This guest blog comes to us from Megan Ray Nichols of Schooled by Science

Not every procurement officer has to deal with the water treatment industry on a daily basis. That’s why it can be useful to have some reminders of the practical (and even visual) issues that you can solve with the right piece of equipment. Some of the other reminders here have more to do with your company’s culture and your mission, and how you can come to the best decision possible for all parties involved.

1. Break Down the Costs Strategically
Water treatment systems and new equipment and projects influence several other facets of your company, and possibly even all of them. There are utility costs to consider, plus maintenance costs over the equipment’s lifecycle, contract costs associated with your vendor’s services over time, the labor for supporting personnel and more.

Many companies and municipalities who are strategic with their spending choose to engage in what’s called a “hybrid procurement approach.” This is where companies or governments use more than one delivery type according to what best fits each phase or project. The advantage can include faster delivery times as well as a more strategic way to transfer risk.

2. Include Facilities Personnel in the Decision-Making Process
When you’re tasked with buying water treatment equipment, it’s not just the cost of the equipment that concerns you. You also need to know what kind of service value is included in those costs.

You may find yourself making a choice between two differently priced but otherwise similar pieces of equipment from two different vendors. You need your facilities managers and maintenance personnel to make their voices heard in the decision-making process. They’re better positioned than anybody to tell you whether the service value of one company justifies the price.

What do we mean by “service value”? It comes down to two things: which provider looks better prepared to support your own people? And which one looks more committed to consistency in all of your required benchmarks, with the guarantees to back up their claims? Trust your people not to steer you wrong.

3. Don't Assume Flat-Rate Water Treatment Is More Economical
Most of what we discuss here today relates to purchasing water treatment equipment. But what if you’re buying services or leasing equipment from a water treatment vendor instead? How does the mission change?

It’s possible you’ve heard about flat-rate water treatment services and wondered if they deliver a better deal overall. This is something you should be skeptical about, under many circumstances, for the same reasons you’d be skeptical about a fixed-rate electricity delivery plan.
There are some things a supplier can control. Other things are beyond anybody’s control, such as production fluctuations and the number of high-degree days.

Both of these impact how much water is needed for cooling and other industrial purposes and the cost to maintain the equipment. Keep your spending low (and your supplier accountable) by holding budget reviews quarterly and annually with your provider, whether they provide services, equipment or both.

4. Target Your Solutions to Known Problems
If your existing water treatment equipment isn’t solving 100 percent of your problem, it’s probably costing you money. But you need to be smart about how you apply your probably too-small procurement budget. That means beginning with known problems, rather than being sold a product that solves an ill-defined problem.

Think of deposits and foam in mixing tanks as one example. When surface aerators can’t deliver the controlled agitation over the volume of water you require, “dead zones” are the result. Dead zones are areas where vertical aeration creates localized areas of deposits, odors and foam. Your equipment is working harder in the long run than it should be and getting less done.

One way to avoid this is to replace inefficient and poorly-designed aerator systems. You’re procuring water treatment equipment for a reason. When you’re looking for a supplier, pay attention to how well they listen and how well they define the problem before they propose a “solution.”

5. Evaluate Your Vendor’s Expertise and Staying Power
There are a few other practical matters to consider while choosing and purchasing water treatment equipment and service providers and performing diligent research on their vendors. They are these:
  • Find suppliers with industry-certified components.
  • Be sure you’re dealing with suppliers and vendors with a regional presence. You don’t want to be left waiting for a part located a few states away.
  • Evaluate your suppliers’ talents for re-engineering existing parts when appropriate, but also how well they keep up-to-date with emerging water treatment technologies and trends.
This is another natural place to solicit feedback from the people in your company who have their hands on these systems on a daily basis. But it also means finding partners with strong roots throughout the region and good-looking business histories.

A Team-Based Approach to Water Treatment Procurement

You should feel a little better prepared to watch your procurement team come together with your maintenance team and other facilities specialists in pursuit of a common goal. You may also have a better appreciation for how many other systems and departments this kind of decision might touch upon.

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