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Water is open for business. Are you?

The new Retail Notification Service from digdat offers important benefits for water wholesalers, retailers and business customers

As the dust settles on the opening of the non-household water retail market, wholesalers and retailers face specific, yet related, challenges. A new web-based solution from digdat, is now available, offering multiple benefits across the reformed market. digdat Retail Notification Service is the first service of its type to provide water companies and their retailers with the necessary infrastructure to manage customer information around service disruptions.

At the wholesale end of the chain, there is a need for water companies to comply with the MOSL obligation to keep retailers informed of any disruptions and emergencies that have the potential to affect the end customer. Satisfying the demands of a large number of retailers is a tough challenge, but digdat RNS ensures that information can be managed in a timely and accurate way, from behind a secure login. Anglian Water has already implemented digdat RNS after a period of testing during the run-up to deregulation. Don Maher, Head of Wholesale Market Services explains: “The Open Market presents new challenges in a new operating environment. We needed a solution to keep our retailers informed of planned and unplanned works and incidents that have the ability to affect their service or supply. digdat RNS provides real-time notifications relevant to each retailer all in one place. Retailers are able to follow specific events, receive relevant updates and comment. We are confident that RNS will help deliver the high levels of customer service we strive for.”

The customer service issue is equally as challenging from the other end of the chain. Service and supply disruptions can have a severe impact on businesses – from preventing them from carrying out work, through to loss of clients. It is essential that water retailers give adequate notice to their non-household customers in line with standards laid down by the government. digdat RNS provides one interface through which retailers can view planned and unplanned works, follow specific events and provide comment and feedback. All this is done in a way that integrates seamlessly with their existing processes. Email alerts are also provided as part of the RNS package.

Building a reputation for good customer service will be key to retailers creating competitive advantage and winning new customers in the new deregulated environment. By facilitating the effective communication of important information to customers, digdat RNS fully supports the building of customer service advantage. Quite simply, digdat RNS provides service teams with the important information, freeing up staff to focus their efforts on pushing out the message to customers in a timely way via the most relevant channels.

John Bennett, digdat Business Manager comments: digdat RNS is the first hosted service of its kind that has been developed in consultation with MOSL, wholesalers and retailers. It ensures full compliance and means that wholesalers and retailers are fully prepared to operate in the new deregulated marketplace.”

Congratulations to Anglian Water – WaterAid Cycle Ride 2016 raises £22,000

digdat, sponsor of Anglian Water WaterAid Cycle Ride 2016, today congratulates employees from Anglian Water and its partner companies that participated, for successfully raising £22,016.

The money raised will change the lives of nearly 1500 people, by providing them with access to clean safe drinking water and sanitation.

The annual event was a great success with 110 riders taking part each cycling distances between 30 and 200 miles, covering 13,800 miles in total.

digdat is proud to sponsor the annual event, knowing that the funds raised makes a real difference to the world’s poorest people. It not only helps to provide clean water and safe sanitation, but also promotes a sustainable longer term improvement to the lives of these people through hygiene education.

Severn Trent to buy Dee Valley Water for £78.5m

Severn Trent has announced it will buy rival water company Dee Valley Water in a deal worth £78.5 million.

Severn Trent said Dee Valley was a “natural fit”, as it operates in neighbouring areas in England and Wales. It will pay 1,705 pence in cash per share for the company, which supplies approximately 62 million litres per day to more than 258,000 customers.

Severn Trent will maintain a separate Welsh licence for Dee Valley and, subject to regulatory approval, intends that the whole of its business in Wales will be regulated under Welsh government policy.

Severn Trent is undertaking an investment programme of more than £3 billion in AMP6, and said it intends to fully support continued investment in infrastructure in the Dee Valley region.

Commenting on the acquisition, Severn Trent chief executive Liv Garfield said: “The announcement of our purchase of Dee Valley represents an opportunity for Severn Trent to apply its successful operating model for the benefit of customers across an enlarged asset base, in a neighbouring geographic area.

“We intend to bring real benefits to Dee Valley’s operations and customers by bringing best practice and investment to support and enhance the service the company provides and by sharing the savings we can generate. We are looking forward to engaging with the customers and Welsh regulators and bringing our skills in water services to Dee Valley.”

Dee Valley chairman Jon Schofield said: “The board of Dee Valley has reached agreement on the terms of a recommended acquisition of Dee Valley by Severn Trent Water. We believe that the acquisition provides attractive value to Dee Valley shareholders.”

This article first appeared in Utility Week.

digdat attending Future Water Networks event

digdat is pleased to be attending Future Water Networks on 23 & 24 November 2016 where innovations in metering, market separation and competition and mobile operations and future technology will be explored and reviewed.

For further information click here

Striking out underground cable strikes

Thousands of accidental cable strikes are recorded every year, and are among the biggest health and safety risks for engineers in the utilities sector. But a 'sheep dip' approach to training is not the answer, says Cognisco CEO Mary Clarke.

One of the biggest risks for engineers working in the utilities sector is accidently striking underground cables. An estimated 60,000 underground cable strikes occur every year, which can cause serious injury or death and cost businesses millions of pounds in associated damages and compensation costs.

Cable strikes are a growing problem for utilities companies and it is an issue that has challenged the industry for many years. Despite deploying a variety of cable avoidance tools, staff training and learning and development programmes, cable strikes are still happening.

Combine this issue with a workforce attitude of “we’ve always done it this way” means that some utilities are failing to take appropriate measures to mitigate risk and ensure the safety of their workers. One of the shortcomings of the training that companies have been delivering is that they have focused on assessing knowledge, rather than how people apply their knowledge on the job. Just because someone has attended a training course, it does not mean they are competent and confident about applying their knowledge in the correct way at work. This ‘sheep-dip’ – one size fits all approach to training is not helping reduce cable strikes or improve overall health and safety.

Thames Water is trying to tackle the issue of cable strikes head on. In April this year, it embarked on a five-year project that will see all its Victorian waterways and sewage works upgraded. This is a huge project with several leading companies providing engineers. One of the main project risks is engineers’ accidently striking underground cables.

Behavioural training

To ensure the safety and compliance of all engineers and contractors that will work on the project, Thames Water has insisted that all engineers and contractors working on its new waterways upgrade project demonstrate their competence and confidence in relation to cable strike avoidance before starting work.

The company’s alliance, eight2O, and contractor Optimise are working with people risk specialist Cognisco, which has developed a Cable Avoidance Evaluation (CAE) assessment offering a new approach to traditional cable strike avoidance training based on the latest behavioural training and assessment techniques.

The assessment is designed to help improve the competence, knowledge and attitudes of engineers by enabling managers and supervisors to uncover the specific training requirements and support needed to improve the competence, performance and safety of individual workers. The aim is to reduce the risk of underground cable strikes and improve safety standards, ensuring compliance with all safety standards set by Thames Water. This assessment uses situational judgement questions based on realistic scenarios that utilities workers encounter daily and measures the knowledge, competence and confidence of workers in all aspects of the role. The results reveal what people know, as well as their behaviour and attitude towards risk, and highlight any knowledge gaps and specific training needs so they can be addressed.

In contrast to sheep dip training, the assessments drill down into the detail of what people know, as well as how they would apply their knowledge on the job which highlights their likely behaviour and attitude towards risk. The assessments also identify specific knowledge gaps and training needs so they can be addressed.

The approach provides managers with visibility of what individuals truly know and understand, any areas of misunderstanding, which if not addressed could compromise their safety or put them or the company at risk. By building up a picture of an individual’s or teams’ likely behaviour in certain situations and where potential risks lie, a company can plan for remedial action.

The Cable Avoidance Evaluation covers seven key topics and helps engineers understand risks at every stage from the pre-dig assessment and utility mapping through to checking equipment, interpreting cables and pipework, and methods of evacuation. The aim is to increase safety behaviour, and mitigate safety risk which will reduce the likelihood of injuries and fatalities resulting from cable strikes and mitigate risks of fines and reputational damage for companies.

Managers gain in-depth information about the knowledge, confidence and attitudes of their engineers and their training needs. They can view their star performers and their areas of weakness – employees that need additional support or training or who might not be ‘fit to practice’. They will be able to make the right decisions about training and development, direct individuals to the specific training and support they require, and tackle unacceptable behaviours, and have greater confidence in the ability and safety of their workforce.

This insight enables companies to deliver tailored training and development for every individual, eradicate unacceptable behaviours and to rationalise training spend. Through this innovative assessment, companies will understand who their most competent engineers are and those that might place themselves or the company at risk. Once identified, these employees can be can be given the essential training interventions needed or even taken off the job until they have improved their competence levels and can demonstrate they are fit to practice.

Compliant

To date, 1,035 plus individuals from 28 different companies working through Optimise have participated in the Cable Avoidance Evaluation and the assessment will be delivered to hundreds more engineers in the near future. Optimise is ensuring it has a competent, qualified and compliant workforce and is helping to build a culture of self-development and learning. The company is also helping to safeguard its workers from the risk of cable strikes. Thames Water is leading the way in putting safety first and it is anticipated this technique will make a huge impact in reducing the number of cable strikes on the project. By demonstrating best practice on such a high profile project it is hoped this will also help raise industry-wide safety standards and lead to a reduction in cable strikes across the whole of the utilities sector.


This article first appeared in WET News (July 2015)

Defra: water companies’ retail exit must ensure “a seamless process for customers”

Defra has published the form water companies must complete to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to withdraw from the non-household retail market for water – and demonstrate that this will ensure “a seamless process for customers.”

From April 2017, water companies can withdraw from their obligation to supply retail services to non-household customers and transfer responsibility to other providers.

The exit application process, which opens on 3 October 2016, is run by Defra and decisions on applications are made by the Secretary of State.

Introducing the form, Defra said that there are at least two parties involved in a retail exit – the undertaker requesting permission to exit (the applicant) and the acquiring licensee or licensees to whom the exiting undertaker’s non-household customers will be transferred should permission for the exit be granted.

The form must be completed by the exiting water company who will need to coordinate with the acquiring licensee/s to provide all the required information. Each acquiring licensee will also need to provide a letter of support for the requested exit.

Secretary of State wants to understand high-level reasons behind applications to exit

As part of the application any exiting water company is being asked to briefly outline the reasons for wanting to exit the non-household retail market in no more than 500 words – the form states:

“The Secretary of State wishes to understand the high-level reasons behind your application to exit and how it will support your company’s business plan. We do not require detailed facts or figures to support your reasons for exit.”

Applicants must also provide the exact what date on which they propose to withdraw from the non-household retail market which must be at least 5 months from the date of application but not be before 3 April 2017.

Both the exiting water company and the acquiring licensee(s) are asked to provide information on how they will comply with the customer communication requirements in the Water and Sewerage Undertakers (Exit from Non-household Retail Market) Regulations 2016 and make sure that customers are fully aware of the arrangements and options available to them.

On ensuring “a seamless process for customers”, the form also says that “the government wants the customers of an existing undertaker to have a positive experience of the process“ and invites applicants to include details of steps taken “to ensure that your customers have a positive experience of your exit.”

The exit application process opens on 3 October 2016. Companies seeking to exit at market opening will need to submit their applications by one of two dates in November 2016.


Source: Water Briefing


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