Making a splash with optimised routes

Written by Integrated Skills

May 10, 2023

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Route Optimisation

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The impact of route optimisation on water meter reading operations outside of the UK & Europe

We have posted a number of blogs over the years concerning the impactful role of route optimisation in the reading of energy and water meters. These blogs have primarily been focused on the UK meter reading market. This blog has a more international angle and centres on water rather than energy meters.

Across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East the drive for greater efficiency and improved customer value in the energy sector is being met through smart meter programmes. Oman, for example, is on target to meet its 2025 commitment to roll out 1.2 million smart meters to all energy users – industrial and domestic. Not all countries in the MENA region are as advanced as Oman when it comes to energy meters. And the application of smart meters for water meter reading operations is well behind those for energy meters – across the globe.

Until the roll out of smart meters for the water industry becomes the norm, which won’t be for at least another 10 years, there are several ways to reduce costs in water meter reading operations. These most common cost saving measures include:

  1. Implementing Automated Meter Reading (AMR) Systems: By implementing an AMR system, manual meter reading can be replaced with automatic data collection whereby the operatives drives or walks passed the meter without having to physically view it. This method of meter reading reduces labour costs and reduces the miles/kilometres travelled thus minimising CO2 output. AMR can also reduce the frequency of site visits and minimize human errors. The AMR technology is not new and is tried & tested in the field, primarily in the USA and becoming more common in the UK and Europe.
  2. Implementing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Systems: AMI systems take AMR a step further by providing real-time data collection, two-way communication between the meter and the utility company, and advanced analytics. This allows for more efficient management of the power grid, accurate billing which in turn leads to improved customer management.
  3. Consolidating ‘traditional’ meter reading routes: It is still the case that consolidating existing non-AMR routes increases the efficiency of water meter reading operations by reducing labour overhead, travel time, mileage and CO2 output. By far, non-AMR meter reading is still the most common methodology in the MENA region for water meters and is completed by a team of field operatives who need to visit multiple locations to read the meters. These locations are often spread across a wide geographical area and rely on non-electric vehicles to cover long distances. In dense urban areas these routes may well be walked by operatives, or a combination of ‘mixed mode’ (walking and scooter/walking and car, etc). Even in urban areas GIS based route optimisation software can make significant cost savings.

Due to ongoing water shortages, and an increased awareness of water conservation in the MENA region, some experts suggest that there is growth potential for AMR programmes evidenced in part by China providing affordable AMR meters to countries in the region. Other experts highlight the increasing implementation of smart meters into public building such as hospitals & schools as evidence of increased investment. Key infrastructure and financing challenges remain and are the primary blockers to smart meter roll out for the water sector in the region, rather than the meter technology itself.

Until these financing and infrastructure challenges are overcome, route optimisation software & services will remain an essential tool for water meter reading operations (AMR or other traditional) as it helps to improve efficiency, reduce costs, reduce CO2 and enhanced customer management which in turn should lead to improved customers satisfaction.

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