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Managers and operators of industrial wastewater treatment facilities have historically reported on the cost-effectiveness of their operations; surveys have shown that privately-operated facilities have staffing levels in the range of 65 to 70 percent of those for comparable municipally-operated treatment plants. The author, however, still encounters industrial treatment and pretreatment facilities of which the management and staff are unfamiliar with their operations and maintenance (O&M) costs and the components thereof; sometimes even a total expenditure is not easily derived, due to the methods used in plant-level accounting in some manufacturing companies. While the competitiveness pressures on public operations have spawned a variety of optimization initiatives, identification of best practice approaches, benchmarking, optimal staffing evaluations, and the like, little of this activity has been routinely reported in the industrial treatment sector. Industrial plants are increasingly outsourcing their treatment facilities, and company management sometimes asks for wastewater treatment cost reductions which are unreasonable and unsupported.

For a manufacturer, treatment is a support or business service, and you must do your best to maintain your internal (product-making) customers and demonstrate your value. Arm yourself with the facts which support your present competitive position and your plans for improvement.

Benchmarking is commonly used in private business as a performance measure to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer service and product quality. In contrast, the use of benchmarking in public agencies is relatively new. Benchmarking of industrial wastewater treatment and performance is less common place. There are two primary types of benchmarking: metric benchmarking and process benchmarking.

Although effluent compliance is an imperative performance measurement, a singular focus on compliance is misleading. Comparison of a facility's performance measurements and business processes to those of similar treatment facilities through metric benchmarking and process benchmarking, respectively, yields even better clues to improvement and cost saving opportunities, and allow a particular site to track its performance over time.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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