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In the spotlight: Charles F. Michaud

October 13, 2010
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Summary: Almost two years ago, the Water Quality Association (WQA), traditionally a trade association for the residential water treatment industry, embarked on a major initiative: it would seek to add members and influence by attracting companies in the area of industrial water treatment. Charles F. “Chubb” Michaud, CWS-VI, has been one of the leaders of this effort, now moving into the implementation stage. A 30-year veteran of the water treatment industry, Michaud is CEO and technical director of Systematix, a Buena Park, CA, treatment component supplier, and is chairman of WQA’s Commercial/Industrial Section. He spoke with Water Technology® in February to discuss what the addition of industrial-sector members will mean for WQA and the industry.

Water Technology®: Are any of these industrial-sector companies currently WQA members?

Chubb Michaud: Some are, but most of the growth we anticipate in WQA from the industrial sector will be from companies who are currently not members.

WT: How do these industrial companies differ, in terms of what they do, from the residential sector?

CM: Although industrial water treatment equipment is generally bigger, it’s not so much the size of the equipment that’s the issue — it’s the consequences of what happens should something go wrong with it. So as a result, industrial systems are installed with redundancy and are continuously monitored. In the residential sector, I don’t know of any [end user] who monitors their equipment continuously. How often does a homeowner run a test on their softener?

In the residential treatment sector, each component of a system may be made by a different manufacturer, whereas in the industrial sector, companies tend to be more vertical, one company making all of it, fabricating their own tanks, their own piping systems, selling through their own people instead of through dealers. It’s a little different mentality.

WT: How will WQA benefit from these new industrial members, how would those companies benefit from being in WQA, and how would existing residential sector members benefit?

CM: WQA would benefit from growth and expansion, and a strong industrial sector would add credibility and influence to WQA.

The new industrial members would benefit from having an expanded platform for making new marketing contacts. Hopefully, it would also attract industrial end users. As a meeting place for the manufacturer and the end user, WQA could complete the loop.

Some of the existing membership could become suppliers of component parts to the industrial sector. Not all equipment in an industrial treatment train has to be specifically designed for industrial applications.

WT: What industries do these industrial water treatment companies serve now?

CM: Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, refineries, power generation, paper mills, semiconductor manufacturers, and the military, to name a few. In laboratory water for a university or hospital, there’s a whole new horizon in reliable high-purity water production.

WT: What specifically will WQA offer to companies in industrial treatment?

CM: The end user has to have qualified people to operate, design and specify industrial equipment. We could potentially become a training ground for those people. As a supplier of that equipment, you don’t get the education for this type of work in any kind of formal college experience. The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) would be looking for education and training support.

WT: Would this move encourage some of WQA’s residential sector members to become more involved in industrial water treatment?

CM: Yes, but I have to qualify that. Existing residential manufacturer members will see expanded interest from component suppliers to industrial manufacturers, but most probably won’t graduate into the industrial sector itself. There is opportunity for the residential OEM or supplier to participate in and discover this new market.

WT: What about proposed WQA education or certification programs in this area?

CM: Education definitely is the new product we’re going to sell to this sector, although there are no plans currently to have an industrial certification program.

WT: Is this a big change for WQA?

CM: This is a departure from the norm for WQA. It’s a parallel universe, but it could really expand WQA, because there’s a whole other world out there. We’re trying to find the length, depth and breadth of the program. With education, we have to condense this into a reasonable time frame for the participant. If he’s an equipment manufacturer, he may not be interested in chemical treatment, but he may be interested in hydraulics. The breadth is wide, but the length of the educational offerings has to be compressed to make this achievable.

WT: How did you personally become involved in this?

CM: For the past 10 or 15 years, I’ve been active in WQA. I chaired the Ion Exchange Task Force. I went through the CWS program to level VI. I’ve always had an interest in education. When this industrial idea started, it had three subcommittees, and I was asked to chair one of them. That consolidated later on, and I was a survivor. In a reorganization it was turned into a WQA section, and I’ve been the chairman ever since.

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