The City of Palm Bay, Florida, developed a 15-year strategic plan in early 2007, and each department developed supporting strategic plans. A strategic goal of the Utilities Department was to become a "world-class utility," and one of several organizational objectives was to be recognized as a leader in sustainability through an effective environmental management system (EMS). Obtaining international certification to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001:2004 EMS standard was chosen as a means of recognition. The EMS ISO standard requires that performance be measurable and that continuous improvements have quantifiable evidence.
The department oversees three water and two wastewater treatment plants, with associated distribution and collection infrastructure, serving a community of approximately 107,000 people. The Utilities Department operates from the revenues generated from rate payers and is not funded through any tax structure. It is run similar to a business, and a business case must be made for each improvement or expansion of service.
The City Council approved the Utilities Department's strategic plan; budget line items to support the EMS, called GreenWay, were included in the fiscal year 2008 municipal budget and also approved by the City Council. The department immediately began implementing its performance-based management system and received its certification as an ISO 14001:2004 EMS standard organization in August 2008. The Utilities Department was the first water and wastewater department in the state of Florida to achieve an international certification of its environmental management system, and it was the first utility in the nation to have all aspects of a water and wastewater utility independently recommended for certification after an initial audit.
GreenWay has led to a number of improvements, from reducing environmental and business risks to improvements to the financial bottom line. The utility has saved money by decreasing energy use, and its bond rating improved in June 2009 from an A- to an A. The department director attributed the bond rating improvement mostly to the implementation of an EMS.
In developing the EMS, the Utilities Department embedded the Six Sigma breakthrough strategy for continual improvement and identified three significant aspects to focus on: energy use, production and handling of bio-solids, and environment, safety and health. The department identified environmental and business risks associated with these significant aspects and their impacts, and then it developed objectives, targets, and programs to mitigate the negative or enhance the positive effects to the natural environment and work place environments.
Six Sigma is a means of improving quality by identifying and removing the causes or errors impeding improvement by following a defined sequence of steps and employing quantifiable targets. Financial benefits can result when these targets are reductions in the use of natural resources (fossil fuel energy use). All members of the core project team completed Six Sigma project definition training, and some completed more advanced Six Sigma training. The Utilities Department...