Editor’s Note: The editors of Pumps & Systems spent time with Submersible Wastewater Pump Association (SWPA) Executive Director Adam Stolberg and discussed the association’s new educational initiatives and future goals.

P&S: What are the major topics and concerns for SWPA member companies?

SWPA: Industry education is critical. As new (out of school) engineers enter the market, the demographic of the typical engineering firm is constantly changing. Most graduate engineers are not fully schooled or trained in submersible pumps. As an association of manufacturers, we supplement their formal education. Many engineering students today are not even aware of the opportunities in the water and wastewater industries. Our industry is constantly evolving, so the need for quality, industry-specific education is ongoing.

P&S: One of SWPA’s main focuses is member training. Why?

SWPA: In addition to the reasons I discussed in the first question, our members are experts in so many areas. They have tremendous knowledge and have a strong desire to share that knowledge. One of the best things about SWPA training is that, in a room full of competitors, everyone can leave egos, sales goals and specific company products at the door and participate in and teach at training seminars that benefit the industry as a whole.

This collaboration is exemplified in the 4th Edition of the SWPA Handbook that was released last fall. The Handbook has sold more than 30,000 copies since the first edition was introduced. It has become the industry standard, and most companies in the industry provide it to new employees as part of their industry orientation.

P&S: What are some changes to SWPA’s training programs for 2014?

SWPA: SWPA will use more social and digital media and will add webinars, part of Pumps & Systems live webinar series, in 2014. We are striving to inform and educate more engineers, operators and installers through every possible conduit. In a difficult economy, travel budgets have been cut and billable engineering hours are more critical than ever.

While our live training seminars are still very well attended, the webinars will provide an opportunity for SWPA to come to its audience. For example, we have a member company in Alaska. Its engineers would love to be able to benefit from SWPA’s training, but travel is expensive. These webinars will give a broad base of worldwide industry professionals the opportunity to benefit from SWPA’s training.

P&S: Will attendees receive CEUs for webinar participation?

SWPA: We are in the process of obtaining continuing education units (CEUs)/professional development hours (PDH) certification, and they will be available when we launch the webinar program. Participants in our live training seminars already receive credits.

P&S: What are the biggest challenges faced by wastewater pump manufacturers today?

SWPA: Some of the biggest challenges are:

  • The reduction in federal and state funding for water and wastewater infrastructure
  • Parts counterfeiters
  • Continued commoditizing of engineered submersible products
  • Lack of installation training resulting in improper installations and product failures

Another major challenge is the changing nature of wastewater in general. Today’s wastewater has higher concentrations of difficult to pump materials (for example, wet wipes) that lead to more frequent clogging. At the same time, demand for high/premium efficiency products is increasing. These two areas conflict because the higher efficiencies are typically achieved through a decreased ability to handle solids. Yet more and more solids are appearing in our wastewater. The challenge to the manufacturer is how to provide higher efficiency without diminishing solids handling capabilities.

P&S: What are SWPA’s goals for 2014?

SWPA: We want to continue to improve our training programs and materials that are used throughout the industry and take advantage of every media portal. We are also building our bench for future SWPA generations. We want to add quality topics to our training and involve additional subject matter experts/instructors from our member organizations. The SWPA Handbook will be released in Spanish and is already available in an e-book format.

P&S: What else should readers know about SWPA, its member companies and its training programs?

SWPA: Our events provide an opportunity to network with multiple top industry experts. Nowhere else in the world are engineers given this much contact with current industry leaders in one physical or virtual location.

Our upcoming Annual Meeting (Nov. 5, 2013) and Fall Training Seminar (Nov. 6 – 7, 2013) will be in Atlanta. SWPA’s 2014 Industry Outlook presentation and host of educational and informational programs led by industry experts are not to be missed.