Ernie McDonald, General Manager at Fernox, looks back at some of the biggest changes and innovations in water treatment over the past 20 years.
Can you explain your experience working in the industry?
I started out in the industrial sector, working for a global provider of chemical, equipment and services for over 10 years. I transitioned to domestic water treatment over 20 years ago when I joined Fernox.
The biggest challenge for me – moving from the industrial to domestic sector – was that there is no direct commercial relationship with end users in the domestic market. I therefore had to take a multi-faceted approach to develop, support and grow Fernox as a business. A key driver for Fernox has been to simplify the usage of products to meet the changing requirements of the installer and to innovate the design of products to anticipate market demand.
How has the industry changed over the past 20 years?
The biggest change over the past 20 years has been the role of chemical water treatment – where previously it was used to problem solve, its primary role today is problem prevention.
Condensing technology has necessitated the preventative approach of water treatment in protecting the performance and longevity of central heating boilers and systems. From a chemical standpoint the improved effectiveness of inhibitors and cleaners to prevent corrosion and scale and to restore heating efficiency has had a positive environmental effect. From an equipment perspective, the development of in-line filtration has had a demonstrable benefit in maintaining system efficiency.
Technology is changing the way that installers and manufacturers operate – what practical tools are out there for installers?
The use of digital platforms means that installers can share experiences and best practice through social media, gain valuable product instruction via video and download apps to test the quality of system water and submit samples.
Similarly, new product applications like the Fernox Express range, which uses barrier pressure pack technology to dispense product mess-free and in less than 30 seconds – without the need to drain down the system – saves installers valuable time on site.
What do you see as the most significant challenge facing the industry today?
It is key that the industry continues to focus on attracting new talent – particularly through apprenticeship schemes and extending college places. It is also vital that we support skilled installers and assist their development.
Looking at your time at Fernox, what are you most proud of?
I am proud of a number of things – from assisting those who work at Fernox to thrive and develop their skillsets, to taking the business from a UK entity to a global operation, now operating in 38 countries.
What advice would you give to installers who are starting out?
Never stop learning and expanding your skills – in this way, you will always keep ahead of the curve.