John Cazes of Great Plains Industries talks about the trends that are driving development in water technology, and why measurement is at the root of innovation.
Todd Schnick: 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. This next guy is going to be an interesting character. I’m looking forward to it.
Todd Youngblood: I can tell. And anybody from Wichita, that is the coolest city name ever.
Todd Schnick: Wichita’s a cool place.
Todd Youngblood: Since I was a little kid, I loved the name Wichita.
Todd Schnick: Well, let’s welcome our next guest. I do want to welcome John Cazes, who is in Business Development with Great Plains Industries. Welcome to the show, John.
John: Good morning, Todd. And Todd.
Todd Youngblood: Good morning.
Todd Schnick: It’s great to have you, John. Before we get into it, do take a second and tell us a little about you and your background.
John: Actually, I’m an engineer by education, and a salesman by choice. I’ve been in sales for about 30 years, been with Great Plains Industries for a little over a year. And my role there is helping to develop some strategic direction and some growth opportunities for the company.
Todd Schnick: Well, tell us all about Great Plains Industries, and what are you out there doing for your market?
John: Great Plains Industries is a mid-sized manufacturing company, located in Wichita, Kansas, which last summer was not such a cool place, but we’re in manufacture of industrial flow meters, liquid flow meters, and fuel transfer pumps. Been in business for about 40 years. In fact, this is our 40th anniversary, 2012.
Todd Schnick: Well, congratulations.
John: And looking forward to 40 more at much higher sales levels.
Todd Youngblood: I’ve just got to take you back to one of the personal things you just mentioned there. You said “engineer by training, salesman by choice.” I’ve always been fascinated by folks that can make that transition. Are you schizophrenic? My real question is, what’s the value that you bring, with that kind of background, to your customers?
John: I’ll answer your first question first. If you asked my wife, she might say yes. But I think the big value that an engineer can bring to a sales field is that they understand the value of finding solutions for people. And they can understand from a technical aspect what people are asking. Those are the two big things I think they bring.
Todd Schnick: Let’s shift focus for a second. Let’s go up to 10,000 feet and look down on the water industry. What are you seeing as the coming trends, in the next three to five years?
John: Well, this is your second day into this, so you’ve probably heard a lot of this already. You have to go back to the drivers of the industry. And the two main drivers are one: scarcity; and second: growing demand. And when you couple that with increasing regulations and a distribution issue — the water is not always where you need it — then you see a lot of trends being driven.
And as you walk around the show, you see those: RO systems and filtration systems, ultraviolet systems replacing typical or chemical treatment. You see electronics, you see a lot of RF equipment around. The big trend that we see going forward is driven by scarcity, and that’s the efficient use of water.
That’s where we get into business with our meters. Just about any of the technologies you’ll find in there, to use their products efficiently, whether it be distribution or processing, they need to measure and understand what their equipment is doing. And that’s where we hope to capitalize on these growing trends.
Todd Schnick: Yeah. I was going to ask you how is Great Plains poised to address some of those trends?
John: Whenever you want to improve something, the first thing you have to do is measure. We have a couple of technologies for measuring flow. That would be our turbine meter lines and our nutating disc meter lines for more viscous and chemical type product.
And we’re looking at expanding those platform technologies into a couple of different platforms, which may be more appropriate for the water industry than what we do right now.
Todd Youngblood: I understand, John, you’ve got a new product you're announcing?
John: Yeah, we are. We are introducing at this show an insertion paddle wheel meter. Where it fits in our product line is, in the past, we’ve been focused primarily on lines four inches and below, four inches and smaller. And the insertion paddle wheel meter gives us the opportunity to look at flows in larger process lines.
Todd Schnick: In addition to launching this new product and demoing it here, what are some other goals and objectives here at ACE 2012?
John: We came here with four goals. One, obviously, is the launch of the new product. But the other is, we have some customers here, so we came to visit our customers. We come here with the opportunity to meet end users, and better understand what end users are looking for in the industry and what their needs are.
We come here looking for new business partners, other equipment manufacturers who need meters. And those are the primary goals for this show. And to that point, it’s been a good show.
Todd Youngblood: John, the water utility industry has a bit of a reputation, perhaps undeserved, at being slow to adopt new technologies, techniques, and methodologies. And I think particularly with all of the measurement technologies that you have, are you finding that to be true, false, changing? What do you think?
John: I think for me, it’s true and changing. I think in the past, because water has been a relatively inexpensive commodity, there’s not been a need to innovate, maybe; not been a drive for people to innovate — because prices have been fairly low in many cases.
So I think that’s changing, especially as water becomes more and more stashed and the price goes up. In your favorite city of Wichita, for instance, we have a tiered structure for charging the water. And last year was a very dry summer, so it was not uncommon for me, to keep my lawn green, to have a $250, $300 water bill.
Todd Schnick: Ouch.
John: Which is — ouch — exactly.
Todd Schnick: Yeah.
John: So at that point, even as a residence, residential in application, it starts to become important for me to know where that water’s going.
Todd Schnick: John, 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 where can they learn more about Great Plains Industries?
John: Well, Great Plains Industries is located in Wichita. Our [website] address is www.gpimeters.net. Go to the Internet, you can find all telephone numbers and contact names that you need. And thank you, guys, for the opportunity.
Todd Youngblood: Our pleasure.
Todd Schnick: Well, thank you. John Cazes, who’s in Business Development with Great Plains Industries, it was great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.
John: Thank you, sir.
Todd Schnick: All right. Well, that wraps this segment. On behalf of our guest, John Cazes, my co-host, Todd Youngblood, and all of us at Water Online, I am Todd Schnick. We’ll be right back with our next guest.