WWEMA Members — What Business are We In?

As water and wastewater equipment manufacturers, we are engineers. We measure, quantify, calculate, and test to ensure the long-term integrity of our creations. We engineer equipment that can operate for decades and in the harshest of conditions, with minimum maintenance.

By Robert T. Williams

As water and wastewater equipment manufacturers, we are engineers. We measure, quantify, calculate, and test to ensure the long-term integrity of our creations. We engineer equipment that can operate for decades and in the harshest of conditions, with minimum maintenance. But, more than that, we "engineer" in every kind of material, and in every aspect of the field. However, it would be wrong to say that we are in the engineering business. There are many individuals and companies that are, indeed, in the engineering business, but it would not be us.

We are inventors that bring new concepts to the industry — concepts that reach "outside the box" to connect with methods, materials, and approaches that are beyond a linear or incremental path to the future. And, we are also the people who invent the more modest "better way" to make a part or configure a process. But, we are not in the business of just "coming up with new stuff", although we do so, most everyday.

We are, well, manufacturers, in that we fabricate the technologies we invent, and the ones that we can just make better, in some important way — a few of these items are simple to fabricate, but most are extremely complex, requiring precision, accuracy, and craftsmanship. In addition, we own, operate, and maintain advanced manufacturing technologies that form materials with digitally-perfect repeatability and efficiency. But, this is simply not the definition of who we are, or an adequate description of the business we are in.

We are also immersed in physics, chemistry, and biology, because we must often bend the actions of elements and compounds — as well as a legion of microbes — to our will. However, if you asked almost anyone if this is the business we are in, they would probably just ask you to repeat the question.

We are certainly efficiency experts, because we must deliver, on a regular basis "a prescribed result" at the absolute lowest possible cost, if we are to remain both competitive and profitable. We have to consistently manage every moment and make every ounce of material "count", but this is not the business we are in.

You could say that we are in "the people business", since we work through, with, and with the help of numerous individuals; as we learn about needs and problems; as we devise solutions; and as we build long-term working relationships within the industry and with parties relevant to the industry, such as those in government, and finance — to mention a few. But, even though we are in the people business, it's not the business we're in.

We are leaders and champions of new technologies that have the capability of revolutionizing everything else we do. This includes such products as the new SpiraSep™ membrane, a spiral wound membrane which is capable of — in wastewater applications — operating as a tertiary filtration device or as a bioreactor. And, as excited as we become about such significant innovation, and as important as this role may be to the future of the industry, we are much more than leaders and champions — that is only a facet of the business we are in.

So, we are, in fact, "into" virtually everything; from fabricating more efficient versions of equipment that were born of patents that go back decades—such as thickeners, belt filter presses, digesters, and filters; to doing what is required in bringing to market, for the first time, advanced and previously unimagined membrane technologies.

So what business are we in?

We are "in" all of the businesses just iterated, from large oily machines weighing in the tons to micro fibers, so it's not the simplest of questions to answer.

But we know the answer; it's what guides us through the occasional stormy day in the marketplace, and through the unpredictable changes that blow through the world of the twenty-first millennium.

What business are we in? We are in the business of focusing knowledge, intuition, capability, and resources on our customers' water and wastewater problems.

More precisely, we are in the business of creating—on a continuously improving basis—ever more effective tools and technologies to protect our environmental riches, at a cost that represents an ever-decreasing share of our citizen's resources.

We may be known simply as Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers, but now that you know "what business we're in", you know that we are more than such a description implies.

About the author:
WWEMA Chairman-Elect Robert T. Williams is President of Ashbrook Simon-Hartley.

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