The Advantage of Sourcing Combined Technologies

Embracing a complete solution and including a technology partner on your side from the very onset of an upgrade project is both valuable and wise

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The Advantage of Sourcing Combined Technologies

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There is a reason certain idioms endure. It is because the wisdom contained within it consistently applies to many different situations and remains relatively unchanged over time.

The idiom “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” attributed to originating in the 16th century, describes failure because of too many opinions about how to do something.

While we’re not cooking up broth in the water treatment profession, the underlying point rings true today for designing and building municipal wastewater treatment processes.

Project fulfillment

It is increasingly common for municipal WWTP construction projects to move beyond a traditional design-bid-build model to efficiently and effectively renovate or create a brand-new treatment facility. On the heels of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009, one result was the impetus to move quickly and efficiently to implement infrastructure projects. The design-build model really began to take off. This new project fulfillment model allows for a more agile design process. By combining engineering and construction disciplines, design-build minimizes unnecessary layers and overcomes bottlenecks in linear timing.

In the 10 years that have elapsed since the ARRA was passed, the idea of alternate project delivery has expanded. This expansion has also included a rapid increase in the entrance of private investment to continue to drive growth in the water sector and to help offset municipalities’ resource stress. Private investment provides a pivotal addition for accomplishing the needed infrastructure improvements in the water treatment sector without needing to raise public funds.   

Status quo is not always best

The idea behind design-build projects is primarily to minimize unnecessary hurdles that can slow or complicate an already complex operation. The focus on vetting the design team as a whole is the critical due diligence that opens the door to improved project management. As the last decade in the water industry has demonstrated, design-build, along with other new project delivery methods, has been useful in making significant and measurable improvements in the speed and quality of advancing improved infrastructure.

This same open approach should also be considered for the actual technology being integrated into new wastewater treatment facility designs. Matching technologies within a specific treatment process objective provides an optimized and smooth functioning treatment step. Interestingly enough, especially in a design-bid-build environment, the idea of combining components under the responsibility of an adequately vetted manufacturer is resisted. Viewing equipment sourcing holistically is different from what is commonly known as sole-source procurement. Instead, by applying the same principles of selecting design-build teams to these new forms of project fulfillment, this approach allows the vetting of the manufacturer’s expertise and experience, thus enabling the ability to provide complete solutions. Increasing performance requirements underscore this approach. 

Partnering with the designer

A wastewater treatment plant is commonly divided up into categories of treatment, including headworks, clarification, biological, sludge, tertiary, reuse, etc. The first step in determining a technology partner is to investigate specific categories the manufacturer focuses on. An ideal question would be: What is their expertise and experience in that given category of treatment? An interesting exercise would be to conduct a Google search using the phrase “[name of company] patents.” 

Solid qualifiers should be expertise as well as the ability to produce and support the technology. A company with a solid record of research and development is a good indication they have spent the time to understand the application and surrounding processes. Additionally, it is essential for the company being considered to have the ability to produce technology reliably. The more directly the manufacturing is handled, the less vulnerable the supply chain becomes. It is one thing to know how something works; however, the ability to deliver is essential to the success of a specific project.

Holistic arrangement simplifies responsibility

There is a place for segmenting in complex processes. Vetting and selecting a competent technology partner with the capability to assemble individual technologies to produce a defined performance result simplifies and speeds up the process. By looking at the performance and not just the product, accountability is also simplified.

As newer project fulfillment strategies emerge (design-build, design-build-operate, design-build-operate-finance, public-private partnership), technology partnering with a design and construction team makes solid business sense. Embracing a complete solution with shared performance risks and including a technology partner on your side from the very onset of the project is both valuable and wise.



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