System Needed to Verify New Technologies, Products

The Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) works with its members to encourage technical innovation and product development in our interlocking industries.

Mar 1st, 2009

By Ernest A. Childs

The Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) works with its members to encourage technical innovation and product development in our interlocking industries. Its full members run the gamut from technically oriented start-ups, to well established small and mid-sized firms to industry giants. Each member has jealously guarded technologies, strategies, and action plans. But one place where all can come together with a single voice is ... a need for systems that verify the quality of industry innovation and new products.

“It takes too long to get a new product accepted in the marketplace,” was the conclusion of a round table session at WWEMA’s annual meeting in Tucson this past November. In our industry, it takes eight to ten years to get a new product to market and accepted. Everyone agreed there’s no way to break even, much less make a profit, if a decade is needed to ramp up new products.

The usual “anti-new product” suspects were indicted in the discussion ... starting with ourselves and then moving to consulting engineers, distributors, end-users, regulators, and other stakeholders. Everyone owns a part of the problem. But in reality, everyone also wants to support innovation and new products. Unfortunately, there’s no user-friendly system to encourage innovation and product development. That’s the real problem. And without a reasonable system, positive change will not occur.

What is a reasonable system? Equipment manufacturers generally want a method that’s simple, fast, and not too expensive ... plus credible, and accepted at both the national and state level. International concurrence would also be preferred.

EUCETSA (a European consortium with at least nine member countries) has started down this road. Their goal is to develop verification and certification programs that: lower risks in market implementation of new technologies, boost innovative technologies, accelerate market acceptance, disseminate application knowledge, and enhance market acceptance of new technologies and derived products. Whether you agree with these goals or not, they’re a good beginning point for discussion.

A major difficulty in establishing a verification and certification program, as we’ve found before, is execution. Most everyone agrees process steps need to include:

  • Identification of promising technologies and products requiring verification.
  • Definition of unique testing methods and standards for each technology type.
  • Delineation of performance standards that would allow a technology to make specific claims.
  • Verification of testing methods and standards.
  • Completion of testing.
  • Monitoring of on-going performance.

Each step is a major undertaking and multiplying the effort over a variety of technologies quickly becomes an immense undertaking. But these are issues that can be resolved by scientific and engineering logic. It may take time but in the end agreement can often be found.

A greater problem is acceptance across various governmental entities. If a testing paradigm is accepted on the federal level and a company goes through that process, but individual states do not accept the findings, what has been accomplished? Merely, a costly exercise that doesn’t necessarily bring a new technology or associated product closer to market reality.

If in the end, one has to test state-by-state the question becomes can a process be defined that could move from state-to-state allowing variation according to the needs of individual states? While this may sound cumbersome, there might be business logic for rolling out a new technology or product several states at a time. Development of such a roadmap in and of itself might be a genuine step forward.

Most everyone in the industry is willing to try to move forward. A map with broad avenues to show the way in new technology acceptance is desired. But quality two-lane highways that get one to their destination might be an acceptable start.

Recognizing both the appeal and difficulty of developing and gaining acceptance of a technology and product verification system, WWEMA and the American Water Works Association (“AWWA”) have agreed to work together plus seek leadership and assistance from others with a stake in innovative water and wastewater technologies. Striving together, superior results should be our goal.

Your input will be most appreciated. Go to either the WWEMA or AWWA web site and let us know your thinking. WW

About the Author:
Ernest A. Childs, PhD, is President Emeritus of ArchaeaSolutions, Inc., a Georgia-based company involved in designing, developing, and manufacturing bio-systems for waste systems. He currently serves as Chairman-Elect of WWEMA.

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