Water industry brain drain is here. As a significant portion of the workforce retires, decades of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) experience and expertise is also going with them. Expert Ken Schnaars, BC Senior O&M Consultant, and Project Engineer Chris Somerlot say Electronic Operations and Maintenance (eOM) manuals are the key to bridging this knowledge gap and helping utilities optimize their operations and build resiliency. As part of an Effective Utility Management strategy, eOM manuals can measure your utility in a comprehensive way that aligns with your long-term plan.

“People may come and go,” Ken says, “and knowledge fades. The industry needs a better solution than paper manuals to capture this knowledge and grow from it.”


Already, many utilities have a library of O&M manuals from a wide variety of projects, consultants, and deliverables but what is lacking is the ability to put all of these projects together into a working system and understand how all of the equipment works together. That’s what an eOM manual can do. It is a living document that puts information at your fingertips from multiple sources.

Plus, eOM manuals can also:

  • Reduce mistakes
  • Improve response times
  • Expedite maintenance and access to O&M information
  • Meet state regulatory requirements

“I go to so many facilities and I ask things like, ‘Where does this pump go’ or ‘What is the high pressure shutoff set at,’ and O&M staff have no idea. We have to search the file cabinets and a bunch of other information because it’s not readily available. eOM manuals bring that together.”
Brown and Caldwell Senior O&M Consultant Ken Schnaars

BC eOM manuals are:

  1. Created using an industry-leading secure content management system, Microsoft Sharepoint, that has been widely adopted by utilities.
  2. Configurable instead of custom coded to simplify updates and revisions.
  3. Easy to integrate on design projects.

“One of the advantages of having an Electronic Operations and Maintenance manual is the power of search to get through a lot of content. When someone searches for something like a well, you get a list of results within that eOM like an operator log or a video. When you go to that video, it also transcribes it for you and even that transcription is searchable.”
Brown and Caldwell Project Engineer Chris Somerlot

Make the most of your knowledge base

While the benefits are clear, Chris says an optimized eOM manual takes it even further. An optimized eOM manual also converts a utility’s knowledge base into easily updatable formats that are not only highly accessible, but also offer real-time feedback of system operations and built-in tools to identify the gap between inefficient processes and optimal performance.

BC has assisted utilities across the country with interactive digital tools to update important O&M documentation essential to running a plant. BC experts can help plan the foundation of eOM for modernization,  new implementation, or setting the future of the utility as part of a large upgrade.

“We can adapt any manual to any situation,” Chris says. “For example, we’ve added onto existing owner manuals. We have imported their information into a new eOM format, or we’ve started anew based on what their needs are and what their vision is.”

Meet BC:Opta™

BC:Opta is BC’s unique approach to utility optimization for a more effective future. As a BC:Opta solution, eOM manuals help utilities build enterprise resiliency.

By taking an approach that combines people+technology+adoption, BC:Opta delivers eOM manuals that foster an environment of collaboration and bring together technologies and subject matter experts from both the utility and BC.

BC:Opta is also implemented in a way that can be easily adopted throughout a utility’s organization.

“One of the cool things is that new features come along all the time like using your mobile device,” Chris adds. “You can integrate things like your GPS location and camera to enable an easier workflow.”

For example, staff can tag a piece of equipment such as a valve with a QR code, making its related data easy to access with a remote device like a mobile phone. Once scanned, the QR code could take the user directly to that valve’s page in the eOM manual, providing a shortcut to information, such as maintenance history, process theory, lockout tag-out, and daily log.

The future

With an optimized electronic format, O&M manual content possibilities are limitless. On the horizon are real-time dashboard integration and training materials, such as videos, PowerPoints, even quizzes. That coupled with an Effective Utility Management strategy, eOM manuals can help measure utilities in a comprehensive way that helps them achieve their long-term goals.

As Chris points out: “It’s always about the content and how you can easily get it to the ones who need it when they need it most.”


About the experts

Ken Schnaars is a Brown and Caldwell Senior O&M Consultant. A certified wastewater treatment plant operator and licensed professional engineer, Ken is an operations and maintenance expert with over 47 years of specialized civil environmental engineering experience.

Chris Somerlot is a Brown and Caldwell project engineer. He has nearly 20 years of experience in engineering, information technology, and software development.

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