Technology - Are You on the Highway or the Driveway?

As the Distributor Road Salesman makes his daily municipal sales calls, most of his customers at some point will ask, "So what's new?"

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By David Putnam

As the Distributor Road Salesman makes his daily municipal sales calls, most of his customers at some point will ask, "So what's new?"

The answer is Everything!

The truth is, you would have to look long and hard to find a product line that has not had a recent major improvement. Virtually every component of the water supply line is now cutting edge from a distribution main, to the residential service line, right up to the water meter.

Whether it is the redesign of a popular product, the type of material, or the components, it is a very different landscape for the products you are used to working with. Even more important is that most of these products come from the same manufacturers that you have trusted and relied on for many years. WASDA has 82 very familiar Manufacturer Members who are all involved in the race to bring you the newest and best products in the industry today.

You have choices involving the latest technology as never before: distribution main pipe made of various materials that are both lighter and stronger, service brass that is lead-free, water meters with no moving parts, the ability to read them without ever leaving your office, manholes with hinges on them, and even pipe repair couplings that have handles!

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The age and condition of our nation's water infrastructure has been well documented. It would take billions of dollars at current value to update, and in most areas of the country, it is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. We have websites dedicated to showing you the largest and most recent main breaks of the day -- heck they even made a 90 minute video about it titled, "Liquid Assets." What can be puzzling is that many of our customers acknowledge the problems this video portrays but are still slow to embrace new technology.

What is the latest technology?

Whether your choice is metal or plastic, you now have pipe that has reduced wall thicknesses, yet is stronger and able to test at much higher pressure ratings. You can even have pipe that has no joints and can be pulled through your existing pipe; talk about a savings! Throw out your slide rule! Fire hydrants are now available with friction loss coefficients below 2 psi at 900 gpm due to vastly improved casting manufacturing capabilities. Plus, there are new coating processes that not only make your hydrants shine longer, but the paint does not need maintenance for several years.

How about complete lines of service brass that is 100% lead-free and fully compliant with federal standards? You can still use your favorite trusted vendor -- all you need to do is update your standards. Not impressed yet? Have you seen the new water meters that have no moving internal parts? No pistons or discs to wear out and LED registers that take you immediately into the age of Smart Metering.

Tired of tightening bolts and swapping out end rings and gaskets on your pipe repair couplings? Two bolt couplings with ranges that accept a variety of pipe types mean an end to infinite coupling parts inventory. If you are looking for some pampering, you can even buy them now with handles on the barrel to help you at installation. Concerned with your water use accountability? How about high tech leak correlators that operate while you sleep, using components of your existing system? Better yet, use the right AMR reading system and the end points can collect and transmit the leak survey data while your meters are being read.

There is no longer a need to wait for a formal sales presentation in a controlled environment. Check out your WASDA Vendor at www.wasda.com/member_companies.php for product videos, tutorials, and animated installation guidelines. While surfing the web, just punch up the product name on YouTube and you will likely see a live demonstration in real jobsite conditions.

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Even the order process has changed dramatically with current technology. Too busy during working hours to call or fax your order to your favorite supplier? Hop on your computer 24/7 and place an order online as you browse hundreds of products they may offer.

It is often said the sales relationship is a three-legged stool involving the manufacturer, the distributor and the customer. The distributor's role is to have the products you need available and in stock when you need them. Not only do we need the customer to purchase material, but to be willing to try new material. You trust the automobile and computer manufacturers to bring you the latest technology. Why not trust the WASDA Vendor and Suppliers just the same!

About the Author: David Putnam is the Publications Committee Chair for WASDA and has served on the WASDA Board of Directors for the past six years. Mr. Putnam is President of Putnam Pipe Corp., a water, sewer and drainage supplier, in central Massachusetts.

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