to move from paper-based processes to become a digital and connected city. “We created a culture around PI,” she said. “It was a huge cultural shift.” The teams worked with subject matter experts upfront to validate data quality. To make it easy for anyone to access data, Smith and her team created an internal web page for quick navigation to a wide range of PI Vision dashboards, as well a custom application—called “Search PI” —that makes it easy to search and locate data within the PI System.

“We were able to say to a user group, ‘I only need you for five weeks. If you can give me five weeks of your time, we promise you will have your product that will change how you do business,’” Smith said.

We created a culture around PI
C.J. Smith, MPA, PMP
Project Manager, City of Riverside

Smart substations, water wells

Preparing reports on water operations used to be a manual task requiring eight hours of work on Excel spreadsheets. Today, those reports are automated and easily accessible in real time on a water operations dashboard. Another dashboard shows the real-time blend in Riverside’s water wells.

Riverside has also set up dashboards that allow managers to drill down and see how substations are performing. System alerts are set up for key performance indicators so that automated notifications are sent anytime something is operating abnormally.

city-of-riverside-graphRiverside Public Utility provides a single web interface that any user can drill down into to see what is happening in real time.

For water field work orders and power outages, data is now available on a digital map so that employees out in the field can see field work orders and outages in real time and better prioritize work. “Before there would be an outage and a customer would call and say, ‘we have an outage on this line.’ We would then dispatch someone, and he would drive the line in his truck from one end to the other looking for a blinking grid sensor to see where the outage was,” Smith said. “Now, instead of driving the entire line and trying to find a grid sensor blinking, they can see it on a map on their iPhone or iPad.”

Better information in the hands of employees has transformed how the City of Riverside works, and they aren’t done yet. Smith and her team plan to continue rolling out dashboards and data solutions to make Riverside an even smarter city.

For more information about the City of Riverside and the PI System, watch the full presentation here.

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