In 2011, faced with losing a significant number of trained staff to retirement, and wanting to better utilize available operational data, Waterford Township, Michigan’s, Department of Public Works (DPW) embarked on a journey to standardize work flow procedure, while simultaneously integrating the department’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system with Cityworks. The solution involved transferring knowledge from users with years of experience into best practices that could be used to develop electronic standard operating procedures (eSOP) that address specific scenarios easily detected by SCADA data analysis. A user would receive the procedures and corresponding work orders in Cityworks, as part of a workflow generated by condition based triggers from SCADA.
Waterford Township DPW has a long history of finding specialized applications and working with developers to integrate their products with other key applications, such as Cityworks, to produce a business process that leverages the strengths of both applications. Until recently, these integrations required considerable effort from developers. This tightly integrated approach, while effective, presented some major challenges—namely managing development costs and maintaining the connection between applications during product upgrades. In this case, Waterford DPW’s plan for integrating SCADA with Cityworks would be different from the normal integration process. This integration would be based on the new Cityworks Work Order API.
The Waterford project involved Waterford DPW’s SCADA system, GE Proficy iFix, passing real-time operational data to the DPW’s workflow application, GE Proficy Workflow (Workflow). Workflow acts as the logic engine by which the SCADA data is evaluated to see if it contains conditions that would generate maintenance work orders. If the defined conditions are detected, an eSOP and a Cityworks work order are generated to ensure that the event is corrected and documented.
The Cityworks Work Order API is leveraged in the link between Workflow and Cityworks. Workflow sends Cityworks key information necessary to create a work order, such as feature information and the type of work order needed. This web services-based approach provides several key advantages. Primarily, it allows the application developer to quickly develop a component to create work orders in Cityworks without having to develop complicated methods to replicate the Cityworks work order creation process. The developer can quickly develop standards-based methods that call Cityworks processes to create and retrieve key work order information, saving both time and money in the integration process.
The nature of the design allowed the integration between Waterford DPW’s Workflow and Cityworks to be completed in a single week. This accomplishment is significant not only because the development time was amazingly short, but also because Waterford DPW was the first Cityworks customer to use the Work Order API. This shows the flexibility and functionality that the Work Order API provides to developers. This web services approach allows more precious development resources to be spent creating workflow models that can power the analytics necessary to detect abnormalities within the data provided by SCADA. In the end, this method provides a more robust product to be implemented at Waterford Township DPW.
This simple approach to how applications interact with Cityworks allows more effort to be focused on building integrations that harness the power of the applications interacting with Cityworks, instead of focusing on replicating processes needed to generate work orders. This API-based approach also creates an easier environment for maintaining the integration as either application is updated.
The initial Waterford Township DPW project consisted of developing two workflow processes with corresponding eSOP workflows and triggering appropriate work orders. Waterford DPW quickly realized the benefits of this Work Order API-based approach, as the entire design, development, and implementation of the project was completed within two weeks. The straightforward design of the integration allows DPW staff to create new workflows internally, thus leveraging the ability to automatically generate eSOP and associated work orders without a developer. Waterford DPW continues to develop additional eSOP and workflow processes that leverage this powerful integration between these core business applications.
After implementing the Work Order API at Waterford DPW, the API’s functionality has increased, which means that even more data can be shared between applications. This further empowers the functionality of any application that leverages this powerful method to embed the core work order functionality of Cityworks within itself. One of the core business principles for Waterford Township is to harness technology that will increase operational efficiency; the Cityworks Work Order API has filled a major role in providing additional efficiencies. Waterford Township DPW looks forward to continuing to leverage the Cityworks Work Order API in this integration as well as in future integrations wherever possible.
By Frank Fisher, DPW Information Systems Administrator, Waterford Township, MI