Sourcing water purification technology

Sourcing water purification technology

Facilities Management companies and Mechanical and Electrical Contractors play an important role in the healthcare sector, providing design and build, operation and maintenance services.

In each case, their scope of work tends to be focussed on the provision of core skills, with the sourcing of specialised services or systems being given to suppliers and sub-contractors with specific expertise.

This includes the selection, specification, installation and maintenance of water purification systems used in, for example, renal dialysis, decontamination or laboratory analysis. Choosing an appropriate supplier for these systems will depend on a number of factors.  These can range from equipment availability and price, to past relationships and the level of service and support.

Selection criteria
In many respects, modern water purification systems, regardless of supplier, tend to use similar modular technologies. These are generally reliable and have been proven in many applications over a number of years.

What separates one provider from another is not therefore technology. Instead, it is engineering knowledge and capability, combined with an understanding of the unique challenges facing the healthcare sector, which mark the difference between success and failure.

Specialised knowledge of this nature is usually hard-won and based on years of experience in the sector. At SUEZ Water Purification Systems, for example, we’ve worked with healthcare customers for over 40 years, with members of our team being recognised as leading specialists in water purification for renal dialysis, laboratory water, decontamination and endoscope reprocessing. We regularly work alongside FM and M&E companies, providing the expertise they need when working on contracts requiring water purification equipment.

Selecting a healthcare water purification supplier
Given that water purification technologies are essentially similar, built to the appropriate standards of quality and reliability, and to the specification required for each healthcare application, then there are three key areas that FM and M&E providers need to consider when choosing a supplier:

  • Design and engineering capability: leading suppliers will have the knowledge and experience to design each system specifically to meet the needs of each application. These requirements might be driven by the available space; healthcare plant rooms and clinical departments often have limited space available for water purification equipment where novel solutions need to be found. Cost is also a real but interesting factor; the focus on new contracts is often on short-term capital cost and not the on longer term operating costs or the total cost of ownership. As the normal operating life of water purification equipment is around ten years, a system that has been engineered down in price to meet a CAPEX requirement may actually end up costing the FM company or the NHS Trust a far higher figure over time, due to design short-cuts that lead to excessive energy or water consumption, or higher than expected maintenance and repair costs.  If unreliability becomes an issue, it can affect the ability of the hospital department to function efficiently, which in turn will have a direct impact on patient care; this is not a cost that is routinely considered at the tender stage but can quickly affect total cost of ownership – and reputation – if patient operations have to be cancelled.
  • Installation and commissioning: many hospital contracts will require disruption and downtime to be kept to a minimum. Suppliers therefore need to understand how each hospital department functions and be able either to carry out engineering work at times when patient care will be unaffected, or to make provision for appropriate stand-by duty systems to ensure that water supplies are maintained while engineering work is being carried out.
  • Long-term service and support: in common with all mechanical and electrical equipment, water purification systems will require routine maintenance and as they age may also require occasional repair. The critical factor in each case is ensuring that disruption to each hospital department is minimised, either by carrying out work during quieter periods or ensuring that an alternative and safe source of high purity water is temporarily available. Just as importantly is the ability to respond quickly to urgent requests for support; this means having a nationwide team of experienced engineers, backed by a supply of spare parts. This last point should be self-evident but it’s surprising how many potential suppliers claim to have a 24/7 response but either fail to attend site on time or are unable to carry out effective repair work, due to lack of knowledge or spare parts.

The bottom line when choosing a water purification partner is that it pays to work with an industry expert. One that has the experience and knowledge to provide the best solution for each application, engineered to meet both short term CAPEX requirements and long term OPEX costs, backed by a service and support team that genuinely understands the healthcare sector.

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