By Greg Reyneke
Water has a dramatic effect on most commercial and industrial processes. Water quality can often be the single most important factor contributing to the success or failure of a process.
Whether the application requires filtered, softened, conditioned or purified water, opportunities abound for the astute dealer to succeed in this sector of the market. Hotels, motels, laundromats, carwashes, factories, government buildings, military installations and offices are looking for experts who can help them with their water quality requirements.
Residential, commercial or industrial?
What’s in a name? In this case the difference between success and disaster. Residential water softening has a simple symptom of failure with predictable consequences—hard water that inconveniences the homeowner.
In commercial and industrial water treatment, the consequences of failure can be quite severe. The consequences of failure are really what differentiate commercial and industrial applications.
If a softener fails for a carwash, the cars aren’t quite as clean; if the softener in a laundromat fails, the clothes aren’t quite as clean. But if a softener fails for an industrial boiler, the consequences can be catastrophic.
One can then logically deduce the following:
When you’re evaluating the client’s application, be sure to ascertain the consequences of failure. This will ensure that expectations are met for deployment, longevity and redundancy.
Things to consider
As with anything, the first step to success in the commercial/industrial (C/I) field is to understand what you’re working with. You need to learn about the process that you’re treating water for, understand the environment that your equipment will be in and also understand the legal implications of the work that you’re doing.
Process water quality requirements
Each process has certain specific water quality criteria. Whether you’re simply creating a particular quality of water as specified by the project engineer or you’re acting as a problem solver to eliminate complicating factors from their water, it is important to understand the actual water quality required and to create a reasonable set of expectations for yourself and the client. Consult with the manufacturer of equipment used in your client’s process to ensure that you consider their operational water quality requirements for optimal performance as well as warranty validation.
Visit the jobsite, meet with your prospect and observe the potential location of the treatment equipment. This frequently overlooked step will save you numerous complications and hassles, as well as demonstrate to your prospect that you are committed to serving their needs.
The site survey will help in further understanding the process and developing a complete logistical snapshot of the project. Make sure to ask the following questions:
- How far is this jobsite from my office (travel time for installation and service)?
- What time of day can the installation team have access to the facility?
- What times of day are convenient to the client (if any) for us to install a bypass loop?
- Are there any dimensional constraints to the system (doorways, height, floor space)?
- Are there any weight limitations (equipment to sit on a platform or to be wall-mounted)?
- Is there an adequate electrical supply for water treatment equipment?
- Is there an adequate drain for the water treatment equipment?
- Are there any specific environmental challenges to deal with (temperature, humidity, vibration, intrinsically safe environment)?
- Are there any specific drainage restrictions for this project (acid/alkaline discharge, discharge salinity, etc.)?
Are there any specific legal requirements to meet for this particular project (increased liability insurance, HazMat, OSHA, local licensing, corporate procurement programs, union participation, tribal authority, security clearances, GSA, state purchasing agencies, etc.)?
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. It makes much more sense to ask questions now than to wish that you had later.
Process water and operational requirements
Define what your client wants and what you can reasonably deliver.
- What is the quality of water required?
- What flow rate is required?
- What delivery pressure is required?
- How many hours of runtime will be required per day/operating cycle?
- How much water will be used per day/operating cycle?
- Is any major change (increase/decrease) in water consumption to be expected in the near future?
- What level of redundancy is required?
- Does any of the equipment require an ASME stamp?
- Is an engineer’s stamp required for the equipment design?
- How soon does the client expect the system to be installed and fully operational?
- Who will maintain this system?
- What are the consequences of failure?
- What payment terms does the client expect?
Reasonable expectations are the key to healthy commercial/industrial relations. Your C/I client has a dramatically different set of expectations than a home-owner. Plan for an escalated response to all service issues, as well as a more critical analysis of product water quality.
Water sample analysis
Draw samples of the client’s raw water and have them tested for organic and inorganic impurities that will have an effect on the process. Also, check for those contaminants that could interfere with the treatment process itself.
The following minimum testing panel is recommended, regardless of the application to get you started:
- Hardness as CaCo3
- Total alkalinity
- Free chlorine
- Total chlorine
Perform additional tests as needed, especially if the water supply is non-municipal.
Armed with an influent water quality analysis, you’re ready to compare the raw water against the process water requirements. Use appropriate certified testing facilities as needed; one should never skimp when it comes to water testing for commercial and industrial applications.
Work closely with your equipment vendor to ensure that you specify an appropriate solution for this project. Who is liable if the incorrect equipment or technology is specified and what recourse do you have to protect yourself?
Service and maintenance
While periodic service is important on residential water treatment systems, it is critical on commercial and industrial systems. Consult with the equipment manufacturer on preventative maintenance schedules and discuss it with the client to ensure the equipment is properly maintained.
The goal is to fix problems while they are cheap and easy with a minimum of operational downtime. If the system includes consumables like acid, caustic, coagulants, chlorine neutralizers, SP-5000, disinfectants or performance enhancers, be sure to create a consumables replacement schedule to facilitate easy procurement by your clients.
Documentation, contracts and purchase orders
Carefully document the expectations of both parties with a procurement and installation timeline. Peruse all purchase orders and letters of engagement before accepting them to ensure that the terms are as originally negotiated and that you understand lien releases, delay penalties and other commercial terms that may be a surprise to some.
Don’t be afraid to engage the service of a commercial attorney. Such a professional can advise you on your rights and responsibilities before entering into a contract.
Installation should be contracted or performed by your in-house installation team to be on time and within the criteria agreed to by the client. Be sure to adhere to all local codes as well as industry best practices.
Treat the client’s facility with respect by being punctual, clean and orderly on the jobsite. Respect their corporate culture and be sensitive to dress codes and jobsite behavior.
System startup and commissioning
While selection, sizing and installation are important, startup cannot be overlooked. This important step involves systematic pressurization, sanitization and flushing of the water treatment equipment as well as water-using piping, fixtures and apparatus to ensure a consistent baseline of operations.
Once the system has been commissioned, draw samples of the effluent product water and have them tested by the same testing facility as the original tests for uniformity. Save copies of pre- and post-treatment test data in your project file.
Unless you’re planning on having one of your own employees on site 24/7, you’re going to have to train your client and someone on their staff for the proper operation and maintenance of the water treatment system. Take the time to train carefully as many problems are caused by operator error, which usually stems from inadequate training.
Documentation and drawings
Be prepared to provide three copies of all operation and maintenance (O&M) manuals to the client. Some clients may also require a ‘redline’ drawing (referred to as record drawings in some areas) that documents the final ‘as-built construction of the treatment device(s). For your own purposes, you should carefully document and photograph the installation location and each component in operational condition. This should simplify troubleshooting and training.
Commercial and industrial water treatment is not for everyone, so be sure that you carefully analyze the risks and benefits and the impact it will have on your company before you over-commit yourself. Take advantage of WQA’s new educational materials on the commercial/industrial sector and enjoy this exciting and challenging segment of our industry.
About the author
Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI, is currently General Manager at Intermountain Soft Water in Lindon, UT and serves on the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Smart Dealer Network, a trade association dedicated to helping independent water treatment dealers succeed and reach their full potential in today’s changing world.