Here we catch up with Rob Denny, UK Sales Manager at Veolia Water Technologies UK about his career in the water treatment industry, his current role and how his team have succeeded throughout the pandemic.
Hi, Rob, could you tell us a bit about your training and background prior to joining VWT UK?
After I left school, I first completed an undergraduate degree in Biology with the University of Southampton before moving on to an MSc at Imperial College in London where I studied Environmental Technology and Water Management. Following my education, my first experience in the water industry was as a field laboratory technician for Anglian Water. I had been there for about three years when I realised I wanted to move away from lab work and focus on customer facing solutions instead.
I joined NALCO, a global water treatment company, where I stayed for 13 years. During my time there, I was responsible for designing water treatment programs and improving customer performance in the UK and in Australia. While in Australia, I was heavily involved in water treatment programs that focused specifically on water efficiencyduring a critical period of drought in New South Wales.
Over the course of my career, I have led a number of sales teams in the water treatment sector, providing me with the experience I needed when I joined VWT UK in 2016 as UK Sales Manager to lead the water treatment chemical services team.
What does your current job role entail?
In my current role, I am responsible for a team of 20 water treatment engineers and technical sales specialists. We work closely with customers to understand their water treatment issues and provide solutions on an ongoing basis. Our customers generally work in the power, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries, so we provide solutions for water treatments in cooling systems, steam boilers, as well as wastewater applications.
What is a typical day like for you?
Pre-pandemic, a typical day would involve a lot of customer interaction and I would be supporting the team on a number of different activities including new opportunities, customer relationships, and improving the service we provide. I generally have quite a varied role that requires me to be out in the field for three to four days a week.
Since the pandemic, much of my role has shifted online. We now meet with customers for video discussions. The format can sometimes be challenging but I am confident we are still providing an efficient service and still listening to our customer’s requirements.. In fact, the team had a record year in 2020 in terms of growth and customer retention. They truly went above and beyond when it came to addressing customers’ needs. It is unfortunate that we were not able to celebrate together as I am extremely proud of the work they have done.
What are some of the main issues your customers face at the moment and how is VWT UK working to address them?
At the moment, there is an increasing drive for organisations to consider their environmental footprint and how their water treatment solutions can be more sustainable. This includes improving the quality of water discharged from their site, the need to re-use water and to explore more environmentally friendly solutions to their water treatment needs. This all has to be addressed while remaining compliant in their operations.
For issues surrounding the quality of water, we have a team of experts that understand the different profiles of wastewater that can leave a customer’s facility. We offer bespoke treatment programs and service solutions that are designed to reduce the cost of their discharge and improve the water quality leaving their site.
It is important that our customers know that we have a range of sustainable solutions to suit their water treatment needs and we are continuously working to provide holistic solutions as well. For example, we have ‘green chemistries’ such as our Hydrex 6861 solution - an organic coagulant made from Black Acacia tree bark - which replaces the need to use metal-based coagulants in water treatment. We also have cooling water inhibitors, which do not utilise phosphate; this would be ideal for customers who have tight restrictions on their phosphorus discharge.
All of our solutions and technologies are driven by our field experts who can both understand the challenges our customers face and design programs to achieve environmental initiatives.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the WTC industry? Are there any new issues that have arisen as a result of it?
The pandemic has really escalated the need for organisations to become more robust and agile in their operations. Digital and remote working was something many companies were only just considering at the early stages of 2020. Now customers are increasingly looking to us to report our findings digitally and remotely, rather than reviewing paper records. The shift has been remarkable.
In terms of our service, our customers have not seen any change as we have ensured our staff have been available throughout. Following the relevant legislation and best practice guides, my team have continued to visit customer sites to conduct thorough water chemistry tests and analysis and ensure all plants remain compliant.
Is VWT UK working on any new emerging water treatment chemical products or technologies?
We are currently looking at how to tackle the problems with Phosphorus and the potential of Struvite in Anaerobic Digestion (AD). AD is a technology used across the municipal and industrial sectors as a means for processing biosolids and waste. It produces methane gas, which is typically used as fuel to generate electricity.
However, in municipal systems, which tend to have a higher ammonia and phosphate content compared to industrial biosolids, an unwanted hard scale called Struvite can form, which has the potential to cause process issues. Typically, these crystals are deposited in pipes, pumps, heat exchanges and centrifuges and can cause serious process downtime to physically remove.
There are two types of solutions available. One is to control the problem via chemicals and to disrupt the process and the other solution is to manage the Struvite precipitation to help reduce the impact of the deposits on the pipework. We offer the latter solution via our Struvia™ technology, which helps turn Struvite, a nutrient rich solid, into a fertiliser. This would keep ongoing OPEX costs low with the potential to offset any costs with a generated income.
We are also seeing more interest in our Hydrogen Sulphide removal technology. Our is utilised to remove the sulphide in effluent streams commonly occurring within the Food and Beverage, refineries and paper mills. The active component of Hydrex 6935 chemically converts the sulphides to sulphates, and other components within the product actively stabilise the treated water to prevent further production of Hydrogen sulphide. Application is straightforward, and the benefits to the customer improves the Health and Safety of wastewater treatment plant, as well as reducing the potential corrosive impact on the customers assets.
Lastly, tell us a fun fact about yourself?
When I lived in Australia, I taught myself to surf and having survived some initial batterings, I enjoyed it a lot. I definitely need to get back out to our coastline to refresh my skills as soon as the pandemic is over.
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About the Author
Rob started his career working for Anglian Water, before moving on to become a technical sales specialist within the industrial water treatment sector designing water treatment programs for a number of industrial applications across the UK and Australia. Over the last 10 years he has been responsible for leading sales teams within this market, and for the last 3 years has been leading the Water Treatment Chemical services team for Veolia Water Technologies in the UK.