Berliner Wasserbetriebe: flexible electronic access to all files

IBM Content Manager provides a digital archiving and information system

Published on 14-Jan-2011

Validated on 11 Oct 2012

"IBM Content Manager gives us the technical capability to extend our systems according to our wishes and requirements. Another essential point is that IBM is committed to the continued development of Content Manager, which gives us security for the future." - Hennig Rüstau, IT-P Inventory Manager at Berliner Wasserbetriebe in Berlin-Mitte

Berliner Wasserbetriebe

Energy & Utilities

Deployment country:

Database Management, Enterprise Content Management

IBM Business Partner:


In Germany, water is supplied as a public service. For more than 150 years, Berliner Wasserbetriebe (BWB) has served the people of Berlin and the surrounding area. In 2009, the company delivered 192 million cubic metres of drinking water, and cleaned 234 million cubic metres of waste water. In total, it manages 18,600 kilometres of pipelines and canals. Its facilities include nine water works, six sewage works, and 148 pump stations.

Business need:
Berliner Wasserbetriebe (BWB) has to manage huge amounts of data over long periods, and wanted to avoid creating data silos at individual plants. All files and documentation needed to be available electronically across the whole organisation, which required the integration of a number of BWB’s systems. As well as providing read-only access to documents, the new solution also needed to allow users to edit and update them.

BWB worked closely with startext, an IBM Business Partner, to develop and implement a content management system (CMS) based on IBM Content Manager and IBM WebSphere Application Server. Consultants from startext helped to integrate the solution with the SAP R/3 PM module, and now provide on-site support to help BWB develop and extend the solution further.

Rapid access to comprehensive documents for construction planning, operations and maintenance. Easy navigation, search and visualization via a web interface. Open, extendable architecture makes it easy to add functionality and enhancements. Supports many different data and archive formats, making the solution more future-proof in the long term. Client software allows users to work offline, increasing resilience. Transparent access and document version control based on user groups. Significant improvement of productivity in trouble-shooting. Considerable reduction of paper-based archives

Case Study

To read a German version of this case study, please click here.

In Germany, water is supplied as a public service. For more than 150 years, Berliner Wasserbetriebe (BWB) has served the people of Berlin and the surrounding area. In 2009, the company delivered 192 million cubic metres of drinking water, and cleaned 234 million cubic metres of waste water. In total, it manages 18,600 kilometres of pipelines and canals. Its facilities include nine water works, six sewage works, and 148 pump stations.

BWB is a public institution: 50.1 percent of its shares are held by the city of Berlin, while the international water supplier Veolia Water and the German energy supplier RWE hold 24.95 percent each. In 2009, BWB achieved sales of 1.18 billion Euros and employed approximately 4,500 people. In recent years the company has transformed itself from a supplier to a service provider, and seeks to maximise efficiency and sustainability.

“From a technology point of view, a sewage works is comparable to a medium-sized chemicals business,” says Hennig Rüstau, IT-P Inventory Manager at Berliner Wasserbetriebe in Berlin-Mitte. “Our experts need access to comprehensive documentation to help them service and maintain these complex facilities, and to enable them to react quickly if an accident occurs.”

Formerly this meant that dozens or even hundreds of folders needed to be maintained and updated with the appropriate documents: construction reports, drawings, authorizations, manuals, facilities-related documentation and so on. The result was a paper-based archive of huge dimensions, distributed across many locations and plants, so it was difficult to gain an overview of operations and manage the documentation successfully.

In addition to this huge archive, BWB was also using the SAP Plant Maintenance module, which managed a register of all the company’s physical assets. But from a technical perspective, the link between the asset records and the associated documentation was missing.

Future-proof security, compatibility, and ease of use

In 2000, BWB began to scan documents from the Wassmannsdorf sewage works and provide them in CD-ROM format. This project sparked a discussion about how to manage access to these documents, and a plan emerged for the future implementation of a document management system.

The project was put out to tender throughout Europe. The company that won the contract – startext, an IBM Business Partner – had developed a web application based on IBM Content Manager which could be integrated with SAP.

Headquartered in Bonn and with an office in Berlin, startext Unternehmensberatung GmbH has considerable experience in developing modular IT solutions in the areas of statistics, business intelligence and documentation for development, administration and presentation within cultural institutions and companies. Its priority is to create solutions that provide long-term security and compatibility, as well as a user-friendly user interface – and the content management system (CMS) developed for BWB is a prime example. It is designed for all user groups, including both operational staff and managers. 3,500 users at BWB have been granted read-only access to the system, while 150 users can also create and edit documents.

Alternative structuring and mapping of the documents and inventories

The CMS is built on IBM Content Manager software. The central database is IBM DB2, and IBM WebSphere Application Server is used as the runtime environment. IBM DB2 Net Search Extender provides a rapid in-memory text search function. All metadata is organised and managed on the library server, while the resource server manages access to all files, including both electronic documents and scanned copies of paper documents. Both servers access separate DB2 databases, and total storage has now grown to approximately 320 GB, with around 320,000 documents.

Paper documents are now scanned and digitised with Ascent Capture, and converted to the TIFF image format. Each document can be stored in several versions. With optical character recognition (OCR), information can be extracted from these images, converted into text format, stored as metadata and used to enable full-text searches.

A team of approximately 15 employees is responsible for scanning and processing the documents. The formats range from standard A4 documents up to large A0 plans. In addition to OCR capture, metadata can also be added manually. For example, members of the plan archive team can work with colleagues from each plant to review the document repository and check whether all the documents are up-to-date and complete. For each document, a metadata cover sheet is printed out and scanned together with the document. Barcodes are used to link the cover sheet to the appropriate scanned document. This preserves the documents from additional stamps or stickers. Logical and physical documents stay uniquely related, even if changes are made to one of the documents later.

BWB has legal obligations to maintain a long-term archive of old data, and uses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager to manage this. Documents need to be stored in a future-proof format, as they must be readable for at least ten years, either via a viewer or by converting the file to a different format. For this reason, the system is designed to support numerous different file formats, including several CAD formats.

Users can use several different methods to find documents – for example, using a full-text search, navigating within the hierarchic trees, or using the SAP PM client. When a document is selected, it can be displayed in a viewer. Data import and export is handled by XML and via Novell shared network drives.

“Each facility has its own local file structure,” says Henning Rüstau. “To enable staff to find documents using the file structure they are accustomed to, we developed the concept of ‘linked trees’.”

Linked trees allow documents to be virtually mapped and hierarchically linked in several different ways, using a hierarchy tree editor.

“It is important to achieve consensus with both experienced and new users on a standardised terminology,” stresses Hennig Rüstau. “We leaned towards the terminology specifications given by SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, but in parallel we can also use structures from our existing systems, especially the plant and equipment identification system. The ability to use this in parallel to the classic file order is an invaluable advantage.”

Today, BWB can hardly imagine working without the CMS solution. The system is accessed around 60,000 times every working day.

Content Management without limits

The solution gives BWB a great deal of flexibility in terms of document types and descriptions. For example, instruction manuals, authorization documents and drawings are different types of documents, and need to be handled in different ways. The solution allows documents to be divided into pre-defined classes or categories. Once these have been defined, finding documents is easy: versatile ‘internet-style’ search capabilities and the use of dictionaries and thesauruses lead to quick results.

By using client software, documents can also be made available offline when there is no connection to the data centre. Using the offline client, selected documents are copied to the hard drive of a local computer and can be edited there before being exported back into the CMS.

Hennig Rüstau says: “For the offline client we re-adapted the proxy concept, so that you can work with documents offline. This is useful, for example, in subterranean areas, where there is no wireless coverage. It makes no difference to the way the users work with the CMS, and we save huge work and costs.”

Another useful feature is the photo component, which eliminates a major pain-point when archiving documents. Instead of scanning whole folders, the spines of the folders can be photographed and included as search terms, so their contents and locations can be found quickly.

“IBM Content Manager gives us the technical capability to extend our systems according to our wishes and requirements,” emphasises Hennig Rüstau. “Another essential point is that IBM is committed to the continued development of Content Manager, which gives us security for the future.”

All the custom features of the CMS solution were developed by startext and the BWB team. Due to security constraints, the development, support and maintenance of the solution are delivered by a startext team working on-site at Berlin Wasser Services IT, who operate the system for BWB.

One of the ongoing projects that takes the capabilities of the CMS further is called the mobile maintenance service. This project aims to improve mobile access to documents by solving problems related to low bandwidths. For example, if a user needs to check part of a plan, it will be possible to download the necessary section of the plan instead of transferring the entire document. Other planned expansion stages of the CMS include vehicle fleet management and facilities management.

“In our opinion the future of the Content Management develops towards limiting the available information just to the details that are actually needed,” says Hennig Rüstau.

Another development project is about processing parts lists and forms from the databases at runtime.

“The startext consultants have a good understanding of our requirements,” concludes Hennig Rüstau. “Our decision to work with them was absolutely right. Together we have been able to develop and evolve this application over a long period of time. A big advantage of our CMS is that we are totally open regarding scopes of application and type of content. We can manage the documentation for everything from a box of screws to a whole plant.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Power Systems

Content Manager, Tivoli Storage Manager, WebSphere Application Server, DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows

Legal Information

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