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Renovating locks and bridges on a large scale with enhanced efficiency, safety, and data analysis

Equans leverages its broad expertise in hydraulic and electromechanical infrastructure on and alongside waterways, covering the full spectrum from design to installation and maintenance. As Maarten De Rijcker, Section Manager at Equans, put it: "In these projects, our comprehensive expertise in hydraulic engineering goes hand in hand with our knowledge of advanced digitalisation and data analysis." Equans is currently engaged in two major projects for the Flemish Environmental Agency and the Flemish Waterway, demonstrating their expertise in design-build.

From design to installation and maintenance

Multi-technical projects realised in close cooperation with the customer and incorporating evolutions in technology, legislation and standards. In a nutshell, that is what Equans is all about. The department ‘Water’ designs, builds and renovates water installations while profiling itself as an experienced and innovative water management partner. “We are committed to helping our clients to achieve optimal water quality, minimize the cost of water treatment installations, and effectively manage our clients plant's data”, explains Maarten de Rijcker.

16 locks, four bridges and 200 installations

Maarten De Rijcker: At Equans Infra & Mobility, we have an extensive and specialised team that takes care of automation systems for mobility projects and, by extension, for other departments within Equans. Thanks to our multi-disciplinarity, we are the ideal partner for DBFMO projects for principals such as the VMM and De Vlaamse Waterweg, for example, both of which launched tenders for the renovation of whole series of facilities and installations. The project for De Vlaamse Waterweg concerns 16 locks and four bridges on the navigable Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten canal, and for the VMM, we are renovating no fewer than 200 installations on non-navigable waterways.

Digitalisation for greater efficiency

Our ‘Mobility-Water’ teams are not only renovating the locks and bridges, but they will also link them to a remote control platform. Maarten De Rijcker:At just about every lock, there is still a small house from which the lock operator opens and closes the lock, when necessary. This used to be done manually, and then later mechanically, by pressing a button. But today, the buttons are virtual, and you can monitor the lock, detect problems, create solutions and even take preventive maintenance actions all from a distance. Centralising the monitoring of several locks in one control centre also saves a lot of money. If you have two of the 16 lock operators manning the central monitoring platform, then you have 14 people left that you can efficiently mobilise elsewhere. The goal is certainly not to work with fewer people, but to work more efficiently.

When implementing a specific intervention in order to achieve the maximum result, digitalisation is a very important tool.

Reliable partner

The extensive experience we have in the field of water installations is an undeniable asset. “We specialise in both older and cutting-edge technologies, whether they are mechanical, electrical or electronic. And that is added value, because the lock gates are still the same as they were decades ago, but the sensors on them have evolved tremendously. Today, for example, much more data is being collected and processed. We also have the knowledge to interpret and process this data in-house. And, very importantly, we have also fully mastered the appropriate safety systems. It is great if you can control everything remotely, but, of course, it is crucial that everything works flawlessly and as safely as possible. A reliable partner like Equans is therefore absolutely crucial.

Ensuring the continuity of river traffic

During the renovation of the locks on the navigable Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten canal, the continuity of water traffic is always ensured. Maarten De Rijcker:In the engineering phase, we examine what needs to be done. Which sensors are present? Are additional sensors needed? Should we copy or expand? … The completely new system is prepared in parallel with the old one, and each component is tested separately. On the day the new system is installed, De Vlaamse Waterweg assigns us a time slot within which to take down the old system and install the new one. The difference between the operation of locks over navigable and non-navigable waterways is rather obvious – navigable waterways require much more extensive command centres. In these centres, someone is effectively sitting there visually checking and controlling the traffic. While a weir or small pumping station on a non-navigable waterway can be perfectly controlled from Indonesian, so to speak.

Equans Digital

In addition to all the engineering, implementation and maintenance work (sometimes up to 30 years after installation), Equans also takes care of the remote control system. “And in that story, Equans Digital plays a big role. On the one hand, there is the control of the locks and bridges, using, among other things, the well-known SCADA systems. A second facet is data mining: the processing of data, which is particularly valuable when it comes to preventive maintenance. Based on all that information, we can crunch the data and determine where we can utilise the available financial resources most effectively. When implementing a specific intervention in order to achieve the maximum result, the digital aspect is a very important tool. What's more, far-reaching digital management also allows you to optimally guarantee safety,” concludes Maarten De Rijcker.

Interview of Maarten De Rijcker for the magazine Grond/Weg/Waterbouw - january 2023


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