Digitising internal processes bolsters efficiency

When we think about digitisation, one thing that is often forgotten is the internal processes. Many of these processes can often benefit from digitisation, and Megan Boardman from SUEZ took the initiative to do just that.

When we think about digitisation, one thing that is often forgotten is the internal processes. Many of these processes can often benefit from digitisation, and Megan Boardman from SUEZ took the initiative to do just that.

The Kooragang Industrial Water Scheme (KIWS) treats effluent through microfiltration and reverse osmosis. That water is provided to a couple of industrial customers who use up to 10.5 ML of water every day. This means that those companies are not taking water from the drinking water supply for Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

Megan Boardman is a recent but valuable addition to the water industry, having joined SUEZ Australia and New Zealand in May 2018. While initially starting in an administrative role, Boardman found herself wanting to learn more about the Kooragang plant.

“When it came to raising purchase orders and doing other duties, I was intrigued about what the products are, what they mean, and what effect they have on the plant,” she said.

“I put my hand up and showed my interest in learning more. SUEZ helped me get my Certificate III in Water Industry Treatment, Water Quality and Wastewater Treatment Management, and Recycling Technology. This allowed me to expand my knowledge and take part in on-site training with the plant manager.”

While Boardman still has some of her administrative duties, she has been balancing them with her role as a water operator. SUEZ has also supported her in completing a Certificate in Work Health and Safety.

“SUEZ has been extremely accommodating in helping me change from an administrative role to a water operator. They are more than happy to support people who want to learn and grow,” said Boardman.

Digitising internal processes for more efficient work

Boardman was tasked with finding ways to reduce the volume of paper used in the plant’s daily, weekly, and monthly checklists. Generally, these checks ensure the safety and operations of the Kooragang plant.

“I wanted to find something already available to us rather than introducing something new to our existing systems,” said Boardman. “I discovered that I could create forms within Teams using Microsoft Forms. These forms allow us to conduct daily, weekly, and monthly checks by logging all the data as we walk around the plant and filling in the forms on our mobile phones.”

As part of creating these forms, a lot of paperwork was eliminated while keeping a clear audit trail for future reference. In addition, the completed sheets were automatically emailed to everyone in the team, and photos or videos could be added to the form.

“When we walk around the plant and spot something that isn’t quite right, we can share that information instantly with the whole team. It worked well during COVID when there were not many people on site. If you’re working from home, you know if an issue needs to be dealt with,” she said.

The benefits of this system mean that all the checks are done faster, with the relevant comments built into the system. Issues can be tracked over time based on observations and ratings, and the effort of scanning in large volumes of paper has been eliminated.

“We still have the option of downloading the report as a PDF and saving it,” Boardman said. “We can also track the data by exporting an Excel spreadsheet, which means we can track the information and see any trends emerging.”

QR codes modernise stock management, digitising internal processes

Another project that Boardman developed was a series of QR codes associated with spare parts. The QR codes are placed on shelves under the corresponding part, so people would scan the QR code before taking the needed part. This has significantly improved SUEZ’s stock management at the plant.

“I was finding that people were going in and taking part because they want to fix the problem straight away,” she said.

“We would not know until one or two months later, and the stock had not been properly booked through our existing systems. With this new system, scanning the QR code automatically identifies the part and the part number. All the forms go into one folder, so I know who is taking what part for what job.”

While the scans do not integrate into the stock management system, they will let Boardman know what is being used. She can follow through to ensure that parts are where they should be.

“Technicians focus on fixing problems, so the last thing they were thinking about was stock levels. This is a backup system that ensures nothing gets missed. The best part is I already had a label maker in the office, so it didn’t take much effort to make labels for all the parts,” she said.

Benefits of digitising internal processes and the future

Boardman pointed out that her forms had been a timesaver while reducing the amount of paper used and keeping the entire team informed.

“By moving to a digital process, people get automatic email notifications whenever the checklist is done. It has meant that everyone is kept in the loop, regardless of where they are at the time,” said Boardman.

In terms of the future, Boardman wants to finish her certificate in work health and safety. However, it’s not the only area in which Boardman wants to improve herself, and SUEZ is big on women getting involved in the business through self-education and self-improvement.

“I’m a person who wants to improve upon myself continually. I want to keep growing and learning; SUEZ will help me progress,” she said.

“There will probably be an opportunity to skill up my certificate in water operations to a higher level, and I feel that in the five years I have been here, I have achieved quite a lot.”

For more information, visit https://www.suez.com/en/Australia-new-zealand

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