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$20m upgrade plugs Sydney Water's leaks

Sydney Water has spent AU$20 million on a workforce management IT upgrade for its engineers and service crews in the hope it will save several million dollars annually by reducing paperwork and increasing accuracy.
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Written by Alex Serpo on

Sydney Water has spent AU$20 million on a workforce management IT upgrade for its engineers and service crews in the hope it will save several million dollars annually by reducing paperwork and increasing accuracy.

Managing director Kerry Schott said in a statement that the system was "one of the biggest technology upgrades Sydney Water has implemented in over five years".

The system included workforce management software Advantex from Canadian software provider Ventyx, running on Panasonic CF-19 Toughbook laptops. The laptops physically integrate with Sydney Water vehicles via docking stations, and connect to Telstra's Next G mobile network. The systems integration was done by Fujitsu.

A Sydney Water worker using a Toughbook on the job.

Business project manager Jeff Micallef said Sydney Water first went to a select tender in 2005. "We chose Ventyx because they had a number of installations in America and Europe across water utilities in particular," he said. "Their out of the box product matched a high percentage of our requirements."

The Panasonic Toughbooks were chosen in consultation with the workforce, Micallef said. He said Sydney Water tested the system on a sample of the workforce, before going to pilot and then eventually rolling it out.

In order to make the changeover process as simple as possible, Micallef said the software was designed to mimic the previous paper-based process. "What they saw on the screen was basically an electronic version of their [current] job card, which went a long way towards acceptance," he said.

Training was an integral part of the roll-out process. "We did a readiness assessment of our workforce, and identified those who had never used a computer," Micallef said. Those with no computer literacy received two days training, while those with existing literacy received one.

The system also includes GPS, which is yet to be enabled, pending testing. "GPS further strengthens the scheduling capability of the product ... [such as] looking for the nearest available crew," Micallef said.

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