Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology.

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This content is a reprint of "Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology"
that was posted in the Nikkei Online Edition from January 2018 to February 2018.

This content is a reprint of "Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology"
that was posted in the Nikkei Online Edition from January 2018 to February 2018.

佐渡市 上下水道広域化の取り組みに迫る/明電舎

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Stage2 Protecting water resources that nurture the community.:Efforts for wide areal water and sewage services. Integrated management of the facilities with conditions different among regions.

Infrastructure has supported Japan's growth as the foundation for economic activities, but this is now coming to a turning point. Besides aging facilities, a declining and aging total population and infrastructure now needs to be maintained and managed with greater efficiency. The same applies to water and sewer systems, which are known for their high quality and extensive reach, and many municipalities are struggling to deal with the situation. Sado-shi in Niigata Prefecture is drawing attention for its efforts to address the issue. This municipality has partnered with Meiden Facility Service Corporation (Meiden FS), a Meiden Group company that specializes in operation and maintenance (O&M). Let's take a look at the measures they are implementing, which can be seen as a prescription for infrastructure management in a mature society.

Inspection of water intake that has to be carried out every day

"Wider area coverage" is an important concept in water and sewage maintenance in Sado-shi. Sado Island, known as the breeding site of the Japanese crested ibis, had 10 municipalities until Sado-shi was created in 2004 as a part of the Heisei era's large-scale municipal mergers, and each of these municipalities handled water and sewer maintenance and management on its own. At present, Meiden FS is contracted to handle this for practically the entire region. The population is approximately 57,000, having declined by more than 10,000 in the past decade, and increasing efficiency is absolutely necessary in light of challenges such as slackened growth in water utility fees. The aim is to reduce costs by drawing on the expertise of the private sector and pursuing a wider area coverage. However, it is not a simple matter for a single company to take over and combine the management of facilities that have different specifications and have been managed by different municipalities.

Inspection of water intake that has to be carried out every day
Overview of Sado Island
Kyuji Saito
Kyuji SaitoMeiden Facility Service Corporation

Water sources are managed by different methods on the east and west sides of the island. On the west side, the water intake is located near Sado Gold Mine. Hisashi Saito, Sado Office Manager of Meiden FS, explains seriously, "Rivers are the sources of water, so water volume and quality are dependent on the weather, and daily visual inspections are indispensable." Raw water taken from several rivers is sent to the Aikawa Water Treatment Plant, where turbidity,* a measure of the cloudiness of the raw water, is usually about 4. The water is treated to reduce turbidity to less than 0.1 at household faucets. However, when there is heavy rainfall, the volume of water increases while raw water turbidity may soar to as high as 400 or 500. The impact on the water purification process is reduced by making adjustments such as taking more raw water from rivers that have lower turbidity.

Meanwhile, in the Ryotsu Region on the east side, a dam provides the water source. With a dam, weather has less of an impact on water quality. However, this region faces completely different challenges, with many small-scale simple water supply systems in its mountain communities. In July 2017, when Sado Island was struck by the worst torrential rains in 50 years, landslides forced us to take detours to get to sites that were straight ahead. The island actually has a total of 79 water treatment plants, including simple water supply systems. Many of them are maintained and managed by Meiden FS, but each one needs to be handled differently.

* Turbidity: A unit indicating the cloudiness of water. A turbidity of 1 indicates that 1 liter of water contains 1 mg of clay, organic matter, and microorganisms such as plankton. Turbidity can be either assessed by the naked eye based on comparison with standard solutions, or calculated by the transmittance of light and the degree of scattering.

Fumihiro Ishise
Fumihiro IshiseMeiden Facility Service Corporation

The capabilities of an electrical equipment manufacturer are also important. The Kokufugawa Water Treatment Center is the largest wastewater treatment facility on the island. Air is sent in to activate microorganisms that eat sewage components. "These kinds of facilities consume enormous electric power. Electric power is an indispensable part of sewage treatment," explains Fumihiro Ishise, General Manager at Kokufugawa Office. The electrical equipment in this center was supplied by Meidensha. The company makes use of its technologies and expertise as an electrical equipment manufacturer to provide one-stop services, including plant design and construction and facility operation, maintenance, and management in addition to the design, production, and installation of electrical equipment.

All of the employees of the Meiden FS Sado Office are from the island. They pride themselves in addressing the important mission of protecting the local water environment. Kazuyuki Ukai, Manager of Ryotsu Branch Office, reports that he was impressed when his daughter, who is living off the island to attend school, said, "Water of Sado my father is protecting tastes better."

Kazuyuki Ukai
Kazuyuki UkaiMeiden Facility Service Corporation
Water quality is always checked strictly.
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The reaction tank is one of the steps in the treatment process. Air is sent in to activate microorganisms that decompose sewage contaminants.
The reaction tank is one of the steps in the treatment process. Air is sent in to activate microorganisms that decompose sewage contaminants.
Equipment and gauges are installed in an underground corridor of the water treatment center.
Equipment and measuring instruments are installed in an underground corridor of the water treatment center.
Checking the water during the treatment process is one of the important jobs performed here.
Checking the water during the treatment process is one of the important jobs performed here.

The company has developed alongside the history of modern water treatment, and will rise to the challenges of the next century to come.

Electrical equipment for supplying electric power to the Kokufugawa Sewage Treatment Center.

Meidensha is often perceived as a leader in electric power infrastructure, but its history is also closely related to that of modern water treatment. Meidensha delivered electrical equipment to the former Mikawashima Sewage Disposal Plant, Japan's first modern wastewater treatment plant, which began operating in 1922 and was located in the middle reaches of the Sumida River, which flows through Tokyo. For nearly a century since then, the company has supported the construction, maintenance, and management of water and sewer systems with electrical technology. Its role of supporting communities remains unchanged, even as the focus has shifted from expanding service availability to achieving greater efficiency in a maturing society. Meidensha's work with Sado-shi marks one of the first steps in rising to the challenges of the next century.

Electrical equipment for supplying electric power to the Kokufugawa Sewage Treatment Center.

A variety of issues related to water
and sewer infrastructure; PPP (Public-Private Partnership) initiatives on the rise.

Wider area coverage is also being pursued in other regions. In April 2017, three cities and five towns in eastern Gunma Prefecture, including Ota-shi, began operating their water supply services jointly. Substantial cost reductions are expected through gains in efficiency due to geographically broader operation, but the most important aspect is public-private corporation. A company that is jointly funded with the private sector will be responsible for operations related to construction work, as well as maintenance and management of water treatment plants and water supply pipes. This is drawing attention in terms of wider area coverage of water utilities by a public-private partnership (PPP). The private company group is represented by Meidensha. "The results we achieved in Sado and other areas, where we have worked on wider area coverage and efficiency enhancements for many years, led to this initiative in eastern Gunma Prefecture," says Yoshifumi Miyazawa, Manager of the Niigata Branch Office.

Electrical equipment manufacturers are now expected to bring the latest technologies into water and sewer facilities. While making these facilities more efficient and advanced through technologies such as IoT, which will connect everything to the Internet, they are also expected to make positive contributions to local communities.

One example is the use of IoT for visualization technologies inside sewer conduits.* Sensors and communications equipments are installed on manhole covers to measure the flow rate and water quality and monitor conditions inside the conduit. Data is stored in the cloud and analyzed in the aggregate using artificial intelligence (AI). This is used to predict conditions in a sewer conduit up to one hour in advance for use in dealing with natural disasters such as torrential rains.

* Sewer conduit: Sewer equipment consisting of sewer lines and manholes. Its role is to bring sewage to a wastewater treatment facility.

  • Kazuyoshi Kawauchi
    Kazuyoshi KawauchiWIS Sales Engineering Division
    Water Infrastructure Systems (WIS) Business Unit
    Meidenssha Corporation
  • Niigata Branch
    Yoshifumi MiyazawaNiigata Branch
    Meidenssha Corporation

Summary.

Kazuyoshi Kawauchi, General Manager of WIS Sales Engineering Division, Water Infrastructure Systems (WIS) Business Unit, states that "we would not be able to complete a job if our business was merely to supply the equipment," emphasizing that the company's role goes beyond manufacturing and sales. Reflecting the responsibility of a business involved in comprehensive water and sewer services, he adds, "We have to make use of our electrical technologies and the expertise we have learned to find solutions for problems." The latest technologies are brought to bear on existing sewer infrastructure, combining the respective areas of strength of the public and private sectors to achieve greater efficiency and performance. Meidensha is expected to further continue to provide municipalities with comprehensive support for the water environment.

Contract facility management services for water utility business

Examples of maintenance services for various water systems supported by Meidensha.

Explanation of terms.

Public-private partnership (PPP)
In many cases, public enterprises run by municipalities are the operators of public infrastructure. As of the end of 2016, there are 8,540 enterprises nationwide in fields such as water and sewer services, hospitals, and transportation. Public enterprises have long supported economic activities and people's lives, but the scale of their business has been shrinking with the aging population and maturing society. More than 10% of these enterprises are in the red. The move to enhance public services with the strengths of the private sector began quite some time ago, including the privatization of the Japanese National Railways, but in recent years, more attention has been drawn to PPPs, in which the public and private sectors cooperate through jointly funded companies and the like. The use of PPPs is increasing as municipalities are able to contract with the private sector for a broader scope of services based on changes in the law that was made in 2003. The approach of segmentation for privatization was considered successful in the case of the Japanese National Railways, but in the case of water utilities, the key to improving water quality and profitability is wider area coverage through public-private cooperation.
*Honorifics omitted.

Meidensha: Creating a better future with our people and technology.

  • Stage1 Powering the excitement.
  • Stage2 Protecting water resources and infrastructure that nurture the community.
  • Stage3 Driving force for a new automotive era.
  • Stage4 Pursuing greater safety and stability in railway transportation.
  • Stage5 AI for water treatment protection
  • Stage6 Efficient energy management.
  • Stage7 Lightning Protection.
  • Stage8 IoT to protect from heavy rain.
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