Panel Discusses Changing Water/Wastewater Market

What Keeps You Up At Night? This was the final question posed to a five-star panel of industry experts who participated in a discussion on the "Power of Change: Reinventing the Water & Wastewater Industry" during WWEMAs 89th Annual Meeting held in LaQuinta, Calif., Nov. 20-22. They came from diverse sectors of the industry, yet shared a common challenge: To provide the best service for their customer and remain competitive in a rapidly changing industry.

What Keeps You Up At Night? This was the final question posed to a five-star panel of industry experts who participated in a discussion on the "Power of Change: Reinventing the Water & Wastewater Industry" during WWEMAs 89th Annual Meeting held in LaQuinta, Calif., Nov. 20-22. They came from diverse sectors of the industry, yet shared a common challenge: To provide the best service for their customer and remain competitive in a rapidly changing industry.

"For a long time, government didnt think it had any customers," said Gail McPherson, manager of the City of Riversides Wastewater Division. With the threat of privatization looming over every city managers head, "we need to put the focus on the customer," she said.

Her challenge — what keeps her up at night — is to find ways to continue providing clean water at the lowest price to the user.

"Finding leadership at all levels of the organization in order to thrive in a global market" is the challenge facing Phil Hall, chairman of CH2M Hill, who represented the consulting engineers perspective on the panel. "The 1990s is an era of globalization requiring mobilization of capital and an unprecedented focus on productivity, R&D investment and personnel training," Hall said. "There will be continued pressure placed on margins resulting in further consolidations in the industry," he said.

Nobody is better aware of this than Andy Seidel, head of U. S. Filters $800 million wastewater business, who spoke on behalf of the equipment manufacturers.

#147;It is inconceivable to us that returns are so low in our industry and we arent dominant overseas" he said, adding that the market was too fragmented to make money. "Consolidation and technology integration was inevitable," he noted, while acknowledging that the challenge for his company now is to remain on top and not become complacent.

Complacency is not likely to come to the manufacturer rep community, according to Jon Coombs, president of Coombs-Hopkins.

"We are returning to the 1960s, moving back to an oligopoly with U.S. Filter and the seven dwarfs," he said. "Reps feel threatened by the mergers taking place in the industry and know they need to associate with the big companies in order to survive," he added. "Still, the industry needs reps because they play a major role in the creation of design/build jobs before the manufacturers even know about them."

"Design/build is here to stay," noted Peter Filanc, CEO of J. R. Filanc Construction Company, speaking on behalf of the contractors. He reported that 18 to 20 states already permit use of design/build for public sector projects, with more on the way, adding that this is good for WWEMA members "since contractors will want to buy the best equipment if they are going to be responsible for the entire project," Filanc said.

"Demand by owners to furnish extended warranties will make contractors buy better equipment as well," he added.

When asked what keeps him up at night, Filanc eloquently replied, "the need to reinvent ourselves and develop a culture where we can monitor change, respond to change, and become more adaptable to change."

Given the theme of this years Annual Meeting — "The Power of Change: Looking Forward to the New Millennium" — we couldnt have said it better!

"The 1990s is an era of globalization requiring mobilization of capital and an unprecedented focus on productivity, R&D investment and personnel training."

— Phil Hall,
chairman of CH2M Hill

More in Lab / Sampling / Analytical
Wastewater treatment 4.0
Sponsored
Wastewater treatment 4.0