Water Online Radio: A Roadmap To Improving Infrastructure
Andrew Apgar of Mueller Service Company explains the positive impact that asset assessment has on infrastructure and municipal budgets.
Todd Schnick: And we’re coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day three of AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I’m your host Todd Schnick, joined by my colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, this next guy’s going to be a real handful, I think.
Todd Youngblood: It’s been one after another troublemakers coming in here today.
Todd Schnick: That’s all we get around here, 24/7. But I’m looking forward to welcoming Andrew Apgar to the show. He’s the national sales manager for Mueller Service Company. Welcome, Andrew!
Andrew: Well, thanks for having me.
Todd Schnick: Well, it’s our pleasure. Before we get into the interview, take a second and tell us a little about you and your background.
Andrew: Personally, I’ve been working for Mueller Service Company for about 3 years now, but prior to that I spent a number of years working for some other companies that serve the utility space for a total of about 15 years.
Todd Schnick: Wow…so you’re an experienced hand at this. I’m more interesting in hearing about Mueller Service Company. What are you doing to help serve your marketplace?
Andrew: Well, Mueller Service Company is a division of Mueller Company. Been around for about 25 years and we serve both public and private utilities. And really what we do is, we have a comprehensive suite of solutions, but mainly focused on helping our customers transform their infrastructure data into business intelligence.
It’s a big statement, but we think it’s important…I think you’ve probably heard one of the common themes through this show is asset management – folks getting a handle on what’s going on in their system and being able to make intelligent decisions around that information.
Todd Youngblood: Andrew, take us a level deeper on that in terms of the marketplace that you’re serving and specifically about the challenges those folks are facing.
Andrew: Well, I think something that’s been a common thread, you’re starting to see budgets continue to decrease, but the impact and the need for utilities is substantial. They’ve reduced staff, reduced knowledge – workers that have been very important in the past – and they’re still having to address those same needs that they’ve had all along with those reduced budgets.
Todd Schnick: You just touched on that common theme that we’ve been hearing here at this show, this notion of having to do more with less. How could Mueller Services help municipalities do that?
Andrew: I think the biggest thing is we’re in a position to mobilize quickly and put experts in the field that do very specific tasks that maybe the utility, their workers, they have to be tasked to do a number of things because they have so few staff to continue to do the work, the very difficult work that’s there.
So we’re able to mobilize quickly. Come in, work, whether it be hydrant assessment, valve condition assessment, really tie that, take that attribute data and push it into a geographic information system, so that they can see it spatially – what’s going on – and make those smart decisions.
Todd Schnick: Andrew, talk a little bit more about the technology that you guys bring to bear, like when you talk about a valve assessment. How do I go about doing that?
Andrew: Well, we actually utilize, again I talk about, and we have some expert staff. They’re trained on some industry standard tools, some hydraulic and electronic valve turning equipment that really enables you to get a good indication as to where valves are from a condition standpoint – their torque; are they in a closed or an open position?
You capture that attribute data and then push it into, really, a decision support system, which is what we call GIS for geographic information systems. And again, it’s all about taking data from the field and providing that to our customers in a way that they can make those important budget decisions, because there’s a limited supply of funding out there. And so they have to be very specific and very focused on where they put those funds.
Todd Schnick: Andrew, two-part question: let’s go up to 35,000 feet look down on the water industry as a whole. What do you see as important trends coming down the pike in the next 3-5 years? And, more importantly, how has Mueller service stepped up to help people deal with those trends?
Andrew: Well, I think the trend is centered around asset management. I think you’re starting to see a legislation come about. Whether it be from non-revenue water, whether it be from a GASB 34, which is general accounting standards Bulletin 34.
But it’s all centered around getting better control of those assets that you have in the field, whether it be pipe asset, a valve, a hydrant, anything that’s buried infrastructure. We’re really getting a handle around what’s the operational condition; how much funding should be put forward to replacing, rehabilitating. Or, if it’s good, they need to know that as well.
Todd Youngblood: Andrew, you’ve talked about technological innovation. You’ve also talked about the reduction in the number of knowledge workers out in utilities. If I were in the position of running one of those things, I might be reluctant to adopt some new technologies just because of that. What are you doing to help folks get over that? Or is that really not an issue?
Andrew: It can be an issue. It’s, with anything in technology, it’s some fast and quick adopters and you have those that continue to push back, but I think you’re starting to see a surge within the marketplace. GIS is commonplace.
It’s a standard platform for gathering attribute data about their assets and then making decisions. So I think you have various folks that are in stages of, whether they want to start GIS, they’re in the middle of a program, or they’re already a mature adopter of GIS.
Todd Schnick: ACE 2012, you guys are exhibiting here. What are your goals and objectives here at the show?
Andrew: I think the main goal is obviously just to educate the folks that are here on who we are, and how we can help them to be a resource for utilities that may be struggling right now.
Todd Youngblood: What do you think is the single biggest issue, the single biggest problem that you could solve?
Andrew: I think it’s giving customers the confidence that there is something out there. Depending upon, no matter where they are on the spectrum, if they have substantial needs, that there’s someone out there that can, and whether they have GIS or not, someone can kind of put a roadmap in place that can help them. Or if they’re very mature and they have a full complement of folks, we can do as little or as much as they need. Just to know there are resources out there for them.
Todd Schnick: All right, Andrew, I hate to say it but we’re out of time. Before we let you go, how can people get in touch with you, and more importantly, where can they get more information about Mueller Service Company?
Andrew: I think the easiest way to get in contact with us is go to our website, which is MuellerService.co, and they can get information on who we are, what we do, and points of contact.
Todd Youngblood: All right. Andrew Apgar, national sales manager of Muller Service Company, it was great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.
Andrew: Thanks for the time.
Todd Schnick: Our pleasure. All right. Well, that wraps this segment up. On behalf of our guest, Andrew Apgar, our co-host, Todd Youngblood, all of us at Water Online, I’m Todd Schnick. We’ll be right back with our next guest.