21 May 2020

Carving Out A Niche in Water

By Alex Mason

Typically, we see the water market segmented into two: municipal and industrial. Most small manufacturers will specialise in one of these sectors to offer solutions to their clients.

Kemco System’s CEO Tom Vanden Heuvel doesn’t think that’s specialist enough. He believes that, in order to provide true value to customers, companies should be looking to dive deeper into subcategories of those two, then become excellent at serving those categories.

Tom Vanden Heuvel - CEO, Kemco Systems

That’s exactly what Kemco have done. Originally founded as a heat exchanger business in 1969, they subsequently moved into the water treatment space and today have strong footholds in the laundry, concrete and food processing markets.

Once Kemco find themselves in a niche, they let themselves be led by either the technology, their customer, or both. In Tom’s words they aren’t led by any ‘grand strategy’, it’s just about listening to customers and catering for their needs.

Then, as the customer needs evolve, the technology evolves with it, investing their R&D spend into highly targeted areas that will have a direct benefit to these niche clients. As the technology develops, it can then naturally open up new applications in new markets, which then opens new doors for the business.

It’s a strategy that ensures fewer failures and happy customers, as well as new revenue streams for Kemco when they find a hit.

Efficiency is Everything


Kemco were founded in 1969 and, according to their website they are on a mission to provide “the world’s most efficient systems by delivering long lasting equipment at lower operating cost and the best service and support”.

All those statements are geared towards reliability and cost-saving for the customer. In markets where water and wastewater are becoming more expensive than ever, efficiency and, subsequently green credentials are a cornerstone of the businesses ethos.

In April this year Kemco announced CONSERVE, a programme which enables customers to invest in water recycling as a service. This includes equipment, installation, parts and servicing but on a monthly basis therefore eliminating the high up front capital equipment costs. 

“We can make this model work by using the client’s savings from high water and wastewater costs to cover the programme,”

said Vanden Heuvel.

It’s an interesting proposition and one that allows clients to tap into their water recycling expertise without having to make significant investments of capital. The model also enables Kemco to keep in regular contact with clients, providing constant feedback on the quality of service.

Inorganic Growth


Whilst trying to push forward, Kemco have realised in the past that they can’t do everything for everyone and have pursued a strategy of acquisitions to improve their service offering alongside their own new product development.

Last year saw them acquire dissolved air flotation (DAF) specialists Water Resources and water treatment experts Bob Johnson and Associates. Both acquisitions bolstered their capabilities in their core markets, meaning that Kemco’s customer-centric approach to growth continues.


What’s Next?


The business are predominantly based domestically in the US today, but international expansion is on the horizon, albeit sustainable, sensible expansion in keeping with their values .

For Tom, that means speaking to clients internationally to see where the gaps could be in new markets for Kemco to introduce themselves and find solutions. He reiterated, though, that they will avoid just ‘chasing the shiny object’ in terms of scaling for scaling’s sake. International expansion will be methodical, deliberate, concentrated and customer-centric.

I'll leave you with Tom's comments to finish: 

“In a world that’s been flipped on its head in recent months, where customers are in shorter supply than ever, I think that we’ll be seeing a lot more companies pursuing collaborative R&D and a customer-centric strategy in the future because, when you do, why would the customer go elsewhere?”

If you have any further questions or would like to discuss any points from this article, get in touch at alex.mason@industrial-cm.com.

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By Alex Mason

Alex builds teams globally within the water and utilities industry. His strong understanding of the market is complimented by a specialist network which helps him deliver a thorough search process. Having also published articles about how smart technologies can prevent water scarcity, Alex’s passion and dedication to this space is there for all to see.


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