Have you ever received a call from a prospective customer looking to fill a new need for DI resin exchange service or unhappy with their current service provider, but you felt you weren’t equipped to handle the business and turned it away? If your reason was that you aren’t comfortable with this business yet or you don’t have your own resin regeneration capabilities, then perhaps there is an opportunity to team up with an independent facility that specializes in resin regeneration to help you pursue, grow and maintain this business.
It could be as simple as picking up DI bottles from the customer's site, dropping them off and connecting in new ones, then bringing the exhausted bottles to your regeneration partner’s facility for resin evacuation, regeneration, bottle fill-up and pick up. If this all sounds very neat and simple, the truth is that it can be with the right relationship, communication and understanding between the service provider, customer and regeneration facility. The balance of this article will examine some of the things you should look for to create a good relationship and successful launch of a DI resin exchange program. While this article cannot cover every detail, it should give you a fairly clear idea of what would be involved if you were to consider expanding your service offerings into this area.
Deionized water is a stable and growing need in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, college and university, manufacturing, car wash and window cleaning markets among many other types of users. While many of the end users in these industries may have sophisticated design, installation and service needs, many of them do not. They simply need an economical and reliable way of getting deionized water for their particular process.
This can be as simple as an array of DI tanks lined up in succession to produce the water they need. As these tanks can be fitted with indicator lights signifying when tanks need to be exchanged, the ability to become a DI resin exchange service provider in these situations is easily attainable. If successful, this can become a stable source of recurring business which can grow nicely over time as long as you take care of your customers.
Question: Should you have the DI regeneration facility evacuate and refill bottles or should you have an in-house employee handle the bottle evacuation into drums for delivery to and from the regeneration facility?
Answer: The neatest way to handle this would be to simply bring exhausted DI bottles to the regeneration facility for evacuation, regeneration and fill-up if they provide this service. From there, you would pick up the filled, regenerated bottles now ready to perform service in the field. Alternately, you could choose to evacuate the DI bottles in-house and deliver the exhausted resin in drums or sacks to the regeneration facility and have them regenerate and fill the containers back up. Upon completion, you would return the resin to an in-house employee(s) at your facility to refill the DI bottles. You will need to consider warehouse space needs, proper equipment for evacuation and refilling, the cost of an employee to perform this work, etc.
Question: How do I make money providing this service?
Answer: DI exchange service providers typically make money in two ways. There is a charge for each delivered DI bottle (also carbon bottle, as most set-ups start with a carbon tank to remove chlorine and organics to extend DI resin life. These carbon tanks will typically only be changed out once or twice per year). The charge per DI bottle delivery would be based on your cost of regeneration and the competitive environment. Also, a monthly rental is usually charged per DI bottle for the bottle itself. Typical rental fees run from $10-$15 per month but may vary.
Question: How many DI bottles will I need to adequately service my customers properly?
Answer: The rule of thumb is for every bottle you have in the field at a customer site, you should have one at your facility in reserve, filled with resin and ready to be brought into the field. To determine what size and how many bottles to install at your customer’s facility, see the following question.
Question: What size DI bottles and how many per customer site will I need?
Answer: Different volumes of water at different TDS levels will determine which size bottles make the most sense, based on the desired service frequency. Obviously, larger bottles have more capacity and will require less frequent change-outs. How you plan on servicing the customer and what they want will help you determine the right size DI bottles and the proper frequency. You will have to do a calculation to determine the DI resin grains of capacity at each customer's site, based on their incoming TDS and anticipated usage volume to come up with a sensible approach (not unlike what you would do prior to specifying a water softener). Make sure you set up your system to give you a reasonable amount of time to respond to a customer call of a “red light” on the indicator, meaning a tank has exhausted. There should be enough back-up tanks on site to enable you to respond in a non-emergency fashion.
Question: What kind of resin do I need to fill the DI bottles?
Answer: Mixed bed resin will typically be the proper material for the majority of DI water needs. You can either buy new (virgin resin) or, if you can find a reputable supplier of good, “once-used,” regenerated resin, this could save you a significant amount of money, perhaps 50 percent or more without sacrificing quality and quantity needs. For customers needing deionized water, but only in the quality range of 1 to 3 megs, for example, a weak-based anion and cation resin is most appropriate as it will meet quality requirements and last longer before exhausting (weak based resin has greater capacity).
Question: What should I do if my customer complains that the DI indicator red light went off “too fast”?
If this happens, it’s time to start asking questions like, ”Has any new equipment been added to your process,” “has your volume of work increased,” “have you checked for potential plumbing leaks,” etc. While it is possible there is a problem with the resin, the overwhelming majority of the time it will be something that has increased water usage.
Question: What if the customer’s process will result in the DI resin picking up heavy metals?
Answer: The DI regeneration process, in order to comply with EPA and other requirements, is different for regenerating resin containing heavy metals. The regeneration facility will typically use either a filter press or chelating resin to ensure that the heavy metals do not go to drain and into the public water system. The solids should then be removed from the premises as a hazardous waste by an authorized carrier and disposed of according to EPA guidelines. There are severe penalties for non-compliance. It is up to you to ascertain that the regeneration facility is complying with these standards. For this reason, you also need to make sure your customer fills out a Customer Waste Profile sheet (available online on the EPA website) which identifies the process their deionized water is used in and the potential metals that may be picked up by the DI resin, etc. Even if you are delivering non-heavy metal containing resin to the regeneration facility, you still should visit the facility and understand their regeneration process and waste treatment system, handling, etc.
In summary, many of you are looking for ways to expand your business. The need for deionized water is growing and the need for service DI work is growing with it. This just might be an area worth exploring to help you boost your business.
Norm Marowitz joined Region-X in 2013 and before that was the president of Atlas Watersystems Inc., a full service design, installation and service firm in the water treatment industry, where he worked for the past 16 years. Prior to this, he gained experience as a senior executive in several industries including the surgical laser industry, metals and others, as well as work as a CPA and management consultant. Norm also serves on the Advisory Board of Water Technology magazine.