Simon Senior, the Commercial Director of Applied Felts discusses the history of the company, memorable projects, and the future of the CIPP industry.
How did you get your start in the Trenchless Technology industry?
I was born, raised and continue to live in Huddersfield, where Applied Felts was founded in the mid-1800s. At the age of 16 I began working as a mechanical engineer with a full apprenticeship for Saxtons Commercials. After completing my apprenticeship I was offered a position as Logistics Manager in the transportation division, before I eventually moved into sales management. I received my Business Degree, and then completed my Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA).
I have spent most of my working life in sales in the construction and textiles industry. I feel it is very important to know your product, how it can be developed and improved as well as understanding the customer requirements and needs. I was the Sales and Marketing Director for Drake Extrusion Bradford before joining Applied Felts in 2005.
What is your role at Applied Felts?
My ultimate responsibility is to bring the best underground pipe rehabilitation solutions to a global market. Achieving this goal requires my team’s involvement in ongoing research and development to understand cultural, geographical and budgetary needs, as well as staying one step ahead of the most current technological advancements. I build relationships with municipalities, contractors and distributors around the globe to supply them with our cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) liners, custom-made for their unique needs.
Can you share a little about the history of Applied Felts?
Applied Felts’ parent company, W.E. Rawson, was founded more than 150 years ago by William Elsworth Rawson. From the very beginning, we used machinery to process fabrics, including recycled fibres, for new uses. This process resulted in non-woven industrial textiles which were used in a variety of applications. You could say we were the first manufacturer to understand the significance of recycling.
Over the years we have found inventive ways to introduce textiles into unexpected and valuable products including carpets, bedding, automotive and, of course, CIPP liners. Our products serve a wide variety of industries – from residential applications to underground utilities – all around the world.
Applied Felts’ ISO 9001-2008 accreditation ensures that every phase of manufacturing, including a 28-stage testing system, is completed in one location. This results in optimal quality assurance in every liner, whether it be traditional felt or glass reinforced, for gravity, pressure pipe and potable water applications.
What products does Applied Felts manufacture?
Over the past few years we have introduced and seen many successful installations of other fibreglass-reinforced liners focusing on strength and flexibility. AquaCure PS® liners are custom designed for pressure sewer and non-potable water applications that must withstand higher internal pressures and deliver the best possible performance. While they are designed specifically for municipal sewer applications such as force mains, the product can also be used for industrial purposes. The fibreglass reinforcement provides static, self-supporting properties and can be engineered to have the pressure resistance of a stand-alone AWWA Class IV Pipe.
For potable water, AquaCure PW® is Applied Felts’ solution to incorporate quality liners with NSF-certified systems.
We have to be diligent in the assessment of each unique CIPP project, so we work with our customers to understand variables such as internal operating and testing pressure requirements, resin selection, appropriate layers of glass reinforcement. The liners are then constructed to comply with NSF-61, BNQ and other applicable standards.
As with AquaCure PS, this potable water solution with fibreglass reinforcement can be engineered to deliver the same pressure ratings of a stand-alone AWWA Class IV Pipe.
What has been one of your most memorable projects?
One of the most unique projects was last year near the city of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. The project involved the rehabilitation of two parallel steel cooling water pipelines and adjacent side connections to individual general units in an electric-heat plant owned by Kazakhmys.
Built in the 1950s, the power plant had grown to include other aboveground structures, including buildings and steam pipelines, above the underground pipelines in need of rehabilitation.
The steel pipes ranged in diameter from 1,220-2,220 mm and, depending on the number of working generator units, in the summer season the lines worked as gravity sewers. In winter the lines operated as pressure lines with a working pressure of up to 2 bar. The design and production of the liners had to be relatively lightweight and yet capable of withstanding the buckling loads during the summer gravity period and the 2 bar working pressure loads during the winter seasons.
To address these challenges, we recommended a hybrid of our AquaCure RP® and AquaCure PS® products.
AquaCure RP combines fibreglass reinforcement with our existing, felt liner design and construction. The product features technology that blends the unique properties of each to produce a matrix that significantly reduces the thickness of liners, particularly larger diameter liners with excessive SDR requirements. It is also thinner than traditional liners, which delivers significant resin savings while lowering total material cost. Creating this unique pipe resulted in a rehabilitated pipe that could handle gravity flow in the summer months and pressure loads in the winter.
This hybrid construction allowed us to use traditional impregnation, inversion and curing methods of standard felt liners but also provided the ability to increase the strength while at the same time reducing the thickness. This not only helped meet design criteria, it also helped with logistical difficulties, which were significant.
The installation minimised disruption to the power plant, addressed the seasonal need for gravity and pressure loads within the same pipe, and maintained the integrity of the newer structures built above the rehabilitated pipes.
What are the keys to your company’s success?
Our knowledge and history of fibre production has resulted in Applied Felts’ position as a leader in CIPP felt liner production. For us, everything starts with felt, but that is just the beginning. We have literally worked in the trenches with our customers, gone back to our research and development, and manufacturing teams, and returned to our customers with custom-built liners that meet their unique needs. We now produce everything from small to 3,000 mm diameter liners for gravity, pressure and even potable water applications.
Technology is important, but relationships have been a critical component to growing our business. We don’t cast a wide net and hope to catch customers; we are strategic in the development of relationships to deliver the best products and ongoing support to ensure repeatable business. Our mantra is ‘your success is our success’ and we take that to heart. We know that we are only as good as our customers’ successful installations.
We work with customers all over the globe. We currently provide solutions in 37 countries and, as a result, diversity is perhaps the biggest recent advancement. Understanding emerging markets, cultural differences, the processes involved in winning work, and knowing a customer’s intentions are an important part of the mix.
What does the future hold for Applied Felts?
The first 150 years was just the beginning. Technologies have allowed us to grow at a greater pace than our founders could have ever imagined. While our commitment to research, development and stringent testing continues to be key strategy to deliver the highest performing CIPP liners, our greatest discoveries come from our customers.
Understanding their unique needs and challenges, and working with them to find and design the best solutions possible, helps us stay one-step ahead of the competition. We believe solutions for pressure pipes will provide the greatest opportunities for CIPP growth and are hopeful reinforced liners and their applications will move into the mainstream.
These solutions were not possible 20, or even 10 years ago, but due to the robustness we have been able to engineer into our liners, we expect to see significant growth as we expand into many other applications outside of traditional CIPP rehabilitation of gravity sanitary and storm sewers.
The bottom line is this: Wherever in the world underground infrastructure is failing, Applied Felts will be there with custom solutions that will stand the test of time.
How do you think the relining industry will change in the next 10 years?
The industry will see a change in CIPP liners resulting from varying geographies. This is not limited to market share expansion for Applied Felts, but also takes into consideration the development of products that address unique conditions such as different types of host pipe materials, extreme temperatures, climates and topography.
While we already provide liners to 37 countries, we anticipate our many years of developing relationships in Asia will result in rapid expansion in that region over the next few years.
Learning more about Asian cultures and understanding the complicated process of doing business over the past few years has been an investment that has already paid off significantly for Applied Felts. We are currently operating in Shanghai and look forward to expanding our relationships throughout Asia, and beyond.
For more information visit the Applied Felts website.
This article was featured in the September edition of Trenchless International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.
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