Auld lang syne

Thanks to Randy Woodland, a Franklin Field Service Engineer based in Colorado, for providing this post.

OldDrillingI participated in the installation of a new solar pumping system last month as part of Franklin Electric’s commitment to field test new products before they are commercially offered to customers. As with any trial installation, we had a few issues. The most annoying one involved the flow switch “talking” to the controller, but we were able to solve it without incident.

After everything was running well, the contractor commented, “I miss the old days, things were a lot simpler to install and troubleshoot when we didn’t have all of these new products to offer.” I immediately agreed with him; pump installations seemed a lot simpler twenty years ago. I’m not too proud to admit that at times I’ve even wished I didn’t need to constantly learn new things in order to do my job.

The more I thought it, however, I realized something. It doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. In order to stay in business, we have adapt to new products and new ways of doing things. It’s that simple.

Then I remembered a training seminar I attended at least ten years ago. The presenter said something that has stuck with me ever since. “The last buggy whip manufacturer in the United States probably made the best ones ever, at the lowest cost, with fast delivery and excellent customer service. So what? His market changed when automobiles replaced the horse and buggy. Being the best at something doesn’t matter if that something is no longer what the customer wants.”

We are no different in the water systems industry. VFDs take the place of large tanks and valves, electronic protection devices take the place of fuses and heaters, a web page takes the place of an ad in the Yellow Pages, and so it goes.

That guy was absolutely right. It really doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. If the customer asks for it, we have to provide it. In today’s age of readily available information about any product or process, the consumer will find out what is available. If your company or mine continues to sell and service buggy whips, our business will suffer for it.

What any industry wants to sell doesn’t matter if the customer wants to buy something else. If you don’t offer it, your competition will. Don’t forget that today will be someone else’s good old days.

Suddenly learning new things doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

All I want for Christmas

Lots of publications have their annual issues of holiday gift ideas or recommended products each year. Here is ours, albeit perhaps not quite as exciting as some of those – It’s our list of recommended professional meters for water systems troubleshooting.

There are five on the list. There are lots of other good meters out there, but here’s what Franklin Electric’s team of Field Service Engineers use on a day-to-day basis:

  1. First on the list is the Fluke 177 Digital Multimeter from John Fluke Mfg (www.fluke.com). As the name implies, this meter can be used to measure voltage, capacitance, resistance, and frequency. Measuring frequency is especially handy when you’re using a generator or variable frequency drive. List price is around $250.
  2. Also from John Fluke Mfg is the Fluke 375 Digital Clamp-On Ammeter. This meter measures current and is crucial for determining how hard the motor is working. List price on this meter is $325.
  3. In a previous post, I stated that a megger could turn time into money (Turning Time into Money). The one Franklin uses is manufactured by Universal Enterprises (www.ueitest.com). Their digital version is called the UEI DMEG3 Digital Megohmeter. It lists for $250 and is worth every dollar. It also can do double duty and measure resistance.
  4. The Simpson 372 Analog Ohmmeter has been a mainstay of our industry and others for literally decades. The 372-3 is the latest version and available at www.simpsonelectric.com. List price is $175.
  5. Is that capacitor still good? If you have a MFD-10 Digital Capacitor Checker from SUPCO (www.supco.com), you can find out in a snap. This little meter is ideal for control box troubleshooting and is only around $75.

MetersThere you have it. A list of the five meters for your toolbox that will allow you to handle just about any water systems troubleshooting scenario you run into. So, while this list may not seem as exciting as others you see this time of year, quickly and effectively diagnosing what’s going on with your customer’s water systems can be satisfying in its own way, not to mention profitable.

If you have any questions about these meters or how to use them, Franklin Electric’s Key Dealer Hotline can help. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800/348-2420.

Thanks to Rick Campbell, Franklin Electric, for his contributions to this post.

7 billion and counting

“Your aquifer is the only part of your well system that you can’t replace.”

CaptureThat was the opening line at a lecture I attended last week at the NGWA Ground Water Expo in Las Vegas. The speaker, John Jansen, is the 2013 McEllhiney lecturer for the National Ground Water Research and Education Foundation (NGWREF), and he holds a PhD in Geological Sciences. His presentation is titled Keeping the Pumped Primed – Aquifer Sustainability.

John opened the presentation with a sobering look at the world population over the last 10,000 years. For most of that time the human population grew very slowly, taking until the industrial revolution to reach 1 billion people. It took another 100 years to get to 2 billion in 1927. But by 1960, there were 3 billion on the planet. In 1974 we hit 4 billion, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion just last year. Estimates are that even with controls, the world’s population will be 10 billion by 2100.

That’s a lot of people who will need water. Here’s where John’s presentation got even more interesting. There are 332 million cubic miles of water on earth, but 97.5% of that is in the oceans. That leaves 2.5% as freshwater, but 69% of that is tied up near the poles in glaciers. The vast majority of that is groundwater, and surface water comprises less than 0.4% of freshwater. You’ve no doubt heard some of these numbers before, but John presents them better graphically than I’ve ever seen. The message is clear: we simply cannot survive without sustaining the groundwater in our aquifers. It’s not only the future of our industry and your business, but it’s the future for much of human society.

All of that was in the first ten minutes of John’s presentation, but John’s perspective is not one of gloom and doom. From there, he moved into the details of how to sustain an aquifer for the very long term–not from an academic viewpoint, but from his real world experience in balancing local economic and political realities with environmental needs, as well as the steps needed for successful aquifer management.

The NGWREF McEllhiney Lecture Series gets stronger every year, and 2013 will be no exception. John will be presenting his lecture throughout the coming year, very likely at a state convention or event you are attending. I highly encourage you to attend. It will be time well-spent.

The McEllhiney Lecture Series in Water Well Technology is made possible by a grant from Franklin Electric.