Huber Technology Reveals The Power Of Sludge

President of Huber Technology, Inc., Dana Hicks, along with Marketing Manager T.R. Gregg, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. The discussion centered on sludge drying, resource recovery, and extracting value from the waste stream. Listen or read on to learn more.

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Todd Schnick: We’re back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and the tradeshow floor for WEFTEC. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my co-host, Todd Youngblood. Todd, we are off to a rocking start this morning, and I think it’s only going to get better.

Todd Youngblood: Can you believe the plug we got from the Water Online guys? It didn’t cost us a dime.

Todd Schnick: It didn’t. Well, not yet anyway.

Todd Youngblood: I hadn’t thought about that.

Todd Schnick: We’re underway with hour one. We are joined by the president of Huber Technology, Dana Hicks, and the marketing manager of Huber Technology, T.R. Gregg. Welcome to Online Radio, guys.

Todd Schnick: Dana, we’ll start with you. Why don’t you take a few seconds and just walk us through a little about you, your background, and tell us a little about Huber Technology?

Dana: Sure. I joined Huber Technology earlier this year as President and CEO. My background is really engineered products and system sales. I’ve been in the water and wastewater industry earlier in my career as the Director of North American Sales with WETECO, so it’s really terrific to be back in this industry and be back at WEFTEC.

Huber Technology itself is the North American subsidiary of Huber SE, a German corporation and manufacturer of stainless steel machines and systems for water and wastewater treatment.

Todd Schnick: T.R., why don’t you take a second and tell us about you and what you do with Huber.

T.R.: Sure, Todd. I’m the Marketing Manager for Huber North America. I’ve been in that position for a couple of years now. I’m real excited about it. We’ve got a story to tell out there, a lot of momentum there. I’ve been with the company for six years.

I knew Dana Hicks previous to that. He’s awesome. He’s doing a good job. We look forward to really, some exciting momentum that we’re seeing out of this.

Todd Youngblood: Dana, this whole industry is just ripe with opportunities. You just joined Huber relatively recently. What it is it that attracted you?

Dana: A number of things, actually. Huber has a terrific reputation in the industry for quality products and quality people. They’re all about quality from the parent company to the North American subsidiary.

The other thing is that Huber Technology went through a period of amazing, strong growth. It’s just an honor to have been selected to be part of the team to continue and sustain that growth here in North America.

Todd Schnick: Dana, what do you see as the emerging trends and issues in the water/wastewater industry going into 2012?

Dana: Trends and issues – sort of echoing the comments of your previous guests – trying to do more with less, or greater value. It almost transcends water and wastewater treatment and gets to the point of resource recovery.

We see more and more municipal utilities looking at sludge drying, turning the dry sludge into compost material and using the sludge as an energy source for combustion or power generation.

I’d say it’s trying to wring every dollar or bit of value out of the waste stream, whether that’s screenings, whether that’s sludge, or whether that’s thermal energy from sludge.

T.R.: I would add to that what Dana said there. The way we see it is we don’t look at them as wastewater treatment plants. We look at them as resource recovery centers. That’s the major paradigm shift in the industry, and Huber is basically right on track with that.

Todd Youngblood: T.R., as I hear you guys talking, the term that comes into my head is total cost of ownership. How do you communicate that? It’s one thing to have the green message and sustainability – that’s critically important. But when you blow away all of the smoke, folks are going to look at what’s the dollars and cents? How do you communicate that value?

T.R.: That’s an excellent question, Todd. I think that’s one of the things that you live with a piece of machinery anywhere from 10 to 20 years and, with the pressures that municipalities have on their budgets, sometimes they are tempted to buy something that is inexpensive.

Really, you need to step back and look at the total cost of ownership over time. I think, as Dana mentioned, we have some very high-caliber engineers and support individuals that will help walk through those considerations so they can make up their own mind. But they can see beyond just what they pay right now, but total cost of ownership.

Todd Schnick: T.R., help Todd and I and the thousands of professionals in the Water Online community better understand the value you are bringing to your customers by sharing a story of a recent win you achieved for one of your customers.

T.R.: We had an example up in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. I think many times our brothers up to the north feel neglected by manufacturers here in the United States. We partnered with them early on in identifying a problem or issue they were having with their solids and dewatering.

We took them to where they needed to observe firsthand the technology. We worked with them very closely on the layout and details. What we were able to do was not just provide a piece of equipment to them. They partnered with our service department and we were able to demonstrate to them – bear with me on this one – don't love them and leave them.

We go in there and take care of them. He’s a very excited customer right now. It’s producing the results he was looking for. He’s already telling his neighbors about it.

Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Gentleman, I’m not an engineer, or a technologist, but I’ve always been fascinated by cool technology. What is the coolest piece of technology that you guys are working with right now?

T.R.: I think I’d have to say Water Online Radio.

Todd Schnick: This is outstanding!

T.R.: Thanks for the 20 dollars.

Todd Schnick: That’s twice now that I’ve been surprised. But, seriously, what has Huber got in terms of the technology that’s just fun and interesting?

Dana: I’d say one area of technology that we’re seeing extremely strong interest in is the solar drying technology of sludge. We’ve always had a strong product line of sludge handling, sludge thickening, sludge dewatering, and sludge drying.

But, evolving into this solar drying concept, we’ve been able to take a standard agricultural greenhouse, put together a very robust package of pumping liquid sludge to an inlet, turning and distributing that equally, drying it, and having an end product that actually either generates revenue, produces a compost, or is used as a combustible source of energy from the end product.

We have, aside from our first project, getting ready to go live here in the next quarter, we have multiple municipalities both in the Sun Belt as well as in the upper Midwest and Canada that are inquiring about solar drying. We’re very excited about the prospect in that segment.

Todd Youngblood: Todd, it never ceases to fascinate me. Here we are talking about the high tech you can get your hands around and we’re treating sludge. It’s a real tribute to the creativity of these folks to come up with that kind of technology to address an old, old problem. Gentlemen, Huber is obviously exhibiting here at WEFTEC, what is your biggest objective here at the show.

T.R.: First of all, to more closely understand our customer. We pride ourselves in taking care of them – not only providing good front-end technology, but also service. This is an opportunity to meet with them and we made a number of efforts to make it compelling for those customers of ours to come and visit and talk with us. They have done that.

Dana: WEFTEC is one of the few opportunities that a company like Huber Technology has to connect with the three influencers on projects in a municipal market. Those are the contractors, the consultants, or engineers that specify the equipment, and the owner/operator (of wastewater treatment plants).

It’s just a golden opportunity where folks from all of these sectors are coming by. We can demonstrate first-hand with the machines and systems that we are displaying some of the solutions we offer to them.

Todd Schnick: Dana, what does the next three to five years look like for you guys?

Dana: Three to five years looks fantastic for Huber. I’m excited to report that we just came off a record quarter of sales in the third quarter of 2011. We have a very bright outlook. To date, we have driven our strong growth through municipal sales.

We're investigating growth and a targeted approach to selected industrial sectors. We have a green buildings group that has a variety of products and solutions that they are going to be rolling out in the coming years. We think new products, and new markets makes for a very bright future for Huber Technology.

Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Well, gentlemen, I hate to say it, but we are out of time. Before we let you go, share with the audience how they can contact Huber Technology and learn more about the work you are doing.

T.R.: Well, Todds plural, we’re at a booth in the South Hall. You can find us on the Internet at Huberforum.net. You can call us at 704-949-1010.

Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Dana Hicks, Theodore Ralph – T.R. – Gregg, thank you so much for joining us today.

Dana: Thanks for having us. It’s been a pleasure.

Todd Schnick: That wraps this segment. On behalf of Todd Youngblood, I’m Todd Schnick, Water Online Radio. We’ll be right back.