Top Innovations from Industry Leaders

Innovation can be dramatic and technologically advanced, or it can be much simpler and more down to earth. In an industry that sees to some of our most basic human needs, judgments regarding “simple” and “dramatic” are in the eye of the beholder—and occasionally the distinction is not so…well…distinct. Take solar lights in portable restrooms—not something most people think about until the need arises, and then voilà! Let there be light.

Many successful companies operate on the premise that coming up with a new idea is virtually the same as giving the customer what he or she wants. Tom Aerts, General Sales Manager for Imperial Industries based in Wausau, Wisconsin, has noticed that the call is increasing for specialization in the custom tanks that they manufacture. “Orders for stock units are going down. Every year, people want equipment that is more specialized and customized.”

As a result, Imperial Industries manufactures a specialized six-inch aluminum debris filter that is available as an accessory attachment for tanks used in land application. The comb that filters solids in Imperial’s Ultimate Debris Collector comes in two spacing options to meet state regulations, and application is much cleaner and more efficient.

“The Ultimate has become very popular this year,” says Aerts. “It saves a lot of time and effort in the field.”

Along with customized equipment, Aerts has also seen an increase in orders for self-contained, slide-in tanks that were originally designed for the back of a pickup truck or a small trailer to service portable restrooms. Imperial Industries offers these portable service units in painted steel, aluminum and stainless steel and in 300-, 450-, 550- and 650-gallon total capacities for waste and water or for waste only.

Gayle Humphries, Owner and President of Best Enterprises in Cabot, Arkansas, has been designing and fabricating stainless steel pumping trucks and tanks for more than thirty-four years. That means he’s spent a lot of time thinking up ideas and innovations that benefit the portable toilet and septic pumping industry. In a time of increasing call for specialized equipment, Best’s ability to customize has given the company an advantage.

Humphries believes wholeheartedly that high-quality, well-maintained equipment is the surest way to make a profit in this industry, and he’s proud of the custom trucks and tanks his company has put on the road for his customers. He won’t hesitate to tell you about the first stainless steel tank he built in 1978, which is still on the job in Phoenix.

“About the year I built my first tank,” he says, “we perfected a system for putting a clutch on a vacuum pump and operating it from a switch on the dashboard similar to the air-conditioner switch.”

Hydraulic systems were developed soon after, but Humphries didn’t forget the air-conditioner switch from 1978, and the ease of operation.  “We now have developed a system of electromagnetic clutches that can be installed on a jetter or a vacuum pump [and] that allow you to run them either simultaneously or with a remote control. With this, one man can do it all. He runs the jetter and uses the remote to turn it on and off.

“It’s a whole lot easier to maintain than hydraulic systems,” Humphries says. “Since not many companies have people who can work on hydraulics, it means that a hydraulic unit would have to sit until someone can get to it. Our system, repairs can be made quickly, and you can be back in operation without a lot of down time.”

“Plants are continuing to pressure the contractor to reduce his hourly rate or improve productivity,” says Sales Director Tony Fuller of Federal Signal Solutions.

Headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, Federal Signal is the parent company of Guzzler, a world leader in industrial vacuum technology. Along with sister companies Vactor Manufacturing, Jetstream and Elgin Sweeper, the four make up Federal Signal’s Environmental Solutions Group. 

In response to the pressure, Guzzler has developed the Guzzler NX vacuum loader next-generation air mover. Where a standard vacuum loader will require emptying when only three-quarters full, the Guzzler NX allows operators to pump more and dump less.

“This is a highly efficient, low-noise-level machine, designed to overcome any lack of air conveyance,” explains Fuller. According to specs on the company’s website, the NX features the “industry’s quietest blower,” better fuel economy and improved loading with vacuum recovery technology, which allows for cleaning the baghouse while still vacuuming material.

Fuller also speaks of Federal Signal’s extensive training platform. Along with an array of Haz-Mat courses and OSHA training, the company provides training from job set-up to all aspects of operation.

“What’s a vacuum? It’s an equalization of pressure. The objective is to create negative pressure in the debris tank. Our training shows how to understand the process better and learn the tricks on how to make it more efficient.”

Jack Doheny Supplies oversees what it bills as the world’s largest selection of sewer cleaning truck equipment, street sweepers, and vacuum trucks from its corporate home in Northville, Michigan. It services what it sells from eleven key facilities around the country that are available to customers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

“We view our customers as being in an emergency business,” says company President Dan Weber. “A fuel spill or a leak or sewage overflow that affects the health and welfare of the community, that is an emergency situation, and we will respond [to] and support our customers.”

While this commitment is not innovative, the way Jack Doheny Supplies implements its services may be considered fresh. “What we bring to our customers is a multitude of ways of getting equipment into customers’ hands,” Weber explains. “We do it through multiple financing approaches, including in-house financing, rental-purchase approaches, and having a very diverse rental fleet.”

This cross-section of trucks provides Doheny’s clients with access to rent or lease equipment to handle a variety of specialized jobs—“when they haven’t yet developed the core business to support the investment.” Should that aspect of the business prove profitable in the future and should the client be capable of making the investment, Doheny offers his customers fair and reasonable lease-purchase terms.

“Our customers are able to create equity in the units and acquire the assets,” says Weber. “And no one else does it like we do. It allows them to enter markets that limited capital might not have allowed them to enter.”

Jack Doheny also offers “the most comprehensive and complete equipment overhaul in the industry” for worn sewer cleaning and industrial vacuum trucks. The company’s “remanufacturing” process rebuilds each piece to original equipment standards, so that the equipment works like new and can be warranted like new. The company promises to “systematically go through every component of your truck” and bring it back to “original performance standards.”

In an industry that often focuses on what we human beings discard or wish to get rid of, it is refreshing to find so many innovators who are committed to finding ways to build equipment for decades of use and who then provide service or will rebuild as a way to extend the lifetimes of these products even further.


Story by Anne Biggs

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