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Modernizing Operational Maintenance at Treatment Plants

Water and wastewater treatment are among the most critical components of a healthy community. The organizations that provide these services are also responsible for the care of highly complex and expensive assets—yet they often rely on outdated technologies and manual processes to manage their work.

In 2017, the Harford County Division of Water and Sewer began looking for a modern work management solution to help automate preventive maintenance, coordinate work activities between groups, manage material inventories, and capture important data. Having used Trimble Cityworks for their water distribution and wastewater collection systems since 2010, expanding the platform to support the treatment process was a logical solution. In 2018, the county partnered with KCI Technologies make this project a reality.


The Division of Water and Sewer is responsible for the operation, maintenance, administration, planning and engineering of public water and sewer facilities. Within the division, there are two main sections. Water Sewer Maintenance (WSM) is responsible for the maintenance of county sewer collections and water distributions systems, and Water Sewer Operations (WSO) is responsible for county water and sewer treatment systems.

While Trimble Cityworks was already used within WSM, WSO had managed their work in a series of homegrown Microsoft Access applications that have evolved over nearly 20 years. This approach had worked in the past, but the applications were cumbersome to maintain and keep compliant with Microsoft updates. The siloed systems also hindered important communication between groups and prevented consistent business practices, data capture, asset inventories, and reporting within WSO.


The first step of the project was developing an asset geodatabase that was accurately organized into an easy-to-navigate hierarchy. While an inventory of assets did exist, it was spread across a variety of data sources and formats and included data that was highly inconsistent and incomplete.

Through several database design exercises and work sessions, the team developed schemas for water treatment, wastewater treatment, and pump station asset groups. Although there were some differences between each, the general structure was kept consistent in order to support efficient data management and reporting.

During the design process, it became clear that the proper hierarchy and naming conventions were of critical importance to the usability of the application and overall success of the implementation. The resulting schemas created simple four- to five-level hierarchies that included asset groups and names provided by end users, rather than engineers or administrators.


With the asset inventory developed, the configuration to support each group’s critical business processes began. This included configuring Trimble Cityworks to support the management and automation of preventive maintenance programs, updating the user interface to improve usability, creating a new domain to hold all WSO work and not interfere with WSM operations, and implementing very detailed security requirements.

Perhaps the most interesting and challenging configuration was the need to support the tracking of a “Top 30” work list. WSO consists of four distinct groups: water, wastewater, pump stations, and the operations maintenance section (OMS). If work requires a trade expert—electrical or plumbing, for example—it’s assigned to the OMS group.

Over the years, the prioritization of OMS assignments had been challenging so, in 2017, the four groups signed a memorandum of understanding that outlined the procedures for assigning work to OMS and the expectations for OMS response. The water, wastewater, and pump station groups are each responsible for ranking their top 10 work assignments according to a defined process. OMS then uses the rankings to prioritize their top 30 work activities.

Prior to Trimble Cityworks, OMS had to retrieve and update their assignments from the three different work order sources. This meant exporting the top 10 assignments from each source and consolidating them into a spreadsheet. The rankings tend to change rapidly, and this process relied on manual updates to keep them numbered correctly. It was tedious work and often caused confusion between groups.

In order to improve this process, the implementation team configured a universal custom field in Trimble Cityworks to store a rank (1-10) for work orders. They also developed a custom automation that keeps the list in order—with no duplicates—at all times.

In addition, the OMS users were given an inbox that displayed a live view of all three top 10 lists, along with a consolidated top 30 list. Since all groups are now using the same system, they are able to monitor everything live and in one spot.


Under this project, the county also implemented Storeroom for three locations that support both WSM and WSO. Prior to Trimble Cityworks, material inventories had been managed in three individual data sources, two using Microsoft Access and one using Microsoft Excel. The challenge was creating a master material list with standard naming conventions from more than 20 years of data.

On top of that, this data had to be mapped and migrated into Trimble Cityworks all at once to ensure a smooth transition for end users. Using carefully tested scripts and import procedures, the team successfully migrated 20,687 material records, 1,789 suppliers, and 41,455 supplier material records into Trimble Cityworks.

The implementation of Storeroom supported complex procedures for requesting and approving parts, which streamlined communication between maintenance workers and storekeepers. The entire material process is now handled through Trimble Cityworks and managed through strategic inbox tabs, each specifically designed based on user type.


With the new system now in place, Harford County expects to reap many benefits of upgraded work management processes, including better communication and transparency throughout the department. Data captured through Trimble Cityworks will help inform targeted preventive maintenance, capital improvement plans, operating budgets, and staffing requirements.

This foundation will help Harford County care for their complex assets while continuing to provide vital services to their customers. With the help of improved workflows, transparent communication, and flexible technology, the Division of Water and Sewer is better equipped to ensure the daily and long-term health of their community.