JWC Environmental President Greg Guard offers insight to what is on his mind as 2019 kicks off.
How are international politics and issues like the steel tariffs affecting your business and/or the pumps industry overall?
We are obviously a global company and it will have an impact. We want to manufacture as close to our customers as possible. Seventy percent of our workforce is in California, and we have operations in the U.K., China and in Canada for the North American market. We’re manufacturing from the country for the country the vast majority of the time. The tariffs and Brexit are probably the two that are the most impactful for us right now. With the tariffs, everyone is impacted by 233 and 201; some are increasing the cost of steel over and above the tariff. Brexit may just affect us because we manufacture for Europe in England. We’re really waiting to see what the Teresa May government comes up with. The end of March we will get a really definitive look at what the impacts will be.
Are changes in the workforce affecting your company? What are you doing to try to mitigate issues related to the skills gap? What are you doing to attract millennials and younger workers to the field/your company?
We’re seeing less of an impact within our company, but the greater impact external to our company. We have very, very low turnover. We have millennials that we’re hiring in sales and marketing, and it’s where we need folks to come in with a fresh perspective who understand the new group of people buying our products and really help shape our products to that new group. Wastewater treatment operators at some points were very comfortable wrenching on a Muffin Monster and now the aftermarket services become much more important—they’re wanting to outsource that back to us. That creates opportunity for us. [For training,] we’re finding the millennials are more comfortable with distance learning, e-learning, but we find more results with them when we do on-hand training, too. When they come out and have to build a Muffin Monster in our shop with an experienced assemblyperson, we’re really seeing lightbulbs go on for them. It’s new meets old, and having a mixture of both of them is the real key combination.
Do you think the recent approval of the water infrastructure bill will impact your business? How so?
We haven’t seen any impact from this yet, but we’re hopeful that with expanded dollars toward our really aging infrastructure, it will all be positive. Just for the average American, we think it will pay off in spades. We can say that we’re very supportive of getting after our aging wastewater treatment infrastructure. Globally, it’s highly regional. Places like China are putting a lot more effort around environmental issues. Getting clean water, getting clean air, has become a priority and we expect to continue to see that level of investment as they catch up in their environmental protection regulations.
How have advancements in IIoT affected your business? How do you predict they will continue to do so?
The biggest pull is from our industrial customers. The municipal customers are a little slower in adoption and clearly there’s still some amount of concern of someone being able to remotely turn off a system and flooding a city. Industrial customers want it as quickly as they can get it and they have the money to put it into action to protect their assets. You need to have real-time feedback and real-time sensors to make sure you understand where the next failure is going to be in trying to decrease the number of untimed failures. It’s cheaper to get your teeth cleaned then to have the root canal. Doing the preventative maintenance is important and we’re seeing varying degrees in the uptake of IIoT.
What are you most optimistic about in 2019?
We’re really excited about our new ownership. Sulzer is an amazing brand and outside of the U.S., it’s a stronger brand than JWC and the Muffin Monster. What we think is so unique about this acquisition is Sulzer wants to keep JWC separate in North America and then expand and help us see our full potential in the other markets outside the U.S. and Canada.
What else should the end users who read Pumps & Systems know about the year ahead?
Customers should look forward to our continued innovation. We are going to launch some new products over the next year that are truly transformational for our customers. Keep an eye out for the Channel Monster Flex.