6 July, 2022

Subtle or disruptive – which tactic is most innovative?

21 February, 2020

Once a supportive culture is in place and a framework to support the development of any new ideas has been established, it’s time to think about how your company can truly innovate. This doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel or coming up with the next breakthrough invention – think instead about the problems your customers face and how you can help to solve them, driving the industry forward as you do so.

The same but different

Innovation can sometimes be as simple as using the same product in a different application. For example, our systems for sludge back-mixing in wastewater applications mix dewatered sludge with liquid to give the best dry solids content for onward processing. A large anaerobic digestion (AD) company making biogas from distillery by-products requested that we mixed three feedstocks (with different dry solids contents) into a single homogenous feedstock, before long distance transfer to the AD plant. Using the technology developed for back-mixing, we were able to successfully blend the by-products in an open hopper pump and transfer the slurry to the biogas tanks.

Do things better

Think about how you can make your existing product range even better by listening to your customers and the wider industry. Although PC pumps are an established technology, there are always ways to improve and extend their capabilities.

With the advent of Industry 4.0, we have improved upon our existing pump range by incorporating ‘smart’ features into our products such as sensors to adjust pump speed as process conditions change; connected pump monitors that transfer data to the cloud to enable process optimisation; and virtual reality instructions to improve maintenance.

For example, our Smart Conveying Technology is up to 20% more energy efficient than traditional PC pump designs.

Developed in response to feedback from industry which demands quicker maintenance, this ’smart’ design has been developed to enable the stator, rotor and mechanical seal to be changed without dismantling suction or discharge pipework. Furthermore, the adjustable stator segments restore pump performance as wear occurs, increasing the service life by up to 200%. These innovations improve maintenance and reduce whole life costs. Remote monitoring enables predictive maintenance of the pumping elements, keeping process efficiency high and resulting in less downtime for plant operators.

• Explore alternative solutions

If your existing range has limitations, don’t be afraid to stretch and explore other options to find a solution to your customer’s problems. For example, although PC pumps were a good solution for the treatment of dewatered sludge, our customers made us aware that discharge pressures were becoming a limitation. We realised we needed to do things differently, so we developed a new system to improve dewatered sludge handling – our Smart Air Injection (SAI) system. This combination of progressive cavity pump and dense phase conveying technologies is capable of conveying dewatered sludge over 1,000m. The technology is now being installed as part of the new Thames Water Riverside project, providing an energy-efficient, high-performance alternative to conventional dewatered sludge handling systems.

Listen and learn

Rather than spending time, money and effort trying to hit upon the next big thing, companies should instead consider focusing on the cornerstones of innovation: listening to customers, collaborating with industry and fostering a supportive staff environment. Big or small, with a wide or specialised offering, any company can enjoy the benefits that come with being an innovator.


Image caption - Seepex UK managing director Peter McGarian (left) collaborates with a colleague, helping to foster a culture of innovation.

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