Brian Krishna is the Managing Director of Xylem Australia and New Zealand. He discusses the importance of water management in the extractive industry, the robustness of Xylem’s products throughout the pandemic, and how Xylem can offer holistic solutions to quarrying operations that span water efficiency, environmental management and professional development.
How has Xylem in Australia and New Zealand performed in the past 20 months (during the global pandemic)?
We remained focused as a company across Australia and New Zealand to live our tag line: “Let’s Solve Water.” We’re all very driven by our purpose to live in a world where water is not a barrier to human health and prosperity, and that continues to drive us to solve water challenges with our customers and communities. It’s kept us very busy.
Of course, we empathise with our colleagues and customers that have been in lockdowns. Australia and New Zealand have been in lockdowns in certain areas for extended periods of time but staff have remained very motivated, according to what drives us every day, and that means we have performed quite solidly during the pandemic, engaging with customers and communities.
Has the pandemic dramatically changed the way Xylem now does business with the Australian extractive industries?
Not dramatically. We have been communicating with our customers more on the likes of Zoom and Teams but first and foremost we love to get to our customers’ sites, living and breathing where the quarry is and where the extraction points are. So, having to adjust to a more virtual form of communication has been a challenge.
One of the strengths I’ve seen come out in our business is that the market and the customers are really depending on high quality, reliability, strong service and back-up. That’s what we’ve really been able to demonstrate over the course of the pandemic. We have 13 locations across Australia and New Zealand, they all have service and rental capability, either on-site with the customer or back within our own facilities – and I think that to me that has been the big stand-out. I’ve had feedback from our customers that even though we haven’t been able to be in front of them as much as we would like, our quality and reliability has really stacked up. The equipment for them has worked on-site day in, day out. It’s been a challenge but there’s an upside for the market seeing our business in a different light.
What are Xylem’s most popular products in the Australian extractive industries?
It’s certainly our pump brands – Flygt and Godwin. Flygt is our submersible pump and Godwin is our open-pit diesel-driven or electric-driven transfer pump. Why are they so popular? It’s mainly because both brands have more than 100 years of history behind them. Flygt is Swedish and Godwin is an English pump brand. We have very strong brand recognition with those two brands, and they are extremely robust and reliable, and that’s what customers have seen in the pandemic period – this equipment stays on-site, it’s reliable and it works, and as a result of that quality, it needs less attention for the longer term. What I would like to see us demonstrate in the market is that we have a huge portfolio that treats, measures and monitors water. That is something that we are actively promoting throughout the Australian extractive industries. I think we have a lot more to offer as a complete water management company, not just in the traditional pumping area.
How can Xylem best assist quarries and other small mines with their water management challenges?
Xylem is a water technology company, and therefore we have a very full portfolio of solutions and products. The best way we can help our customers is to be a water management partner – and a way we can do that is by coming to site and evaluating every point that water touches the business and offering a “water audit”, ie some inspection advice or site audit advice. We want to track and trace water usage and help customers understand how they can better use water. It may not just be a capital solution. At Xylem, we have a portfolio of rental solutions, so if capital expenditure (CAPEX) is tight, we have operational expenditure (OPEX) solutions as well.
We rent out many of the pumps that you can purchase – which is often a great way to try before you buy. We’re also responsible for the service of that equipment in the hire terms of the agreement. We can also hire out water monitoring equipment. And sometimes we do that for short-term reasons, eg there could have been an environmental issue on a site, and we need to do some monitoring for one to two months to get a better understanding of what is going on, and that can be done with a rental solution.
Does Xylem offer programs, services and advice that go beyond just the installation of key plant, equipment and products? Why should quarries utilise these services?
We have a number of key training programs that we provide at Xylem. I mentioned Godwin, which is our diesel-driven open pit pump. Every year, we’ve run a face to face training school called Godwin 101 to teach our customers everything they need to know about how to set up a pump correctly and how to operate and maintain it correctly. It’s not a paid course, we ask people to dedicate their time and we provide that training. Quite often it’s run by an overseas facilitator, one of our Godwin trainers in the US, and we would run courses in Sydney and Perth every year. In the pandemic, we’ve still run them but we’ve conducted them virtually.
It goes for all of our portfolios. Xylem can say “Yes, we want to solve a problem and we want to sell a solution”. However, we’re focused on customers understanding the “Why”. What’s the recourse of the problem we’re trying to solve? And how does the solution address the problem? That comes with training, and how to provide and service the equipment. Xylem provides that to our customers as a must, that’s non-negotiable.
We’re really proud as well to give back on the education side. We have a number of sponsorships that we work with at the moment. For the Australian Water Association, we are a sponsor for the Young Water Professional, and again we have a good focus on the next generation coming through, how we can bring them into the water industry and become a long-term person working and solving water challenges. We also sponsor the Stockholm Junior Water Prize in which teenage kids get to solve their own water challenges and develop their own innovations for assessment, and that gets voted on here in Australia – and they can potentially attend the global award ceremony in Stockholm.
Xylem is also the Australian sponsor, and the global sponsor, of the Stockholm Water Prize. The prize is open to high school students and is promoted through the Australian Water Association (AWA). As we continue to do, I encourage the extractive industries to use the AWA as another source to help them to address their water and environmental challenges on-site.
Xylem has committed to 2025 global sustainability goals, including reducing the CO2 footprint of water by almost three million tonnes. What kind of innovations are your products adopting to enhance water systems’ resilience to climate change?
One area in which we can reduce the carbon footprint quickly is in energy efficiency. A lot of pumping equipment on most industry sites is highly energy-intensive. Even with 100-year-old products like Flygt and Godwin, we’re innovating in those technologies rapidly to be more energy-efficient and smarter with our carbon footprint.
So, that’s one area. The other is around what we call non-revenue water. Aided by digital smart water technology, we can deploy equipment in large pipelines of water that are able to undertake leak detection and monitoring and measurement within those pipelines to provide an assessment back to the extractive company and advise that the water line is leaking several thousands of litres of water per day. We can provide the right level of analytics to make those decisions about repairing pipelines. One of the biggest costs to failed pipelines is: “Where do you start?” It’s all underground, and has often been buried for decades. That’s a big one. A third area is around treatment. How can we better treat and reuse water on-site? What are the options? Many users don’t even get an option. When you’re talking carbon footprints, the more rivers we have, the lower the carbon output because we’re not bringing more water into the site. We can keep reusing what we have.
What kind of innovations are your products adopting to save water and achieve zero waste in some industrial processes, eg reducing slurries, waste and other by-products from sand washing processes in quarries? Can slurries, for example, be recycled as a useful by-product in construction materials?
We haven’t specifically researched the by-product as such but the right technology and the right application with our products has a big saving that comes along with it. If you look at the pumping of slurries, there’s a minimum level of materials that we use in our slurry pump that we are not willing to negotiate on. Now that comes at a cost but if you look at one of the downsides of the extractive industry, every time you stop the process, it’s costing you money every hour, every day, whatever that time period is. We really try to look at the life cycle costing. What’s your CAPEX versus your OPEX over a certain period – and what does that payback say to you? I think that’s really where our equipment holds up extremely well, and I mentioned earlier that’s where we’ve seen it hold up strongly throughout the pandemic.
I think monitoring and analytics are areas of innovation where Xylem can shine a lot brighter. We need to tell our customers how we can help them in that space. Being able to monitor slurries or reduce waste or understand where waste is going and why is a big part of that analytics, and that comes with a lot of payback and can lead to the development of by-products. We’ve seen in the wastewater industry that there are by-products that can be recycled back into fertiliser, for example. It’s about being able to do that efficiently and effectively and the potential to create another potential revenue stream is always there.
COVID-19 aside, what do you believe will be major challenges for the Australian extractive industries in the next two to three years?
Energy consumption is a major challenge for the extractive industries over the next two to three years. To elaborate on that, power is expensive, and it comes with the carbon footprint challenge. I think reducing our consumption is vital and, of course, it’s not just changing the way we use power but how we generate it as well.
I think another big challenge is access to capital. We’ve seen that on a local and global scale, and the pandemic has done that more than most other factors. CAPEX isn’t what it was in years gone by, and many businesses are more protective of keeping cash on their balance sheet because everyone has to had to face something we didn’t expect. I think access to capital is going to continue to be a challenge over the coming years.
The third challenge is the environmental footprint. It’s again about being responsible for the environmental footprint that is in the extractive landscape today, and how we found it is how we should leave it. The environmental footprint is going to be a major challenge but also a focus – I can see many industry leaders, and juniors and mids, having very good plans for the environmental footprint but I think we have to move faster to make those plans real.
Xylem also invests in solar energy and hydroelectricity projects. Do you see those as also potential solutions for some extractive businesses?
The cost of renewables is becoming more scalable – what’s prohibited us has been the access to capital. I think in the coming years, it will become a reality. We will be able to use renewable energy solutions at the right capital investment that helps the overall environment and helps businesses deliver their results.
How can Xylem assist the extractive industries with meeting those challenges you specify – of energy consumption, access to capital, and the environmental footprint?
On energy consumption, that’s about using smart water solutions. Xylem’s portfolio has shifted to digital smarter water solutions, becoming more efficient in every day pumping, eg using real time analytics and data to help make better decisions with processes using water. Smart water solutions are definitely the first step connected to energy.
On access to capital, we may have to move from a CAPEX to an OPEX solution, so Xylem is well positioned to support customers with still using smart solutions but on a rental or an OPEX basis. Renting or hiring Xylem pumping, treatment and monitoring solutions for an extended period is a way we can help around capital restraints right now.
On the environmental footprint, I definitely encourage people to talk to Xylem about our water audits. As I mentioned, Xylem wants to be on your site but if we can’t be on-site, we can do that analysis virtually. We want to know how water touches your business everywhere and how we can develop a solution, not just for the short term but the long term.
In its 2025 sustainability goals, Xylem mentions creating more female representation in leadership positions. In addition to promoting more women within your own organisation, can Xylem play a role in encouraging more women – and younger people, in general – to become more actively involved in the extractive industries?
We certainly do. It’s a challenge – and it’s one that we think about every year. How can we position ourselves to encourage the youth coming through? We do a significant amount of training and mentoring, and a lot of our technical or thought leaders within our business offer a lot of their time to coaching and mentoring. We work with other partners on how to structure that but we would certainly be willing and open to talk to any customer in the extractive industries about how we can become a coaching and mentoring partner, to help encourage either people within their own business to have a more water-based focus, or to attract new talent to come into the sector. I think that’s a continuing, evolving process to which we dedicate a lot of time and support.
For more information about Xylem Australia and New Zealand’s water management solutions, visit xylem.com/en-au
This article appears in the ‘Industry Leaders’ edition of Quarry Magazine from January.