Friday, November 16, 2012

New system design: Building a better mousetrap

I have been reluctant to showcase new systems on the web because a few years after we developed our popular "C-Series" system and added it to our website, a contractor friend told me that he strongly suspected our design had been closely copied by another (much larger) corporation.  He had just returned from the Pumper Cleaner show in Kentucky and told me another company, one who frequents this blog and our website, had just rolled out their "new" model...about a year after we publicly unveiled our C-Series models at national trade shows and online.  In retrospect, we probably should have known better than to post detailed technical drawings to our website for everyone to see (we've since taken them down, and we're holding our cards a lot closer these days).  The contractor immediately recognized our C-Series design as the other company's "new and improved" design, and he thought I should know.  I took a look at the new model, and he was right.  The similarities between our design and this company's "new" product line were uncanny.  denitrifying septic system
We don't invest enormous sums of money on marketing, lobbyists, government relations personnel and advertising.  Rather, we invest in research and development to offer better, more reliable and lower-cost onsite systems.  This is a calculated risk our company has taken, and it runs contrary to some advice I received from an idiot marketing company that was managed by an "expert" who, I later learned, had almost no formal education in marketing, despite charging hourly rates in excess of many attorneys and doctors in the area.
This "expert's" advice several years ago was, "Don't build a better mousetrap, build a better brand."  In other words, he was saying, nobody cares about the actual product because the public is so dumb that even if the product is unreliable and overpriced, as long as it is marginally effective and properly "positioned" in the industry, a well-greased marketing campaign will convince them that they really are receiving value for their money. 
I still can't believe I wasted tens of thousands of dollars (I'm too embarrassed to admit exactly how much) on this outrageously inept advice.  But, as an engineer and scientist, all of the marketing junk was so foreign to me at first, I just went along with it.  I trusted the "expert" and kept writing checks, assuming our company was getting some intangible benefit I'd never really understand, because I am a left-brained nerd, not a hand-waving artsy marketing type.  Finally, though, I learned my lesson.  The hard way. There wasn't any measurable benefit to the advice I'd received.  Plus, even if there was some truth to the whole "baffle them with B.S." approach, I didn't want to be the shyster who got ahead in the decentralized industry by fooling people with slick marketing.  There were enough of those companies already. 
I really wanted to create something that worked, something reliable that people could afford, that could be adapted to a variety of sites and applications, that would actually really work.  Something robust. I knew then that paying thousands each month for fluff ads and more "expert" marketing advice would come at the expense of my goals to innovate and improve our products and manufacturing processes.  So, our company went a different way.  We stopped investing huge sums in marketing.  We kept investing in R&D, and in expanding into markets where our services were needed.  Turns out, that was the right way to go.
Obviously, copying designs from smaller firms that (ostensibly) couldn't afford to file patent, trademark or copyright infringement lawsuits isn't exactly a new idea.  It's one well-established way to do business, and it definitely has its advantages.  For instance, if a company just copies a design or steals a good idea from a relatively unknown, smaller competitor, they free up a lot of time and money because, instead of investing money in developing a superior product, they can focus instead on "building a better brand."   The fact that we were selected as the source for another company's "new" system really speaks quite favorably about Eliminite, because you wouldn't copy a design that was anything but a really good idea.  Furthermore, they must genuinely trust our ability to design and develop new products because they simply took our drawings, adapted them to their needs and, of course, added their brand. 
The fact is, the Eliminite C-Series works better, costs less to buy and maintain, and uses our patented MetaRocks treatment media.   In this case, the original is far superior to the generic, because the heartbeat of the design is the media, and our media cannot be replicated. 
I am showcasing below a series of photos showing our recent new design. It is based on Infiltrator Systems' new polyethylene septic tank, which is an awesome addition to their product line.  This system arrives onsite completely assembled and ready to install.  In most instances, concrete tanks from local suppliers are the preferred option.  We like working with the local precasters and will continue to do so.  For this job in eastern Montana, however, the nearest local precaster was so busy that they could not meet the client's strict time frame, so we were glad we were able to offer an alternative.  We discussed options with the owner and engineer and they thought our new system was a great option.  Justin at E-On NW, built the system and was responsible for the expert installation. I think he also provided site design and permitting services to the owner at no charge.
The hole for the septic tank and Eliminite System is ready.
The excavator sets the poly septic tank.
The Eliminite system is completely assembled and ready to install.
Both tanks set, plumbed and ready to be put into service.  Advanced wastewater treatment in about two hours.
Thanks to Infiltrator Systems for manufacturing such a nice tank.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eliminite is providing wastewater treatment systems in the Bakken oil fields

We work with many engineering firms who have decided to use Eliminite exclusively for their clients. 
In the oil fields where time, price and function are important, Eliminite has been installing advanced treatment systems for a variety of facilities.  Our clients like our prices and our ability to meet tight project deadlines.  We were able to assemble a complete submittal package for an engineer working on four, five-unit clusters in one day.  This included design drawings, design report and specifications.  His client changed the deadline and the engineer called us to see if we could get a project out in an unreasonably short time frame.  Approval time for our projects are generally only a week or two because regulatory agencies trust the level of expertise we provide directly to the client.

Our competition in this field is usually someone with very little or no experience designing wastewater treatment systems.  They simply grab a bundle of brochures, memorize a few talking points and, viola, they are onsite experts.  We bring proven long term experience to the table and can assist the client in a meaningful way toward obtaining a solution that fits the needs of the project.