Refocusing Water Use In Industrial DevelopmentBy Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 10/28/2021 - 13:08
Q: How would you describe Mexico’s position within Ecolab’s global and multi-industry portfolio?
A: During my two decades in the company, I have seen our industrial solutions portfolio for Latin America grow steadily. Mexico is one of the 170 countries where our products and services are sold. We are present in all of Latin America and we have manufacturing plants in a majority of the region’s markets. We have been in Mexico for 60 years, and we now have two plants in the country along with a solutions research and development center, which is part of a global network of 90 similar centers. Ecolab is divided into two groups: an institutional group and an industrial group. The first group works with the hospitality and services sector, specifically hotels, restaurant chains and supermarkets, among other types of open spaces where water management, hygiene and infection-prevention solutions, along with other chemical and environmental services are in high demand. The second group is more focused on industrial spaces and direct engagement with different industrial sectors, such as the oil and gas value chain, energy, textiles, automotive and other heavy industries like mining. Our two manufacturing plants, in Cuautitlan and Lerma, along with our R&D center in Monterrey, have a great deal of experience working within the context of these industries in Mexico.
Q: What would you consider to be the most important aspects of Ecolab’s approach toward the digital transformation of its technologies and its data analytics?
A: Like most other companies, particularly those of our size and global reach, our internal digital transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic and this has represented a significant investment into the redesign of our processes, equipment and infrastructure. Digital transformation also applies to our external relationships, specifically the needs of our clients. This includes ideas that we have never considered before, such as granting remote services through the Microsoft HoloLens platform. This means our innovation portfolio has been accounting for a growing digitalization component; every new patent that we develop needs to have a considerable digital component that is based on our 3D TRASAR platform, particularly for the industrial sectors.
Q: How is Mexico’s water crisis impacting the different industries in which you work?
A: Mexico is facing immense challenges in its water management. The ecosystems in two-thirds of the country have arid or semiarid characteristics. This means that there is little equilibrium in water availability and distribution at a national level. The northern half of the country receives just 9 percent of all water available in the country, which complicates things since most sophisticated industrial sectors are located in that northern half. The population is growing rapidly as well in the north but infrastructural development is not keeping up with that growth. Water access is a question that is multiplying problems in the political realm as well. CONAGUA reports that as much as US$1 billion will be invested this year in hydraulic infrastructure alone. Mexico’s industrial development is dependent on those types of investments. Water treatment and quality are also issues since many companies have to deal with water supply that might have high alkaline levels or high levels of pollution or solids. I do not like to address these issues with a catastrophe mindset but public and private investments are needed to address these problems.
Today, companies are much more proactive when it comes to the role of water treatment in their operations. Their investments are beginning to reflect a serious commitment to addressing the issue. An increasing number of companies and industries are imposing new water use and treatment standards, from corporate headquarters and their rules and guidelines to on-the-ground workers and managers. However, we need more equipment verification and maintenance to certify these processes are happening like they are supposed to. The cost efficiency of these processes is also essential. We are focusing much of our innovation development on the reduction of treatment costs.
At Ecolab we believe that water management is essential for business operations. So, we have made publicly available our online tool Smart Water Navigator to help companies understand their water risks to push forward and achieve sustainability and management goals. Firstly introduced in 2019, it underlines Ecolab’s wide-ranging mission to help dozens of industries reuse, recycle and reduce water consumption, creating resilient companies within healthy communities globally. It was enhanced recently this year, and it now offers benchmarking across a portfolio of facilities and the ability to evaluate water performance over time.
Another issue to consider is how Mexico’s water crisis intersects the global water crisis. Global standards on regulations that manage and control water access, treatment and distribution are changing rapidly. Mexico is following many of these global trends. Hydrological risks to secure water supply are increasing and need to be taken into account in all laws destined to be enacted. Talented personnel in this matter are needed all over the world. They are considered some of the most sought-after international professionals and Mexico is no exception to that rule. Global pressure on the private sector to take a greater interest in water treatment issues is increasing. Water treatment plays an enormous role in certifying a company’s status as green or environmentally conscious, which is also becoming central to a company’s reputation.
Ecolab is a leading chemical and environmental company. Among its key concerns is a focus on making water use more efficient in different industries. It also offers hygiene and infection prevention solutions.