Remote monitoring and control of water treatment: Benefits for renal units

Remote monitoring and control of water treatment: Benefits for renal units

To save time and money on servicing reverse osmosis (RO) equipment, and ensure reliable, efficient operation, renal units should consider remote monitoring and control.

Essentially, this enables an expert technician to connect with your RO system, regardless of distance, to check how well it is working and diagnose any problems. A malfunctioning RO unit can then be quickly be brought back online through advice on remedial actions or, if necessary, an efficiently targeted site visit. With the remote control option, it is possible to make adjustments and remedy many faults remotely.

Why do you need it?
Do you have specialists on site who are qualified to rectify RO problems? In PFI (public finance initiative) hospitals especially, maintenance staff tend to be general technicians dealing with a wide variety of equipment. Their role in relation to RO systems may go no further than reporting when a fault warning appears. In the case of small satellite renal units, there might be no maintenance engineer on site at all.

Specialist support, when needed, must come from a distance. At the extreme, RO products may be supported by manufacturers and suppliers separated by more than one continent from the renal unit. Even within a country, technicians often have to travel a long way between their base and the widespread hospitals or renal service providers they serve.

Travelling adds extra time and cost, so it makes sense to manage the number and duration of site visits carefully. Remote connection brings expertise to your unit without travel. Unlike a phone call or email discussion, it allows the specialist to examine your RO system directly instead of having to question a member of staff on its condition. This overcomes problems posed by language barriers and the limitations of employees’ technical understanding.

If the remote service contract covers routine monitoring and response to fault alarms, expert technicians will be aware of issues as they arise. By contrast, in multi-stakeholder operations with no such arrangement it can take time for help requests to be processed and passed to the right person or team for action.

When remote diagnosis indicates that on-site repairs are required, the visiting technician will waste no time. He or she will know what the problem is in advance and will arrive with the right parts, thus minimising delays and labour costs. In addition to keeping an RO unit working, remote monitoring and control allows technicians to optimise its operating parameters for maximum efficiency – and so saves on the consumption and cost of water and energy. Based on insights from remote monitoring, efficiencies can also be made in the management and timing of maintenance tasks.

Remote capabilities
All functions described in the account below are available with RO set-ups supplied and serviced by SUEZ. The capabilities and qualities of remote monitoring and control systems vary between products in the market and, as always, the best solutions will inevitably cost more.

Through a touchscreen display on the RO unit itself, you can view a comprehensive collection of pages showing real-time and logged data on the system’s parameters and condition. Authorised personnel and support technicians are given secure, password-protected, remote access to the display’s information and functionality. Via internet connection, they can see the same screen on their smartphone, tablet, notebook, laptop or PC and use its menu buttons.

Performance figures monitored include water pressure, flow rate and conductivity at each RO stage, along with inlet and loop temperatures. Data can be logged and viewed continuously or over any chosen recording and storage interval. Warning alarms may be sent to technicians via computer or phone messages, and fault history is saved for reference.

Reports available include curves for conductivity, pressure and temperature, including temperature during hot cleaning and disinfection. Analysis of reports and trends gives insights which help to optimise operation. For example, plotting the effects of slow deterioration in an RO membrane’s quality enables planning for its replacement at the most opportune time. In litigation cases, saved records offer proof of the RO system’s effective performance over any given period.

A good remote solution provides all of the above, plus full remote control. Its simplest control functions include on-off and standby switching. When it comes to actions like programming and adjusting parameters, caution must be exercised. For these, there should be a suitably competent contact on site who can confirm whether the changes made remotely have worked.

Given the cost-saving, time-saving and operation-enhancing benefits of remote monitoring and control, SUEZ believes that more renal technicians should be demanding it. This is particularly true for PFI-funded hospitals and for units run by renal service providers. There is an added investment cost, of course, but the advantages justify it.

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