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The Maintenance Of Water Supply System Construction Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Construction
Wordcount: 5437 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This study set out to analyze the impact of maintenance culture on company performance. Ghana Water Company Limited was used as a case study. Maintenance culture of the company was analyzed in relation to their performance in Customer satisfaction, Profitability or bottom line and Regulatory compliance. The specific objectives of the study were to analyze maintenance practices in the water supply facilities that meet customer satisfaction, investigate the effects of maintenance culture on the profitability of the company and assess maintenance practices that meet PURC compliance. The study was designed as a mixed method, i.e., it used observational and quantitative census as its research approach. Staffs responsible for maintenance and customers of four selected water supply systems of GWCL were interviewed to generate the data. Researcher’s observations were used to confirm the outcome of the data that were gathered from the respondent. The data collected found out that, 54% of Customers however rated the waiting time to get their concerns addressed as poor whiles 56% were dissatisfied with overall service provided by GWCL. Additionally, a total of 55% of respondent staffs indicated that the maintenance activity of the company has affected the company’s bottom line, 27% has indicated that the company has not made profit for the past ten years with 32% remaining neutral. Maintenance budget which comes from company’s generated revenue was realized to be inadequate as a result of unaccounted for water leading to loss of revenue. It was agreed by 48% of respondent staffs that PURC standards were met but this is untrue since customers whose interest this commission serves indicated dissatisfaction. Based on these, Regular assessment of maintenance policy compliance, a shift from old technology to modern technology and finally, extensive human resource training including involvement of shop floor staffs in decision making to help minimize maintenance cost were recommended.



1.0 Introduction

This chapter outlines the scope of this thesis work, with respect to the issue discussed in this research. The problem has been stated, the research questions and objectives are outlined as well as limitations encountered during the study. Furthermore the structure of the thesis was presented, in a view to facilitating continuous reading.

1.1 Background

Despite the continuous evolving world of technology, maintenance has responded tremendously in meeting this rapid technological change. Nevertheless, inadequate maintenance has become one of the most issues faced by organizations in developing countries. Maintenance is seen as an unimportant activity in most developing countries thus, it is not given high priority due to insufficient/ minimal knowledge about the concept.

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Performance of every company depends on a lot of factors and maintenance is not an exception. The research analyzes the impact of maintenance culture on company performance, a case study of Ghana Water Company Limited. In view of these maintenance was discussed in terms of it profit maximization for the company, customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance. Maintenance cost can be a significant factor in an organization’s profitability (Chelson, Payne and Reavill, 2005). The type of maintenance practices that is adopted by any company can either impact the company’s performance positively or negatively. As argued by (Kutucuoglu et al. 2001), traditional terms such as ‘necessary devil’ which were used to describe maintenance are now obsolete since the role of maintenance in modern manufacturing companies is becoming ever more important. Companies are adopting maintenance as a profit-generating business element. The aim of maintenance is to contribute towards an organization’s profit with maintenance operation in harmony with the organizations business objective. Performance measuring systems are crucial to those who has stake in maintenance since research has shown that what get measured get done. This is to ensure that actual outputs are linked up to overall desired business needs of the company. According to Associate editor at American machinist (Jim Benesi, 2007), the perception of maintenance is changing with forward-looking companies that appreciate the crucial contribution it makes to their success. These companies view maintenance as the way to keep machines and equipment running, rather than as a way to fix things when they break. Proactive and predictive techniques allow for spotting and eliminating potential problems before they cause a breakdown. Many companies see the job of keeping critical production lines running to consistently satisfy customer delivery requirements as an exercise in frustration. According to (Terry Wireman, 2005), although many companies believed that maintenance is not a core competency, it fits all definitions of core competencies. In fact, many texts, when defining core competencies, actually use the maintenance/asset management function as an example.

There are several definitions of core competencies, but all of them focus on processes that allow a company to differentiate itself from its competitors. As argued by (Terry Wireman, 2005), core competency may have an impact by lowering costs, increasing profits, providing improved service to a customer, improving product quality, and improving regulatory compliance. When maintenance is not seen as organization’s core competency, it does not get the resources that are necessary to develop and maintain an effective maintenance management program. And their maintenance crews often move from one problem to the next only to find that they lack the tools, parts and, perhaps, the skills to get the broken down machine or equipment up and running immediately. If companies are to be successful in coping with today’s demanding global market conditions, they have to view maintenance as core competency, eliminate reactive maintenance practices and become more proactive that ensures optimal machine availability. Moreover it is presumed that all water supply undertakings such as Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), share a common purpose and management objective which may be stated according to (Faria & Alegre, 1996) as “the achievement of the highest level of consumer satisfaction and service quality in line with the prevailing regulatory framework whiles making the best use of available resources”. This can be possible only if the nation’s urban water provider view the voice of the customer as number one measure of quality of their service delivery. To achieve these also performance can only be assessed on efficiency but not effectiveness. According to (Jim Benesi, 2007), efficiency which is doing the right thing right at the right time all the time is underpinned by proactive maintenance practices rather being reactive.

Taking into consideration the stakeholder, resources and values, one of the top management objectives for any utility company; according to (http://www.gwcl.com.gh/ourbusiness.php) is “to plan, construct, maintain and operate the company’s physical asset as efficiently and effectively as possible”. This is believed to be achieved under Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) which is a strategic change management approach that has considerable impact on internal efficiency in organizations both in the West and in Japan (Jackson, 2000). TPM is an organization-wide strategy to increase the effectiveness of production environment especially through methods of increasing effectiveness of equipments. The utility companies such as GWCL which has high dependability by its customers as the only urban water provider need to implement world-class maintenance strategies and techniques such as the TPM because urban water supply is facing accelerating changes of pace in technology, and market demand (Jackson 2000). Notwithstanding, there are challenges that are purely due to the fact that the company is managing a system that has high value assets making it capital intensive coupled with long term assets as a result of design reason for the supply system which is expected to work at maximum capacity during peak time in future when the system is being expanded. In recent years, Ghana Water Company has also experienced unprecedented degree of change in management processes, process technology, customer expectations and supplier attitudes. Competition was not a threat to GWCL because they are the only company providing urban water in the country. It can then be argued that, since the company is enjoying monopoly, they lack innovation into new processes which maintenance has a core role to play in. The company being a state own utility provider though not in competition, has a primary responsibility of providing affordable, portable, and regular water supply to urban communities in Ghana. To be able to achieve total quality management (TQM), the state water provider must consider Maintenance as a core competency. There is the need for high quality maintenance culture in GWCL.

1.2 Problem statement.

The water supply sector in Ghana has not been able to provide and sustain adequate drinking water services to all citizens. The main problem is the lack of sustainable access to improved water supply service for the people of Ghana (urban communities) in an efficient, effective and equitable manner. Two problems are evident. The first is lack of access to water supply and second is the poor and unsustainable service for the inhabitants with access to water supply services. A significant proportion of the population does not have access to improved services and those with access are concerned with the quality of the service such as reliability, water quality and response to customer complaints. In Ghana, The rate of urbanization outstrips current levels of urban water supply. GWCL currently operates 82 urban systems with an average daily output of 572,012 m3/day as against a daily demand of 1,049,306 m3/day (Ghana National Water Policy 2007). Water is rationed to many consumers with only a few customers able to get 24-hour supply. In the peri-urban areas and the densely populated poor urban areas customers receive supplies once a week or none at all. Among the urban poor, water can be a critical resource in short supply. Nationally, the Ghana Demographic and Housing Survey found that only four out of ten respondents (41.4%) living in urban areas had piped water in their homes and a similar number (42.6%) purchased water form a public tap or neighbor’s residence. The Ghana Living Standards Survey, Round 4 (GLSS4) reported that approximately forty percent (40%) of urban families were relying on neighbors and vendors for their water (Ghana National Water Policy 2007). Additionally, the urban centers are the focus of Ghana’s industrial and commercial activities many of which rely on adequate and reliable water supplies for efficient production. Also, water is a fundamental basic need and an essential resource for economic activities with strong cultural and symbolic values for millions of people especially in developing countries such as Ghana where the researcher comes from. Domestic water supply is universally acknowledged as not only a basic right but a key development indicator (WHO, 202). It is also accepted as an excellent entry point to reaching the poorest women who have the responsibility of finding domestic water supplies. Poor women disproportionately bear the burden of the unpaid chores of fetching water for domestic uses. In Ghana, women and girls are almost exclusively responsible for domestic chores and for maintaining hygiene in the household. All these are reasons why maintenance practices at any company like GWCL which is mandated to perform this task ca not be ignored. Healthy maintenance culture can go a long way to increase a company’s profitability. When maintenance practices are not in line with organization’s objectives, customer satisfaction, regulatory compliance and profitability of the organization will definitely be challenged.

Another side of all these problems is inadequate and inconsistent portable water supply to majority of Ghanaians. The persistent call on Ghana Water Company Limited to respond to this demand has resulted into little improvement. This is due to the fact that, most of the GWCL systems have seen little or no rehabilitation and expansion over the years. The other key challenges facing the urban sub-sector include: the urgent need for improved management in operations and maintenance of water supply. The research into the company’s maintenance culture and its impact on the performance of the company is to identify better ways of maximizing benefit from the current systems. Water supply and distribution cannot be down played by the state own utility company. Every business starts with the customer and can only have competitive advantage if the customer is consistently satisfied with their service delivery. One of the challenges of Ghana Water Company limited is high value of unaccounted-for-water.

1.3 Research Questions

Is maintenance culture in Ghana Water Company Limited contributing to customer dissatisfaction?

Does the maintenance culture in Ghana Water Company Limited have any impact on the company’s profitability?

Does maintenance culture in Ghana Water Company limited (GWCL) helps in compliance to Public Utilities regulatory Commission (PURC) requirements?

1.4 Research Objectives

To analyze maintenance practices in the water supply facilities that meet customer satisfaction.

To investigate the effects of maintenance culture on the profitability of a company.

To assess maintenance practices that meets PURC compliance.

1.5 Study Scope

The scope of the study was four urban water supply systems of GWCL in two regions in Ghana. The systems include Dunkwa on offin, Breman-Asikuma, Cape Coast all in the central region and Kpando in the Volta region. These three systems were chosen because these systems were undergoing rehabilitation and expansion which makes them a good case study in the analysis of the maintenance culture of the organization. The choice of two regions was to have a different geographical setting to be able to appreciate if maintenance culture can be affected by the location in which these systems are.

1.6 Significance of the Study

Maintenance should renovate each physical system so that it is able to fulfill the function or functions, for which it was designed; otherwise effort, time and hence energy may be wasted. Maintenance of equipment depends not just on those who undertake the maintenance function but also on designers, purchasers and operators. Thus, to achieve optimal performance of the system, all of these should possess a detailed understanding of what needs to be done, and to be able to, and willing to, do whatever is needed when required. In view of this, adequate and proper maintenance of the urban water supply systems by Ghana Water Company limited is important because public water supply is an essential service for communities and urban towns, part of the so called “services of general interest” being vital to general welfare, public health and the collective security of populations as well as economic activities and environmental preservation.

Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) was created to be solely in charge of urban water supply. In spite of external assistance, GWCL continue to suffer from massive financial, managerial and technical problems. The gap between supply and demand increases while demand for portable water in the cities was on the rise and the supply systems were degenerating. Unaccounted-for water continued to remain high at around 50%, which resulted from leakages of old and badly installed, mainly unmaintained pipe networks (Fuest and Haffner, 2007). The inadequate and inconsistent supply of water has lead to customer dissatisfaction and lot of health implications in Ghana. Rehabilitations and expansion of old systems is needed to be able to operate at full capacity and day to day maintenance practices that will prevent breakdowns are significant efforts to solving the water problem for Ghanaians within short term since construction of entirely new systems are capital intensive. GWCL lack systems for post construction support to ensure that facilities are always functioning after they have been constructed (2nd Ghana Water Forum – Conference Report, 2010).

1.7 Limitations.

The study collected data from three departments in four water supply systems of GWCL located in two regions Central and Volta about the way maintenance activities are undertaken. These departments are Maintenance, Production and Distribution was referred to in this research as Maintenance group. The study collect customer responds to determine customer satisfaction because literature on Ghana water supply has indicated a great gap between water supply and demand. The economic importance of maintenance will not be discussed in this study due to lack of economic data from the case company, thus, it will focus on maintenance culture and practice adopted by the case company.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research has been presented in five chapters with chapter two, reviewing all possible literature on operation and maintenance of the major components of a water supply system including organizational and maintenance culture of water supply system. Chapter three consists of the methodology used to collect the data and how the data has been analyzed to arrive at the findings/results. Chapter four discuses the findings/results whiles chapter five talked about the recommendations from the study. All materials used during the research are properly referenced at the last page of this thesis.



2.0 Introduction

In order to analyze the impact of maintenance culture on company performance, we need to understand best maintenance practices in the in the industry. This chapter critically reviewed past literature on Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of various components of urban water supply system. It reviewed literature on maintenance of water supply system, transmission and distribution system, treatment plants, storage reservoirs and Drinking water monitoring and surveillance. Finally, organizational and maintenance cultures that support maintenance in water supply system were reviewed.

2.1 Maintenance of Water Supply System

In an engineering sense, operation refers to hourly and daily operations of the components of a system such as plant, machinery and equipment (valves etc.) which is done by an operator or his assistant. This is a routine work. The term maintenance is defined as the art of keeping the plant, equipment, structures and other related facilities in optimum working order. Maintenance includes preventive maintenance or corrective maintenance, mechanical adjustments, repairs and corrective action and planned maintenance (Manual for operation and maintenance of water supply, 2010). Maintenance according to (Mishra 2007) is the combination of all technical and administrative actions intended to retain an item in or restore it to a state in which it can perform its required function. Maintenance as a business function serves and supports the primary process in any organization, its process adds to customer value in terms of quality, time and profit (Alsyouf, 2004). Maintenance of water supply system is defined according to (Eng. Ahmed Bahrudeen, 2010) as the art of keeping the structures, plants, machinery and equipment and other facilities in an optimum working order and proper functioning without any interruption. Maintenance must be viewed as routine and recurring process of keeping a particular machine or system in its normal operating condition so that it can deliver it expected performance or service without causing any loss of time on account of accidental damage or breakdown. In other words, maintenance means the work that is required to be done to keep a equipment in running condition such that it can be utilized to it full design capacity and efficiency for maximum amount of time. Not withstanding, utility provider’s main concern should be plant and equipment availability and reliability to be able to meet the expectation of the customers always. According to (Operation & Maintenance Best Practices Guide, 2010), data obtained in many studies over the past decade indicates that most private and government facilities do not use the necessary resources to maintain equipment in proper working order. Rather, they wait for equipment failure to occur and then take whatever actions are necessary to repair or replace the equipment. As argued by (Mishra, 2007), the advance in technology and the competitive nature of the industry, maintenance engineers responsibility has become complex. Activities that make the best use of available resources to the maximization of company profit is the strategy of the day since maintenance operations add to the running cost of the organization’s operation. The objective of maintenance work should be to strike a balance between availability and the overall running cost. The responsibility of the maintenance function should, therefore, be to ensure that production equipment/facilities are available for use for maximum time at a minimum cost over a stipulated time period such that the minimum standard of performance and safety of personnel and machines are not sacrificed. Moreover, it is presumed that all water supply undertakings such as Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), share a common purpose and management objective which may be stated according to (Faria & Alegre 1996) as “the achievement of the highest level of consumer satisfaction and service quality in line with the prevailing regulatory framework whiles making the best use of available resources”. This can be possible only if the nation’s urban water provider view the voice of the customer as number one measure of quality of their service delivery. As stated by (Jim Benesi 2007), to achieve these; the performance of the company can only be assessed on efficiency but not effectiveness. Efficiency which is doing the right thing right at the right time all the time is underpin by proactive maintenance practices rather than being reactive. The rapidly changing global marketplace calls for affecting improvements in a company’s performance by focusing on cost cutting, increasing productivity levels, quality and guaranteeing deliveries in order to satisfy customers (Raouf, 1994). Any time we fail to perform maintenance activities intended by the equipment’s designer, we shorten the operating life of the equipment. But what options do we have? According to (Operation & Maintenance Best Practices Guide 2010), Over the last 30 years, different approaches to how maintenance can be performed to ensure equipment reaches or exceeds its design life have been developed in the United States. In addition to waiting for a piece of equipment to fail (reactive maintenance), we can utilize preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, or reliability centred maintenance. Furthermore, the growth of mechanization and automation indicate that reliability and availability have become key issues in organizations as well as other sectors as diverse as healthcare, portable water supply, etc. requires preventive maintenance because the more automated the equipment, the more component that could fail and cause the entire piece of equipment to be taken out of service (Eti et al. 2006).

There are two types of maintenance viz., Preventive Maintenance and Corrective Maintenance.

2.1.1 Preventive maintenance.

As stated by (Terry Wireman 1991), in this type of maintenance, items are replaced or restored to their optimal working condition before failure is allowed to occur. This may base on scheduled and time-based PM. The schedule is drawn up on the supplier’s recommendation, which usually only considers limited knowledge of the actual condition. Preventive maintenance constitutes routine works and precautions to be taken periodically to prevent the system from mal-functioning by mechanical adjustments, repairs, corrective action and planned maintenance. GWCL need to focus more on the basics of PM if they are to achieve “best-in-class” status, with a ratio of more than 80 percent proactive maintenance to less than 20 percent reactive maintenance. Preventive maintenance has the proficient of minimizing downtime or preferably eliminating unwanted stoppages due to machine/ equipment failure as well as enhancing machine availability and reliability. Preventive maintenance in the water supply system is a routine operation and more economical than corrective maintenance and it provides uninterrupted service and avoids the need for corrective maintenance (Eng. Ahmed Bahrudeen, 2010). Water mains have several appurtenances, located in chambers, which require preventive maintenance.

2.1.2 Corrective Maintenance

It involves carrying out works related to break down, which has actually occurred by replacements, correction of defects etc. This according to (Ahuja, Pankaj Kumar, 2009)) refers to the maintenance strategy, where repair is done after the equipment failure/stoppage or upon occurrence of severe performance decline. This maintenance program according to the (Operation and Maintenance Best Practices Guide, 2010), is basically the “run it till it breaks” maintenance mode. Observation in Ghana Water Company Limited has shown that this is the predominant mode of maintenance. This approach always fails the companies in meeting their customer expectation. Portable water supply is a must and the availability and consistency of the supply is the customer’s number one priority.

2.2. Water Treatment Plant

As stated by (Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive office of Environmental Affairs, Department of Environmental Protection, 2004), treatment of raw water is necessary in all public water systems to prevent the transmission of contaminants to the consumer. The contaminants could be toxic, cause disease, or have other long-term health effects for the consumer. Water also must be treated for aesthetic contaminants (i.e., color, turbidity, taste, odor, and corrosives) so the consumer continues to have trust in the quality, taste, and odor of the drinking water. Because of this trust, the water supplier and operators have a continuing challenge to provide water of the highest possible quality at a time when there is an ever increasing possibility of contamination. Although the operation and maintenance of water treatment plants have many features that are typical of the operation and maintenance of any infrastructure item, there are definitely features that are absolutely unique to water treatment plants (Guidance Manual for Preparing Public Water Supply System O & M Plans, 2000). Water treatment is in two stages; Pretreatment and conversional treatment (filter unit). The treatment processes may need pretreatment like pre-chlorination and aeration prior to conventional treatment. The maintenance operations of the pretreatment processes comprising of Coagulation and Flocculation under rapid sand filters was reviewed in conjunction with conversional treatment.

2.2.1 Pretreatment Works

The pretreatment units which form essential parts of a Rapid sand filtration unit include (a) Coagulation and flocculation with rapid mixing facilities and (b) Sedimentation units.

The purpose of coagulation and flocculation is to remove particulate impurities, especially non settleable solids (particularly colloids) and color from the water being treated. Non-settleable particles in water are removed by the use of coagulating chemicals (Manual for operation and maintenance of water supply, 2010). Preventive maintenance of units that carry out these process and the resultant effects of the particles on other units will enable continuous water supply to customers.

Coagulation Treatment

Fig. 2.1 Coagulation and flocculation process of water treatment

Source: (Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum Drinking Water Treatment)

2.2.2 Water Treatment Process

The pictures below illustrate the water treatment process in general (http://www.mansfield-tx.gov/departments/utilities/water/about/treatment.php). As the lake water enters the treatment plant microbes and minerals are reduced with chlorine dioxide. This stage is called pre-oxidation/ disinfection. The quality of the water is monitored during all of the various stages of treatment.Laboratory analysis

Fig.2.2 pre-oxidation/ disinfection (City of Mansfield 2012)

Detailed laboratory analysis accompanied by on-line instruments that constantly monitor specific parameters to insure that that all phases of water treatment are optimized.


Fig 2.3 Laboratory monitoring of treatment phases (City of Mansfield 2012)

One of the primary stages of water treatment process is mixing coagulants into the lake water as it enters the treatment plant. This stage is called flocculation.


Fig 2.4 Flocculation (City of Mansfield 2012)

The chemical coagulants, and silt from the lake water are removed in the settling basin. This stage is called sedimentation.


Fig 2.5 Sedimentation (City of Mansfield 2012)

The settled water then passes through a system of tube settlers that settle any of the coagulant that was not removed in the settling basin, and the clarified water is collected in launders that flow to the top of the filtration system. This stage is called settled water.

Settling coagulants

Fig 2.6 Settled water (City of Mansfield 2012)

The settled water then passes through a granular activated carbon filtering unit. After the water passes through the filter system it is totally enclosed and protected from outside contamination. This stage is called filtration.


Fig 2.7 Filtration (City of Mansfield 2012)

After filtration the pH of the water is adjusted to prevent scaling and corrosiveness. Fluoride is added to help prevent tooth decay, and the water is disinfected with chlorine.

Disinfected with chlorine

Fig 2.8 Disinfection (City of Mansfield 2012)

The filtered water is stored in large tanks called clear-wells. Storing the water in these tanks prior to distribution allows the final disinfectant contact time with the freshly filtered water.

Water is stored in clear-wells

Fig 2.9 Clear water well/reservoir (City of Mansfield 2012)

The disinfection residual in municipal drinking water helps to insure the safety of the drinking water as it is pumped away from the treatment plant and throughout the water distribution system. This stage is called finished or drinking water.

Final Stage

Fig 2.10 Finished/drinking water pumped into distribution system (City of Mansfield 2012)

2.2.3 Maintenance of water Treatment Plant

As stated in (Manual for operation and maintenance of water supply, 2010), preventive maintenance programs are designed to assure the continued satisfactory operation of treatment plant by reducing the frequency of breakdown failures. To ensure regular supply of water, electric motors must be kept free of dirt and moisture, good ventilation is important, Checking pumps and motors for leaks, unusual noise and vibrations, overheating or signs of wear. It is important to maintain proper lubrication and oil levels, inspecting alignment of shafts and couplings, checking bearings for overheating and proper lubrication. Checking for proper valve operation and checking for free flow of sludge in sludge removal collection and discharge systems. Above all there must be proper House Ke


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