In both the dewatering and the intake sectors, Evoqua Water Technologies comprises some of the original innovators and players in that market. With over 20,000 combined intake and dewatering installations and nearly 100 years of experience, Evoqua has earned a reputation for reliability and value. We spoke with Mirka Wilderer, general manager and vice president of Evoqua's Separation Technologies segment, to learn a few of the secrets to the company's success.
INDUSTRIAL WATERWORLD: Evoqua Water Technologies services myriad industries. With regard to your Separation Technologies division, what markets or industries typically use your equipment?
MIRKA WILDERER: The beauty of the water sector is that we have the opportunity to work with all kinds of different industries. Most every industry uses some water, somewhere in their process. Here in Separation Technologies, we have two focuses: dewatering and intake screens. On the dewatering side, we are all about separating liquids from solids. We serve almost every industry that you could think of -- big industries like power, mining, oil and gas, chemicals, and metal finishing, as well as some smaller light industries like industrial textile and automotive.
On the intake side, we serve mainly the power industry or any other industry that would use large, raw water intake, usually for cooling purposes. Nuclear is a large industry for us. In general, about 90% of all the power sites use traveling water screens, or something of the like, in their process. So, we have a big focus there.
IWW: What value does Evoqua brings to its customers in these sectors?
MW: Our customers aren't in the business of running their water treatment process; they are in the business of serving their customers with the product that they're offering. So, our role is to work with our customers and take the worry out of their water process. We want to make sure that they spend their time dedicated to their business, not thinking about their water process. We do that in a couple of different ways, such as pre-sales support, support prior to selling equipment. In Holland, we have a lab that helps us work with customers to specify exactly what size filter press they need, and what type of filter cloth and plate. Over the years, we've run over 10,000 samples of sludge to help the customer identify exactly what they need. And then, based on the technical experience of the team, with more than 10,000 units in the field, chances are high that when we see a customer's challenge we've seen it before.
After the sale, we have not only a highly technical sales team but also an execution team and support team to help the customer ensure the equipment is properly installed, started up, run, and then maintained over the course of the lifetime of the company.
IWW: It sounds like you've amassed many years of experience with these types of industries and the equipment serving them. Can you elaborate?
MW: We have been in the filter press business for over forty years, and much longer on the intake side. In fact, we just recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of our employees -- one of many who has been with the business for many years. We've calculated our combined expertise at more than 450 years of experience. Some of the names of the companies may have changed over the course of those years, but our experience hasn't -- it's the same people. And so, we feel that our experience in the industry is unparalleled. And we never walk away from a customer. We're passionate and ambitious about helping them optimize their water systems.
IWW: In your opinion, what value does the equipment itself bring to your customer?
MW: Our equipment is specifically engineered to the customer's application. What our customers want is maximum uptime and, in the case of the dewatering side, they want maximum yield. Much like a car, if you maintain the equipment, it runs for a very long time. We just recently came across a customer that we sold a piece of equipment to in 1980. The same operator has been running this J-Press by JWI since it was installed. Now, for the very first time, the customer came to us because he needed some replacement parts. This is a heavy-duty plating company, but he's maintaining the equipment so well that, in thirty years now, this is the first time he's needed to replace some parts. Stories like these are exciting and really show how well our equipment runs.
As I mentioned earlier, we have been in the field for nearly a hundred years on the intake side. We have installations dating back to the 1920s that we still serve and that still run.
IWW: Combining dewatering and intake, you have more than 20,000 equipment installations worldwide. How do you satisfy your existing customer base?
MW: Our team is focused on being technically proficient. Our field service technicians are able to repair and refurbish just about any type of machine, whether it's our own or from some of the other suppliers in the market. On the intake side, we have original drawings and engineering specifications that go back a hundred years. If a customer comes back to us, they don't have to redesign or respecify the original drawings -- we can rebuild to their original equipment.
Innovation is another way we help our customers. For example, on the filter press side we just redesigned the plate shifter for our large machines. The goal was to improve the ergonomic design and now it's possible to change the side from which the operator shifts the plates.
As the world goes digital, so are we. We're implementing a tool that we call ToolDOX, which will house all of the customers' owner manuals, drawings, and specifications in an online platform. With a personalized login, the customer has 24-hour access to all of his specific equipment documentation, which is useful for troubleshooting or identifying replacement parts. We don't charge for this; it's really just a way for us to make life easier for the customer.
We're also working on an ROI tool to demonstrate cost of ownership. There are other ROI tools in the market to help size presses, but typically you have to go back to a salesperson to interpret the results. With ours, we want to provide robust actual numbers that help customers size their equipment, drive their applications, and again, make it easy for them. We want them to be able to focus on their business, not the water.
IWW: You've recently established a partnership with Underwater Construction Corporation. How will this new alliance benefit your customers, particularly in the power industry?
MW: We are very excited about our partnership with Underwater Construction Corporation (UCC). They're the most capable, technically advanced inland diving team with more than 200 divers in key locations across the U.S. They perform all kinds of construction and repair underwater, above water, under a wide variety circumstances. It's very impressive to watch them. Combined with our legacy of more than 10,000 units in place, unparalleled design, innovation, and manufacturing, the customer will win in any way, in every way.
UCC has the highest level of certification, and they're continually maintaining that. They also have the highest safety record. That is especially critical for the nuclear industry, where they're very focused on safety.
Bringing together our experience with 10,000 installations, having the original specifications and drawings available, and now combining that with UCC to manage underwater repairs and installation -- that's really a winning proposition for the customer.
IWW: What are some of the accomplishments that make you most proud of your business?
MW: Well, one of the mottoes we've adopted is that we want to have a legacy in performance and a future in innovation. There are stories about specific customer situations that illustrate that and make me extremely proud of this business. A great example is that we have a traveling water screen at the Hershey plant in Pennsylvania, and have since 1920. We help them keep their chocolate production up.
Another example that's emotionally important to a lot of people is that we had an original Link-Belt screen at the first World Trade Center building. After 9/11, we worked with an engineering firm to rebuild the screen, the housing, pumps and the controllers, and it supports not only One World Trade Center but all of the surrounding buildings: the memorial museum, the Freedom Tower, the performing arts center, and some others.
Finally, I have to go back to the team. We have a retention rate higher than 99%, so it's a very strong team of extremely capable individuals, and together we strive to take care of our customer -- to do what's right, and help them to run their business with the best possible performance.