by John Fortin, Salem and Beverly Water Supply Board
The Salem and Beverly Water Supply Board (SBWSB) is a mid-sized utility that was established in 1935 to deliver drinking water to two small communities. The world has changed significantly in 85 years: the communities have grown to 90,000 residents, federal/local regulations have tightened, assets are aging, and some staff have recently retired and others are preparing for retirement.
In 2020 and 2021 a new leadership team was formed and set their eyes on building a multi-year Sustainable Water Infrastructure Management (SWIM) Program to help prepare the organization for the next 100 years of service. Given the immediate need for system repairs/upgrades, knowledge capture/transfer, and ever-changing regulatory requirements, the drivers were clear that they needed to quickly develop a short-term plan to communicate financial and other resource needs to key stakeholder groups.
Leveraging asset management best practices, including the Uptime® Elements, the team developed their SWIM RACES plan (Reliability, Asset Information, Capital Renewal, Energy/Environment, and Safety) to include physical as well as human, technology, and records assets. The plan has 5 “swim lanes” of activities and a schedule to help communicate the holistic approach. In a one-year period, to energize and set direction for the Board of Directors and staff, the leadership team (while keeping the utility running) embarked on a mission to set baseline tactics that would set the foundation to aid in reaching their world-class vision: “Be a world-class water utility driven by teamwork and operational excellence.” This included:
Developing a company logo, mission, vision and values statements;
Updating the organization chart and job descriptions;
Formalizing key company policies;
Renewing critical insurances; Locking in 4-year gas/electric contracts;
Providing maintenance best practices training;
Engaging outside experts for financial, design/construction and reliability projects;
Completing major housekeeping projects;
Embarking on a precision maintenance program;
Completing risk and resilience studies;
Establishing a Capital Sustainability Master Plan.