Well, the holidays are over and I hope you and your family got to spend a lot of time together like I did. With the holidays being over in Wisconsin, a new type of season starts and no I’m not talking about the Packers going onto the playoffs. I’m talking about the bidding season for upcoming plant projects. I want to talk about the equipment selection process for your wastewater treatment plant or collection system. In my opinion, there are several things which all operators, city superintendents, and engineers need to do. The keyword is: listen.

When selecting equipment, the best piece of advice I can give you is to listen attentively to the vendor that is discussing their product with you. Ask for specifications and read them carefully. I also recommend setting those specs aside for a couple of days and then go back and reread them. This helps give you a more thorough understanding of the product.

Please remember that you have the power to select equipment that you so choose. It’s also important to keep in mind that you will likely have to work with this equipment for the next 20+ years. So, taking the time to carefully read the specifications on the equipment will help you understand it, and enable you to ask relevant questions.

Ask your vendor about the availability of parts. Are the any parts that are difficult to obtain or cost prohibitive? Where is the closest service center? How long has this piece of equipment been on the market? Is it a tried-and-true product…or the first generation? Is it a good fit for my facility? How often should it be rebuilt? What is the product’s life expectancy?

The best thing you can do is to ask the vendor to set up a visit of facilities where the equipment you are considering is already functioning. I often get calls and questions asking something like, “Hey, Josh, we are putting in a new dryer and wondered if you have any experience with, or knowledge of, driers made by the companies “Cool Cat” or “Big Dog”?

Once I know what product you are considering, I can offer information such as, “I understand that Anytown and Anycity are considering driers from those firms, but I’m not certain which product they ultimately chose. Here is contact information for both Anytown and Anycity. Why don’t you give them a call and ask if you can discuss their selection process and if you can come over and check out what they decided to have installed.”

I’ll eventually talk to this customer again, and will ask what they decided to purchase and how things went. The conversation will usually go one of two ways. The customer is either happy with the equipment they selected or they’re not. When they’re not happy with the equipment they selected, I will ask them, if they followed through with the contacts I provided to get some real life experience with the product. Unfortunately, they will often admit that they didn’t follow through and now admit that they should’ve done that.

The best thing you can do when selecting equipment is go and look at other municipalities that have the equipment installed. Simply ask the operators of at that municipality what they think of the equipment they chose. Nine times out of 10, they’re going to give you a good, honest answer. It may or may not be the one you want to hear, but this piece of advice will help you make the right decisions regarding the best equipment for your facility. Remember, you are going to be the one that has to work with this equipment for the next 20+ years.

When you make the final decision on what piece of equipment you want, work with your preferred engineering firm to craft bid specifications designed to get you the product that will work for you. The last thing you want is to have a low bidder come in and provide you a piece of equipment that you know has presented numerous problems for municipalities that purchased that unit. You certainly do not want to have a major piece of equipment fail to deliver as advertised and then have to spend the same amount of money, again, just five years down the road, to eventually get that piece of equipment you actually wanted in the first place. I see this happen far too many times. Therefore, my advice is not to settle for low bidder, and make sure that the bid document specifications will ensure that you get the right equipment for your facility. Set your bid process to get exactly what you need and that you want to work with day in and day out for a long time to come. Joshua Voigt.

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