Westin Technology Solutions works to improve the performance of water, wastewater, gas, and electric utilities throughout North America. The California-based W/WW Professional Services Consultancy guides utility providers through the maze of available information and operation technology, helping them to implement practical, innovative, and cost-saving solutions for their business challenges. Westin has worked with a majority of W/WW utilities in California over the last 40 years; from mission-critical, core business operations to asset management and customer service, Westin’s suite of IT consulting, Asset, Customer, and Data Management services can handle it all.
“Utilities are public sector agencies–and in today’s world, with the economic realities and cost of aging infrastructure, they need to operate as efficiently as possible,” Executive Vice President Doug Spiers points out. “The use of technology enables utilities to enhance their operations, redefine their business processes, put powerful tools in the hands of their employees, and serve their customers much better. The technology is simply an enabler to optimize their entire performance and improve their business processes.”
Technology is only effective, however, when it is properly applied. This is Westin’s core business: “We guide utilities to optimize the application and integration of the technology to maximize the value to the business,” Mr. Spiers explains. “Our company is passionate about helping these utilities be the best they can be by using technologies to enable better business performance.” With four decades under its belt, Westin has the industry experience needed to match the best solution with the unique situation of each utility provider. “Our focus has been in this area for 40 years. We know all the business applications and how to optimize the use of their technology investments. These utilities spend millions of dollars a year on technology, and we help them understand how to maximize the use of that investment over 5, 10, 20 years.”
Westin is not aligned with any particular software, ensuring that the team remains neutral when it comes to matching clients with solutions. “We don’t provide any software; we are agnostic. We have no preference. We identify the best solution for that client’s needs, and they are all different. Large utilities have different needs than small utilities.” So too do utilities that offer both water and electric services, versus those that only provide water or only provide electric. “They have different business needs, they have different levels of maturity, they have different budgets, they have different levels of skilled resources. We help them select the right solution for their specific business and technology needs.”
Automation is one solution that Westin can help clients harness effectively. “Some of these utilities can run billions of dollars of infrastructure,” Mr. Spiers points out. “Automation helps them operate all of those systems across a large geographic area reliably and securely. This investment in automation is also used to capture all the data from their operation for regulatory reporting, asset condition monitoring and performance management.” This consistency is absolutely crucial. “Water, wastewater, electric, and gas are mission critical systems: they need to be very reliable.” Applied properly, automation also enables the utility to slash costs by boosting overall effectiveness and efficiency.
Mobile solutions—smart phones, tablets, and other portable devices—have become indispensable since they really broke onto the scene over a decade ago. “It is about arming the field crew and service crews with the appropriate technology so they can get the job done in the most efficient way possible,” Mr. Spiers explains. “A lot of these large utilities may have 1,000 people in the field. Understanding where they are, what they are doing, and how they are progressing is key to customer relationships and managing costs.” Operations become much more efficient and cost effective when mobile solutions are utilized. “It helps speed the transactional business processes.” People in the field can upload data immediately, sending a detailed report to the operational center in real time, without ever saying a word or picking up a pen and paper.
Recent focus has been in integrating operations systems with business systems. Westin’s new eRIS Data Management Platform does just that with a new approach. It is a DATA HUB AND WEB APPLICATION that gives clients tools to Manage, Analyze, and Visualize enterprise data. The customer, asset, and controls automation systems are mission critical to the utility’s core responsibility of delivering its product (potable water, clean water, electricity, gas) to its customers. The opportunity is to capture cost reductions by optimizing the operation through data collection, analysis, and integration with other systems to respond to ever-changing variables in real time.
Keeping this in mind, utility providers will continue to turn to technology to help handle the industry’s complex—and omnipresent—complications. Boosting efficiency and reliability will remain at the forefront of IT solutions. “On the technology side, the new change is really working objectively with performance management and business intelligence tools on how to continue to best maximize and optimize utility performance.”
We live in a world that is flooded with ever-changing technology. Utility providers are expected to keep up and are often forced to do more with less: Westin is there to make sure that they can. Staying at the forefront of the latest advancements is a core company focus. “We will continue to develop state-of-the-art services based on appropriate technology trends,” Mr. Spiers summarizes. “Technology continues to change, and we as a technology consulting and engineering company need to stay at the forefront of where that is going in order to help consult with our clients to get them where they need to go.”