Managing Operator Turnover
Operators are an instrumental facet of how water and wastewater utilities function. An operator’s duties may involve everything from maintaining process and other equipment, to sampling and testing, to reporting state and federal regulatory requirements. Many operators stay with the same utility or facility for decades, resulting in them having a unique and deep understanding of the intricacies of their facility. While these employees can provide invaluable information to their facility, when they leave or retire, it can cause a critical gap in knowledge for remaining staff.
Knowledge Walking Out The Door
Currently, the average age of an operator is approximately 47 years old, and 63% of operators will be retiring within the next 10 years. As these operators exit their positions, they take with them facility-specific knowledge that must be relearned by the remaining staff. This can be anything from information about how a piece of machinery was installed or repaired a decade ago, or small tweaks that they have made to the treatment system to make the facility run more efficiently. There are countless hours wasted when staff has to relearn all of this same information later on, some of which will never be duplicated. To minimize the negative effect that operator turnover has on a facility, the difficult task of retaining institutional knowledge should be a top goal.
This very issue was one of the impetuses for the development of OpWorks. “Operators need to be able to look at data over a period of time and see patterns in it. It gives them a better understanding of how their treatment plant works and how to optimize it,” explains Hazel Sletten, an operator and superintendent at the Grand Forks Water Utility who retired after more than 29 years in her position. “You build your knowledge base over time and, if you had a tool like OpWorks, the new operators walking in would have a whole data set and a way to look at it right at their fingertips.” OpWorks functions as a repository of knowledge that lets a facility keep all of its information in one easy-to-access location. This ensures that a utility will reduce the loss of knowledge when an operator retires or leaves their position, as well as making it easier to train and educate any new staff when they join the facility. However, OpWorks can also streamline operations, making it possible for the utility to accomplish more with less staff. OpWorks was developed in conjunction with Superintendents and Operators to ensure that it specifically addressed the issue of capturing knowledge of the facilities, while being user-friendly. To learn more about OpWorks, explore http://www.opworks.us.