Operational efficiency

Posted on Thursday, April 30, 2020 by Ole Tarp

Business beyond usual enables smart meter roll-outs during COVID-19.

A status report from Danish Utilities – part I

While the COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in a new normal for all of us, many water utilities insist on thinking forward and moving ahead with their projects to do their part to ensure that we all make it to the other side of this crisis in the best way possible. In this new series, we’d like to share the stories behind some of the different projects that are continuing – starting with Danish utility, Novafos.

They say that where there a will, there’s a way. But when it comes to smart meter roll-outs, it takes a bit more than that – especially these days. Luckily, we see that despite these difficult times it is possible to continue even large projects involving the installation of thousands of smart meters as well as the infrastructure needed to read them remotely via a fixed network. In our experience, solid planning combined with close – but virtual – collaboration goes a long way. 

72,500 meters. One plan.
The planning of Novafos’ roll-out of 72,500 smart water meters was quite far along when Denmark shut down. The project started January 20th of this year and has actually proceeded according to the initial plan ever since – despite the lock-down. According to Bo Lindhardt, Vice President of Novafos, this was a result of our adaptable and solution-oriented collaboration:

”Together with Kamstrup, we evaluated what consequences the government and health authorities’ guidelines would have in regards to replacing a meter. And we have continuously assessed our compliance, including keeping a distance and having no physical contact.”

Installation of the pilot meters had been set to start May 11th , and just like all the other deliverables and deadlines, this remains unchanged despite the COVID-19 situation. In addition to of course taking the precautions this situation dictates, our only adjustment was that all project meetings were conducted virtually – but the close communication was the same as always. When the lockdown happened, both we, Novafos and their project consultant agreed that we should continue as planned and make the necessary adjustments if and when needed to along the way.

”We believe Novafos has an obligation to keep as many projects going as we can, so that we contribute to minimising the financial costs of the Danish lockdown. Adapting our meeting culture was not a problem for us, and everyone had a shared understanding of not letting important decision-making processes be slowed down because we could not meet physically,” says Bo Lindhardt.

The radio plan for the Novafos project is also on track and the first site went live without a hitch. However, the second site poses a challenge as the surrounding area has been closed off completely due to COVID-19. If we are unable to find a solution, Novafos has shown great flexibility by being willing to reduce the pilot.

Nothing left to chance 
An information letter sent out from Novafos to their customers naturally also highlights the importance of complying with official COVID-19 guidelines during installation and calls on their cooperation.

”We considered in detail how we ensure that the installers can comply with the current guidelines, including distance requirements, to avoid exposing our customers and themselves to unnecessary risk of infection. Our visit with the customer lasts an average of 15-20 minutes if the meter installation is fully prepared. We have therefore put a lot of effort into communicating to our customers exactly what they must do prior to a meter replacement, like ensuring free access to the water meter, so that our installers are not in unnecessary contact with other furniture or fixtures,” explains Bo Lindhardt.

This will also be communicated when we meet – at a safe distance – with all the installers at Novafos on May 11th for training before they drive out to begin installation.

Keeping the wheels turning
Utility professionals are no strangers to predicting and planning for the future. We see that sense of responsibility in so many of our customers, who – like Novafos – are very aware of their role in helping to keep the wheels turning throughout the chain that both they and Kamstrup are a part of, even during a time when they too are operating under all new circumstances.

Amongst our takeaways from our ongoing projects is that things work out, when everyone involved want them to work out. Perhaps now more than ever. There is no doubt that the last six weeks of virtual contact have actually brought us even closer than we before – not to mention that we have found online meeting to not only be more efficient but also involve fewer costs. Projects like the one with Novafos are essentially turning out to be not just technical pilots but pilots on how you continue a big project like while navigating in a new reality.


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