QCEC Focuses On Reducing Costs, Maintenance

Jim Creighton, general manager of Quality Control Equipment Company, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. Creighton talked about the pressure to reduce costs and how QCEC’s line of wastewater samplers and flowmeters answer the call. 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 of WEFTEC. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my co-host, Todd Youngblood. Todd, we are rapping up this third hour.

Todd Youngblood: Yeah, Todd, and I will tell you what, I am going after one of those strawberry thingies that our last guest had. That looked pretty tasty.

Todd Schnick: It looked like Pepto-Bismol.

Todd Youngblood: No, no, no. I know what Pepto looks like. At my age, I’ve dealt with that quite often.

Todd Schnick: Okay, can we get to our next guest, please?

Todd Youngblood: I think we’d better.

Todd Schnick: That’s probably a good thing. I want to welcome to Water Online Radio the GM of QCEC. Welcome, Jim Creighton. Before we get into a conversation, Jim, why don't you take a few minutes and just walk us through a little bit about you, your background, and then tell us about some of the work that QCEC is doing?

JC: Well, I have been in manufacturing most of in my life, manufacturing various products. I have been involved with QCEC for the last three years, and what we do and have done for the last 40-plus years is manufacture wastewater samplers and flowmeters. We are the nation’s oldest manufacturer of wastewater samplers and that’s our specialty. That’s our primary product line.

Todd Schnick: Well, we will definitely talk about these samplers and we want to get more into the work of QCEC, but I want to step back for a second just ask you tell me about the transition from manufacturing into water/wastewater. That had to be an interesting transition, or maybe it was easier than I thought?

Jim: No, no. Well, the manufacturing part was relatively easy, and the basic marketing part. But the product knowledge, with respect to the industry – we’re a division of a major pump distributor in Des Moines, IA, so lot of product information was available to me, but I pretty much had to learn from scratch. So it was a new industry – I was in the printing industry for 25 years – and so a lot of what I was familiar with…the particular industry of wastewater and water is still new to me. I am learning a lot all the time.

Todd Schnick: Well, that’s exciting, though, to be on a steep learning curve like that. Jim, I want to take you back to the wastewater samplers. You said you are the oldest wastewater sampler manufacturer, and sometimes that implies old technology and old school, but clearly that’s not the case. Talk a little bit about how you keep up the advances in this?

Jim: We are pioneer in the industry. We use a particular system that is unique to it. We have a vacuum system that accumulates the sample, which is different than about anybody else. We introduced that 42 years ago, the basic system itself. And, of course, we made a lot of improvements, since our controls, primarily, have been an area of great improvement.

Todd Schnick: Jim, walk me through to be sure that I understand exactly what a wastewater sampler is and how that serves your customer.

Jim: Well, every treatment plant has an influent and an effluent – an in and an out – system, and they are required to sample those areas. In industry, a lot of times the municipality that is affected will sample the industry’s effluent, or output, and we sell a sampler sometimes to the municipality; but also to the industry themselves, so they could monitor – you might say check the checker. We have an extremely accurate, self-learning system that particularly appeals to industry because of its accuracy.

Todd Schnick: Jim, if I am the guy in charge of the wastewater plant for a municipality, I’ve got all kinds of ugly challenges facing me. From your perspective, what are toughest ones and how can you help address them?

Jim: The toughest ones, I think, are probably generic to any governmental body. There’s the pressure for the FTE – the full-time employee – and the efficient use thereof. There is emphasis from other regulatory agencies for greener technologies and overall lower costs. So there is always a constant pressure to reduce costs.

Jim: What are some new products that you guys intend to offer soon in the future to help address some of these issues?

Jim: Well, it’s in development right now, but we’re going to be offering a solar assist program that is going to reduce energy costs. We are working to improve our heat loss. These are refrigerated samplers – you have to keep the samples at a certain temperature, so all of our samplers are refrigerated with heat loss systems. The better we can improve them, the lower the operating costs would be.

Todd Schnick: What other ways…I’m just looking for examples. I keep putting myself in the shoes of the guy running that plant under constant pressure to reduce costs. What other ways could you help me do that?

Jim: Alright. The biggest way, and by far of the most important, is that we have a sampler… All of the other samplers on the market have a tube; they have peristaltic pumps that they use – they’re a plastic pump with rollers that create a vacuum in a tube, which wears and has to be replaced periodically. The biggest issue we can offer there is that we have no tubes to replace.

So, depending on how often you sample and how often you have to replace your sampling tubes, you can generally pay for ours within five to 10 years. It will pay for itself, as related to a peristaltic system.

Todd Schnick: So your technology just reduces the maintenance aspect, dramatically, it sounds like.

Jim: Practically eliminates it. Very, very little maintenance.

Todd Schnick: Shifting gears a little bit, talk a little bit more about regulation. You touched on it earlier. How big an issue is that for you and your customers?

Jim: Well, it’s something that you hear about all the time, and I think it’s a regional thing. There is more pressure, depending on the location. Some places, often remote locations, it’s not an issue at all. It probably should be, but it’s not. And it’s something that you hear about a lot. We do what we can to address those issues. There again, having a system that will provide an accurate sample is extremely helpful.

Todd Schnick: Is QCEC exhibiting here?

Jim: No, we’re not. We have been at every WEFTEC except this one. We passed this year because of some internal issues we have. We are moving our manufacturing area and it was just not practical for us to be here.

Todd Schnick: Yeah, Jim, a lot of folks here have talked about collaboration and with the pace of technology and just the sheer number of different types of technology, that collaboration among various industry players is becoming more and more important. Talk a little bit about how you guys are doing that?

Jim: Well, we’ve got some collaboration with some suppliers of solar equipment. We are coming out with a solar assist system to reduce energy costs. We have collaboration with a major state university. We are developing a new sampling system that will sample the water, but it will also sample any gases and actually measure the gasses as well.

It is a patent that we are working on with a major university. We are working with a major manufacture for remote data transmission, which is big in this industry and it’s something that we’re always looking to improve.

Todd Schnick: Yeah, that saves a lot of time and, therefore, money.

Jim: Yes.

Todd Schnick: Well, Jim, I hate to say it, but we are out of time. Before we let you go, share with the audience how they can contact QCEC and learn more about the good works that you are doing.

Jim: The easiest way is our website, which is QCEC.com. That will give you the all contact information, email, fax, phone.

Todd Schnick: Jim, it was a real pleasure. Thank you for joining us today.

Jim: Good. Thank you.

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