Contractors have always known that the operational knowledge and experience of their operatives, built up over time, is as valuable in the field as anything. Now Clancy Docwra has the evidence to prove it.
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Northumbrian Water invited the firm to a hackathon – an event which investigates how technology can be used to transform every day practice. In this case, the focus of the day was on predicting leakage.
“We went to the day with IT firm Dootrix with the aim of combining their technology knowledge with our operational understanding of the challenges of leakage management,” says the Clancy Docwra associate director Ronan Clancy.
“We were given the historic data for leak occurancy and asked, what can you do with it?”
Clancy Docwra was the only contractor at the event alongside technology companies.
“With Dootrix crunching the data and our teams’ knowledge of the area along with their understanding of the weather effects in particular spots, we predicted leaks [against actual events] with 95% accuracy. We won the show.”
The contractor has been working with water utilities for 60 years this year, starting with groundworks services, but now, as the sector has evolved, operating as part of a collaborative partnership with its key clients.
That is allowing the contractor to share its knowledge and develop new ways of using it.
There will be more focus on understanding flow and interpreting information from sensors
The combination of technology and under-the-ground understanding of water company networks is going to be a key part of the five year AMP 7 period from 2020. Ofwat is targeting water conservation during its current price review negotiations – known as PR19 – with the water companies. Reduction in the current 3bn litres a day lost through leakage is inevitably a focus of these talks.
“The future is going to be much more about predictive maintenance, finding leaks before they happen,” says Clancy Docwra chief operating officer Matt Cannon.
“There will be more focus on understanding flow and interpreting information from sensors; less of two people driving around in a van and fixing stuff. We need to be leading that.
Using artificial intelligence
“We are trying to focus on more forward thinking: how we can use artificial intelligence and data and align that to our core operation? Can we offer something new and different? We are getting there by working with internet technology companies. It’s very exciting.”
The PR19 focus is also on affordability for customers which means the water companies will be looking to reduce their costs with more efficient working practices.
A typical water region in England and Wales can incur labour costs of up to £10M a year in leakage management. But by working with Dootrix, Clancy Docwra predicts that technology has the ability to halve this cost through more efficient use of resources.
How we can use artificial intelligence and data and align that to our core operation?
It has developed a pioneering tool using live, secure, two way video links between site, experts and clients to get second opinions on investigations and remove the need for clients to visit sites to authorise each job.
Eviid, as it is known, was developed first for the company’s work with Southern Water. It is now being trialled on Clancy Docwra’s contract with Anglian Water.
Evidence from the Southern Water work has shown that Eviid has delivered £50,000 savings in year one by accelerating decision making and reducing labour costs.
Eviid onsite 1
It has saved an average of an hour per job – amounting to 740 working hours already in 2018. The site teams have adopted the tool enthusiastically, creating 150 videos daily and 7,000 since October 2017. “It has demonstrated a step change in established working methods,” says Clancy.
Clancy Docwra derives around 70% of its £300M annual turnover from water utilities, helped by its share of £1bn of work from the KCD alliance with Kier for Thames Water. It employs 2,500 people directly and another 1,000 through its supply chain.
“We are a family business and we have a lot of families working here – mothers, fathers, sons and daughters,” says Cannon. “Two hundred of our work force have been here over 25 years.
“Founder Michael Clancy died in 1987 but his sons Kevin and Dermot have been running the company for 30 years. The workforce and our clients can see the next generation coming through. We think clients like that we are agile and family run, that they can ring the bosses any time.
“Our challenge is to replicate the family feel as we grow. It is important that it feels like that.
“Our sector has seen huge consolidation but we want to stay family owned. And we don’t want huge borrowings, our growth will come in a sustainable way.”
As water enters another peak of activity, the Clancy family and their Clancy Docwra business plan to continue their story in the sector.