Wastewater Treatment Plant Improves Equipment Reliability Through Industrial Automation


November 18, 2021

The Challenge

A wastewater treatment plant that serves a town of over 50,000 was experiencing frequent pump failures at lift stations around the city. To prevent them from backing up, plant staff had to visit every other week and clean out pumps and motors by hand.

Richie Miller, the plant’s Graybar sales representative, reached out to industrial automation specialist Steve Lacy to see if he could help the plant reduce time-consuming maintenance.

How Graybar Helped

Steve recommended replacing the motors with ATV 630 drives from Schneider Electric, which can be programmed to prevent jams. At the end of 2019, he and a local Schneider representative visited the plant and presented their solution to the team.

“Their eyes lit up and they asked, ‘How does that anti-jam feature work?’” Steve says.

After the presentation, the plant manager decided to install one drive as a test and asked Steve to program it. Steve reached out to Graybar’s internal automation specialist group for advice, and a colleague in Florida provided further assistance.

“The knowledge within the automation specialist group throughout the country is immense,” Steve says. “We all have our own thing that we’re really good at.”

In early spring, Steve drove back to the plant to set up the drive and walk staff through programming it.

Several weeks later, he visited again to lead a more in-depth demonstration of the software – and left his demo drive behind so the team could practice new features without disrupting their installed drive.

“They were really happy with that,” he says.

For customers who manage critical infrastructure, any downtime or disruption to operations can have significant costs. Steve can help minimize the risk of implementing new technologies by coordinating a “proof of concept” where he is on call to provide technical advice.

“They feel comfortable trying something new when they know they have someone like me locally to help,” he says. “If they purchase a Schneider drive from Graybar, they not only get the drive – they get me there helping to program it.”

The Results

Since the new drive was put in six months ago, [sewage/wastewater] hasn’t backed up once.

During installation, the plant’s main electrician told Steve he would be happy if it just cut down the time his team spent on cleaning – but so far, the pump has run smoothly.

“It solved their problem completely,” Steve says. “I think it has far exceeded their expectations.”

Impressed by the performance of the first drive, the plant bought a second one a few months later to install at the same site.

They’ve also been discussing how Schneider drives could benefit other areas of the facility. Recently, they purchased enclosed ATV 660s to replace older drives from a different manufacturer.

Many of the U.S.’s water treatment plants were built several decades ago, and facilities today operate at 81% of their design capacities, on average. Graybar’s industrial automation specialists can provide targeted solutions that help adapt aging equipment to meet the demands of today’s communities, improving uptime for critical infrastructure.




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