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Member Spotlight

Raasheed Pakwashi, Technical Director – SME Water

We spoke with Raasheed Pakwashi about the growth of SME Water, their experience in the UK water industry, and being a finalist with the United Utilities’ Innovation Lab. SME Water is a start-up that specialises in clean water pressure and hydraulic modelling, using contemporary analysis and data science techniques to deliver complex projects. The team use their extensive subject knowledge of water network behaviour and engineering insights to ensure projects deliver tangible and sustainable benefits.

As a fast-growing start-up, what challenges is SME Water working to solve in the UK water space?

Since being founded in 2018, we have been working in an extremely exciting space in the water industry. Combining our extensive subject knowledge of water distribution network management with modern analysis and data science techniques, we have been helping a number of UK water companies reduce their leakage.

In recent years, there has been a real push into understanding how acoustic sensors can be used to effectively locate leaks. However, acoustic devices are not suitable for all types of networks. This is one of the reasons we’ve been doing some extensive work using pressure sensors; understanding how they too can become part of the leakage technician’s toolkit. Dynamo, our event recognition tool, uses pressure data to highlight changes in flow on the network, which enables us to locate bursts faster. One of the key advantages of pressure logging over acoustic logging, is that it can be combined with other data sources, including hydraulic models, to help identify, investigate, and resolve network and demand anomalies.

Given the challenges presented by the pandemic, how has SME Water adapted to working from home?

Striking the balance between office and home working has always been an interesting debate. However, the pandemic presented us with the opportunity to explore the realms of remote working.  

One of the things I have truly learnt to appreciate is how unique everyone’s individual circumstances are, which is easy to lose sight of when working in the office day in, day out. As a small company, we found the transition to working from home pretty seamless, our employees adapted well, and their work was unaffected. Even so, ‘the new norm’ did pose some challenges for us, as our office was a place for us to collaborate and generate new ideas. That being said, it gave us the perfect opportunity to adopt new tools and solutions. The Miro whiteboard is our new favourite!

Something else that we have found extremely effective is, what we call, our ‘temperature check’. At the start of team meetings, each employee will score their ‘temperature’ out of 10. Employees are encouraged to give some commentary to explain their number. It doesn’t need to be work related or accurate, it’s all relative. It’s an opportunity for our employees to raise concerns, or to perhaps share and celebrate something that has gone well for them that week. We have been doing it for around six months now, and I feel as though we have created a real setting for employees to openly talk about how they are feeling.

SME Water was recently accepted to the United Utilities Innovation Lab. Can you tell us more about this exciting opportunity?

We are really excited to be part of United Utilities’ Innovation Lab. We’re using both statistical and machine learning techniques, in the form of our Component Demand Analysis Model (CDAM), to explore and understand how customer demand varies throughout the year. We have already delivered some great insights with United Utilities, investigating variations in consumption brought about by Ramadan and school holidays. These form the first two components of our model.

As our analysis continues, we will begin to investigate the effects of university student migration and the impact of lockdown as a result of COVID-19. Each of these factors will become an additional component of our model. When analysing individual District Metered Areas (DMAs), we’ll stack components on top of one another to see the combined effect on customer demand and reported leakage.

In a time when water companies are progressively trying to reduce their leakage, the ability to confidently differentiate leakage from changes in customer demand offers significant benefit. This insight will allow leakage teams to locate and target leaks much faster, thereby reducing lost water and the impact on the customer.  

Why should young professionals choose a career in the water industry?

There is no better time for young professionals to join the water industry! If you want to work within an industry that faces infinite challenges and uncertainties, and where innovation and collaboration are key, then look no further.

There is considerable scope for fresh ideas and solutions globally within the industry, and this isn’t likely to change any time soon.