Ed Ladd, business development manager of process automation and water solutions for Mitsubishi, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. Ladd talked about breaking into the U.S. water market after success overseas, as well as the trend toward decentralization and efficiency. Listen or read on to learn more.
Todd Schnick: We are back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and the tradeshow floor of WEFTEC. I'm Todd Schnick, joined by Todd Youngblood. Todd, I think this next guest is going to be trouble.
Todd Youngblood: I know he's going to be trouble. However, let's be nice to him because of these little cards he gave us just before the interview.
Todd Schnick: Shhhh, we are not supposed to talk about those.
Todd Youngblood: Oh, sorry.
Todd Schnick: I think we are the only two invited to that event, too, so…anyhow, let's bring him on. He is the Business Development Manager, Process Automation of Water Solutions for Mitsubishi. Ed Ladd, welcome to Water Online Radio.
Ed: Thank you, Todd, Todd. It's very nice to be here.
Todd Schnick: It's great to have you. Before we get into a conversation, Ed, why don't you take a few minutes and just walk us through who you are, your background, and tell us the kind of work that you are doing for Mitsubishi.
Ed: Personally, I've been in the process automation industry for more than 20 years, but we really don't want to talk about that too much. From a process standpoint, we are talking about PLCs, automation systems, flow, pressure, temperature – many different instrumentation and automation components that provide the users that are coming to this show the right solutions that they need.
Todd Youngblood: It doesn't sound like this is a traditional market for Mitsubishi. It is more industrial traditionally, correct?
Ed: Traditionally, Mitsubishi is actually number one in factory automation in Asia and other marketplaces. The new markets that we're going into the U.S. are really not new to Mitsubishi as a whole.
From an international standpoint, Mitsubishi addresses the water market and process automation market in Japan, Asia, and Europe, but in the U.S. we've been primarily focused on automotive industry, the discrete packaging industry, and those industries that are outside the water/wastewater process automation industry.
Todd Schnick: What do you see as the emerging trends and issues in water/wastewater going into 2012?
Ed: Here at the WEFTEC event, there are so many new technologies, but listening to customers – whether it be in South America or North America, the U.S., Canada, Peru – wherever you are, it's become an issue of decentralization.
Decentralized water treatment is really becoming a focal point, because people cannot afford to put in the entire program or the entire water treatment system. They need the asset to be mobile – liquid – and that's where I see trends growing.
Todd Youngblood: The products and services that you have, are they contributing that – the experiences that you picked up in the industrial sector?
Ed: Most definitely. The products that Mitsubishi offers are providing a reliable, efficient, cost-effective solution for users to deploy or even OEMs to deploy the product and take it to the next level.
Todd Schnick: What's the response been like from the water/wastewater folks?
Ed: It's been fantastic. I mean, Mitsubishi has got the name – that's the easiest thing. Most people kind of laugh when I go in and talk to them and they say, “You make great cars. You make great TVs.” And I say, “Well, thank you, I like them too, but let me talk to you about process automation.”
Todd Youngblood: It's probably a bigger challenge than one would think. It's great to have that reputation behind you, or is that a big challenge? Or is it actually an advantage? I'm curious as to where you stand on that.
Ed: It’s an advantage in that it opens the door, but people need to understand that we do focus on the automation part of it – the drive, the HMIs, the SCADA-level implementations, the PLCs – all the way to a distributed control system. We can provide that for the user.
Todd Schnick: Ed, we have not had a single interview where the economy has not been an issue. I mean, how do you address that with your customers? What kind of things are you bringing to the table to your customers to help them survive this tough economy?
Ed: Well, the solutions that we provide are really are from an efficiency standpoint. Our products are designed to reduce energy usage. They’re designed to be reliable, efficient. So your total cost of ownership is much lower from a Mitsubishi standpoint than it would be from other customers.
Todd Schnick: Help the thousands of professionals in the Water Online community better understand the true value that you're bringing to your customer, if you don't mind, by sharing a real story, a real recent win that you achieved on behalf of one of your customers?
Ed: Wins. We always love to talk about wins, don't we? My most recent endeavour has actually been in some of the growing communities, such as Panama and Peru, and many different areas that are outside the North American base in the United States itself.
The systems that are there and the needs that are there for water and purification are huge, and through OEMs and the use of our equipment, together integrated into a single process solution, we can provide simple solutions for people in the U.S., South America, or any other area.
Todd Youngblood: I have to think an emerging economy or an emerging country would have very different issues to deal with. I would think in the U.S. it's more rehab, rehabilitation, rebuilding, repair, and it’s all new stuff. Or am I wrong?
Ed: It goes back to that decentralized message that I talked about earlier. I mean, the decentralized processing that we need to treat water works here, works in Latin America. The thing about Latin America is they don't have the infrastructure there. It doesn't exist.
They don't have the pipes. They can't afford to put the pipes in, to push water from one place to the next. So they need the decentralized tools. They need the efficiencies. They need the capabilities and the ability to manage the decentralized control from a single solution, and that’s what our products allow you to do.
Todd Youngblood: Technology really is flattening the playing field?
Ed: Most definitely. Most definitely, and it's an inalienable right for humans to have clean drinking water.
Todd Youngblood: Another angle on that, in these emerging economies: I know it's enough of a challenge dealing with regulations in the U.S. – local, state, municipal, federal. What's it like in those emerging economies? Is regulation as big a deal, less a deal, non-existent?
Ed: It really depends on the country in those emerging areas. Different countries have different expectations. The country of Panama reminds me of Singapore about 15 years ago, and Singapore has some of the most advanced water system technology on the Earth today.
Todd Youngblood: Mitsubishi is obviously exhibiting here at WEFTEC, yes?
Ed: Yes, that's correct.
Todd Youngblood: What is your principal objective of participating and attending an event like this?
Ed: Well, other than generating sales?
Todd Youngblood: Well, that goes without saying, obviously, but market education, identifying new partners – what are some other goals?
Ed: Exactly, you're saying it all in the three words that you use. We are looking for partners. We’re looking for customers. We’re looking for identity – to raise the visibility of Mitsubishi so that we can be known for more than just our cars and our TVs.
Todd Youngblood: And I’m interested in partners, when you say that. How are you collaborating with other suppliers and vendors and technologies and sources and knowledge in this industry to deliver value to the end-user?
Ed: Well, most recently Mitsubishi actually purchased a 19.9% of the iconic SCADA company. That's a serious investment in this marketplace. That’s one area. The next area is, you've got a number of OEMs that are making clean water technology – technology that allows you to address wastewater treatment and other aspects, and we’re working with them on their automation solution.
Todd Schnick: Ed, what does the next three to five years look like for your division at Mitsubishi?
Todd Schnick: Outstanding.
Ed: It better.
Todd Youngblood: A good career path, huh?
Ed: Right now it's the best one I've got.
Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Okay, well, I think we're about out of time. Before I let you go, Ed, share with the audience how they can get in touch with you and your division at Mitsubishi and learn more about the good work that you are doing.
Ed: Well, if you're here at the show, please stop by our booth. Booth number 5351. If you're here just this afternoon, we've actually got a little beer and wine event going on. You guys can come by.
Todd Youngblood: I thought that was a secret just for us?
Ed: I'll save you one or two. I’ll save you two.
Todd Youngblood: Alright…deal.
Todd Schnick: Ed Ladd with Mitsubishi, it was a pleasure having you. Thanks for joining us today.
Ed: Thank you, guys.
Todd Youngblood: Thanks a lot, Ed.
Todd Schnick: Okay. That wraps this segment up. On behalf of Todd Youngblood, I’m Todd Schnick. Water Online Radio will be right back.