Kevin Milici and Mary Sitko Interview with Water Online at WEFTEC 2019
Read our interview below or listen to the live interview.
Water Online Radio: How is U.S. Water out there serving the marketplace?
Kevin: U.S. Water is an organization that had its origins back in 1997, a relatively new company. Since that time, we’ve gone through over a dozen acquisitions that have happened within the past ten years or so. We are not a traditional water treatment services company, we are focused on a model of an integrated solutions provider. I realize that the words solutions and integrated are prominent, but our model is a little bit different. It was in the origins of the company and continues to be, becoming more sophisticated over time. The basis of our company and our fundamental value proposition is that when we walk into a prospective customer’s plant, we look at that plant from a holistic point of view. Even though we sell both chemistries to solve water related problems and process chemical problems, we also sell equipment systems. We are able to provide all of the above to those customers. The difference is that we don’t focus on chemistry or equipment. We look at the customer’s situation and needs, then arrange and configure a solution that provides the greatest value creation for the customer. We really don’t care about the relative proportions of equipment or chemical, it doesn’t really matter to us. What matters to us is the right solution that has the best value proposition associated with it and the lowest total cost of ownership from the customer’s point of view. We try to assist our customers on a totally unbiased basis, whether it’s a chemistry or an equipment application.
Water Online Radio: It’s amazing how much easier business is when you listen to the customer and talk solutions, not just products.
Kevin: It’s not a complicated thing to do. You just need to recognize that you need to do it. So, we try our best to do it.
Water Online Radio: You mentioned this integrated solutions strategy, I want to go deeper into that. How does your approach help customers and get to the root cause of their problems or inefficiency?
Kevin: Historically, customers would have to point and look to two sources of people to provide them input to what the best solution is. We are one interface that the customer can have to be able to configure the entire solution and not have to deal with multiple entities. They can go to a source, a capable and knowledgeable source who has earned the trust to provide an honest and thoughtful solution, therefore making it very simple. I don’t like the term one-stop shop as it’s often overused, but it’s an opportunity to have a single interface and see the entire picture in a glance and be able to have the engineering expertise to deliver on the components for that problem. Simplification of complex technologies, with the ability to interact and ultimately transact.
Water Online Radio: Mary, can you talk to us about Tonka Water, which is a U.S. Water business?
Mary: Tonka Water has been around since 1956. Our company was acquired by U.S. Water back in 2017. It was a really good fit, as U.S. Water complimented a lot of Tonka Water’s existing offerings and provided U.S. Water entry into the municipal market.
Water Online Radio: I suspect that was a big benefit for your customers.
Mary: Very much.
Kevin: I would just like to add; our acquisition of Tonka Water was two-fold. One, was to gain participation into the municipal sector and secondly, Tonka Water had certain engineering capabilities that were different from U.S. Water’s from an industrial point of view. We’ve been able to leverage a lot of that engineering expertise, particularly for larger projects, bigger than are typically seen in industrial context to apply those core capabilities to the industrial world.
Mary: We’ve really seen that take off this year.
Water Online Radio: That’s very exciting to hear. I’ve heard that Kurita recently acquired U.S. Water, which is a big deal. Walk us through the new technologies and capabilities that Kurita brings. I imagine that this is going to have a big impact on your customers as well.
Kevin: This is a very exciting time for us. We were acquired by Kurita Water Industries of Tokyo, Japan earlier this year. If you think about our integrated solutions model that I talked about, the toolbox that we use to fuel that model, that toolbox has gotten larger. This is one of the largest players on the face of the globe in the water chemicals and equipment space. The resources of this organization are cast, they are very technology orientated, real core science. My colleagues and I had a chance to visit, for the first time a couple of months ago and we toured the research facilities of Kurita in Japan. We were blown away. It was hard to imagine the depth and level of investment in customer innovation that we saw there. It’s going to take our integrated solutions model and bring it to a very different place in terms of scale and scope. The other great thing is that Kurita’s basis philosophy is very similar to ours from an integrated solutions point of view, so there is a conceptual marriage there that works very well. We are expecting some very exciting things to happen as this continues to unfold over the course of this year and next year.
Water Online Radio: There is no doubt that Kurita expands your toolbox. I suspect there is a reason that Kurita brought you into their family. Do you have a sense of what was behind their decision to bring you in?
Kevin: Kurita is one of the top three or four companies in the water landscape, but they historically have not had a presence in North America until recently. They have some aspirations to be number one around the globe and to do that, North America is key. There have been several acquisitions over the past few years in North America. The foundation is being laid for them to be a major player in the North American marketplace, which is a part of the bigger global objective.
Water Online Radio: It was a 2.5-billion-dollar acquisition, is that right?
Kevin: Yes, so this is not a trivial sized company. They have a large share of the market in Japan and across Asia, Western Europe and places in Latin America such as Brazil, but this North American footprint is really going to be a game changer for their global objective.
Water Online Radio: Mary, are there any new technologies that you’ve been using to treat potable water? Any specific results you’d like to talk about?
Mary: We’ve had our Simul-Wash™ technology since 1976, so not necessarily new. We are starting to see applications for Simul-Wash in the industrial marketplace place though with this. As Kevin mentioned earlier as one of the reasons Tonka Water was appealing to U.S. Water. This is combined air and water introduced into the backwash process that allows us to backwash at a much lower flow rate , essentially cutting your backwash waste in half. We also have a specially designed trough that goes along with this to help prevent media loss.
Water Online Radio: As exhibitors, what have been some of the intriguing questions you’ve been asked? What have people come by and sought answers to? Any feedback you’ve heard on the Kurita acquisition?
Kevin: The most popular initial questions we’ve been getting is about the Kurita acquisition. What is the opportunity here? Who are they? What does this mean to you? What does this mean for your customers? These questions have been prominent, which is great. People like variety, they like change. They like different perspectives. We are sensing a demand for changing the status quo.
Water Online Radio: What about you Mary, any questions you are getting from attendees?
Mary: The same questions that Kevin has mentioned. Like you said, a lot of our sales representatives want to know, what does this mean for me. I’m excited to tell them that becoming part of a bigger company is giving us a lot more opportunity to grow.
Water Online Radio: Mary, if anyone needs to connect with you, how do they find you?
Water Online Radio: Kevin, how can people find you and learn more about U.S. Water?