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We've Downsized, Benchmarked, Reengineered, Other (Pick One), We've Reduced Unit Staff Levels By 30%, Now What?

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During the 1990s, large municipal wastewater utilities reduced staffing levels by 30% (source: AMSA surveys 1990, 1993, 1996 and 1999). Much of the efficiency improvement activity was a reaction to privatization pressures – the number of contract operated plants increased by a factor of five during the '90s. Most of the utilities that improved achieved their reduced staffing levels by doing the same few things:



Implementing SCADA


Moving towards preventive and predictive maintenance


Minimizing Off Shift Staffing


Combining Operations and light maintenance


Outsourcing non-core activities


Improved procurement


Many of these improvements were one time events. Now that privatization pressures have eased there are signs that that the pace of efficiency efforts has significantly abated. However, pressures to continue making improvements will not stop, particularly after 9/11. 9/11 has hurt the economy and increased costs for utilities and the governments that own a large percentage of the wastewater utilities, a poor environment in which to raise rates.

This paper addresses the potential for additional efficiency improvements. Most utilities can continue to improve operations and maintenance (O&M) efficiency, but major efficiency improvements are available in capital (planning, engineering and construction) and support services.

Most importantly, this paper will address what today's utility needs to do to continuously improve and to avoid the biggest pitfall facing utilities in the coming decade.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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