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My night at The Gherkin by Emma Armitage

Thanks to a call from Ilona at Made in Yorkshire I was lucky enough to have been invited to attend a conservative event at The Gherkin to promote UK manufacturing, and in my case to represent Yorkshire Manufacturing.

I was extremely excited and honoured to be considered.  I have worked hard over the last few years promoting our business, since being handed the reigns by my father and taking over the position of Managing Director. I have been pushing myself to improve and having graduated from the Goldman Sachs course for business last year, I have continued to do so, however despite all this, I dislike leaving Yorkshire and am not very London Savvy!

I arrived at The Gherkin transported by a lovely taxi driver who knew London like the back of his hand, I went through airport style security and after a quick body search (I always set off the alarms and look unnecessarily nervous), I was in!

The venue is beautiful with fantastic views over the London skyline, it was lit by soft candle light which made the event feel even more intimate.

After a short drinks reception Mr Rees-Mogg arrived and gave a short speech about the conservative views on Manufacturing in the UK and how they were trying to help UK businesses’ make excellent trade links. 

I was one of the lucky ones who was able to have a quick chat with him and tell him about why I think it is so important for local Manufactures to get together and to buy locally where possible. Groups like Made in Yorkshire and Made in the Midlands are invaluable to local businesses enabling them to make contacts locally and support each other. Mr Rees-Mogg was very patient and listened to my thoughts on the issues that British Manufactures face, and my views that the British brand is still very strong and perceived as a quality product.  We also discussed what help we need from the government to help promote and market our businesses as British brands.

The conversation then turned to Cricket as Mr Rees-Mogg is an avid fan, luckily for me it only stretched as far as knowing Yorkshire Cricket is in Headingly which is as far as my knowledge extends on the subject! 

So after a lovely event with IIona and the ladies from Made in the Midlands  I headed back to the hotel for some much needed shut eye. 

After successfully navigating the tube network on the way down I was determined to do the same again, until I realised there were severe delays on the tube network so I ordered myself an Uber.

Well…. I managed to get a new Uber driver who didn’t know the area well and managed to miss Kings Cross Station twice!! I should have followed my own advice and got a local London taxi cab! However, as luck would have it my train was delayed by 10 minutes (otherwise I would have missed it) so I jumped on the 1st carriage I could find. 

So picture this, I am feeling rather hot and weighed down with luggage and still need to navigate from 1st class right through the train (which was moving at this point!) down to standard class at the other end.  However, my trip was clearly blessed, as a very nice conductor upgraded me to 1st class for a very reasonable price which meant I could work on the way back and arrive back in the office in record time feeling refreshed and ahead of the workload.  Result!


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Why we do What we do!

Excel Water Ltd was set up by Brian Field, he served his time at Vickers defence factory in Leeds known as Barnbow. Vickers manufactured tanks and were a munitions factory during the war who were known for producing some of the best quality engineers in the country.

He then went on to work for AE Turbines manufacturing parts for aeroplanes. His career then moved in a slightly different direction when he accepted a job as a water treatment engineer for Permutit. His time at Permutit was well spent and in the 8 years he was there he progressed from general servicing to design engineer as well as in charge of training other engineers.
Whilst working at Permutit, Brian could see a real gap in the market for the manufacture of demin plants so he decided to set up Excel Water to provide this service.

The first demin plants were called EX30’s, EX60 and EX120 (the number relation to resin bed volume). We sold lots of these over the next few years and gave us a real boost to getting us known in the industry. However we feel that the success of the company has been that we ensure customers needs are embedded into the core values here Excel Water Ltd. We don’t sell customers run of the mill, make it fit reverse osmosis, and demin systems, we are one of the very few water treatment companies that have the expertise to design and modify plant specifically for that customer, be it an issue with footprint, or additional monitoring equipment required, we spend time speaking with the customer making sure they get exactly what they need.

In the 24 years we have been established, we find that this practice pays dividends as 40% of our existing customers have been utilising our services for over 15 years, they trust in the knowledge of our engineers and the genuine qualities they have.

“We have used Excelwater for servicing and maintenance of our Demin plant for the last 5 years. The demin plant is a vital part of our manufacturing process so it is imperative that we have minimal down time. I’m happy to say that in 5 years we haven’t lost so much as an hours production through the demin plant. The plant produces a water quality of less than 1µ/cm which means we are able to supply our customers with a first class product. It would be great if all my other plant were as reliable as the demin plant and that my other contractors were as reliable as Excelwater are. An excellent product supported with excellent service levels. Top marks from Caldic”

We understand that the right quality water on our customers sites is critical to process, be it ensuring boilers are running efficiently with the use of soft water, or that toiletries products are free from sediment and minerals, or that glass is smear free, our customers want to make sure that their product is the best, and we want to help them to achieve this.

As with any company times change, Brian has since retired and handed over the reigns to his son and daughter. Emma Armitage, is the Managing Director responsible for driving the business into the next millennium, and Darren Field is the Engineering Director, responsible for ensuring the engineering knowledge and training is passed from generation to generation, with the recent addition of Brian’s grandson as one of our new apprentices, we really are keeping it in the family!.

The team here at Excel Water are always looking for new ways to assist our customers with any water related problems, and with the emphasis on businesses nowadays to be more ‘green’, we have taken this onboard and our reverse osmosis plants are designed to be more efficient with their reject water, and recycling modifications are incorporated into the design. We also help our customers with cost savings for water usage, be it introducing a borehole to site or a rainwater harvesting system, calculating cost savings against mains and designing the system required to treat the water to a potable standard. We are with our customers every step of the way and always will be.

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How things have changed in the water treatment industry

As in any industry times change! So, to stem my curiosity I decided to carry out an informal interview with one of our senior design engineers who has been in the industry for over 30 years to find out what the major changes have been and how he feels about them.

What was the industry like in the beginning and how did it evolve?

One of the major players was Houseman / Permutit, they were a UK company and started out on the banks of the Tyne making boiler chemicals for steam ships. They then sold Permutit off to Thames water and started their own pre-treatment branch to enable more independence. The old Permutit and Memcor guys were really well trained and scattered to the 4 winds and set up their own companies – Excel Water being one of them!

What was the first type of plant you worked on and built?

I was a marine engineer at the time on an auxiliary ship feeding bases in the Falkland Islands. The first  plant I worked on was a very basic sea water RO desalination plant, basically, you pumped water at the membrane until the skin blinded (looked like a tom tom drum off the Tarzan movies!) You then took the skin off and put it in a bucket of acid to descale the membrane. (this was very early 1980’s and I will show my age if I tell you when!!)

The old Brunner softeners were a nightmare to service though and the vessels were made from steel. These days vessels tend not to be made from steel anymore and resins have become more efficient so they don’t need changing as often.

I then moved to another company and was asked to build an RO for them, yes it was very over engineered as per the customers spec, but it is still going!

My designs have changed over the years and I now stick to the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid!) and the recovery rates on RO’s have improved greatly, 40% recovery was all the first ones could achieve and now I have been able to build 90% recovery systems due to modern membrane technology.

What do you think the biggest change in the industry has been over the space of your career?

Back in the early days the main plant you worked on were softeners and Demin plants. Softeners haven’t changed much apart from voltage. However, Demin plants have evolved but mainly in the controls aspects and our EX Power Demin plants at Excel Water that were designed by Brian are very impressive.

The industry shifted from Demin to RO because of health and safety and COSSH implications in the mid 90’s. However, prior to that Demin ruled! During the early 2000’s, effluent became a bigger issue so the focus seemed to change to Reverse Osmosis. Substantial changes in membrane technology such as ultra-filtration and the quality control aspect is a lot better nowadays which makes a difference.

I feel that there is a big skill gap in the water treatment industry, this is due to the intensive training sessions that were carried out in the early days, companies don’t offer this anymore. Because of this I dedicate time to carry out this training here at Excel Water.


Ultimately there is more competition online now with companies selling basic plant such as water softeners and RO’s off the shelf, which is giving the industry a bad name as systems are not always sized correctly. Also, people now want things instantly and don’t double check their water quality with a water analysis when buying online, this can cause problems further down the line.

In your opinion what do you think the future of the industry holds?

I feel that the future for the water treatment industry will move towards sea water de-salination as the population is growing and there is not enough fresh water.

90% recovery systems especially on larger sites will become preferable and grey water treatment solutions will become more sought after.

Membrane Bio reactors for effluent treatment

Boreholes are becoming a big thing due to cost saving, and the water authorities being privatised. This has probably caused the increase in boreholes being sunk over recent years.

In my opinion. there will always be a place for an expert engineer in the industry who knows what he is doing and has the experience to overcome issues and problems.

Interview with Ray O Leary, written by Suzanne Whitham – Excel Water Ltd

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60m3 per hour Borehole Project

Love it when a project gets started! A 60,000ltr per hour borehole treatment system, all parts have been delivered safely to site today ready for our engineers to install.  Full system includes  Venturi Enductors fitted to the bespoke 20m3 break tank, Grundfos Duplex Duty Standby Transfer Pumps, Self Cleaning Filter System and a Triplex Iron and Manganese Removal System.  Looking good guys, cant wait to see more pictures once installed! 

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