As a prominent and dominant force in the smart water metering industry, we speak to Kamstrup’s Country Manager and Vice President of North America, Bruce Bharat, about system solutions.
LEADERS IN WATER METERS
Founded in 1946, and with employees in more than 20 countries, Kamstrup is owned by Danish company OK.
A world-leading manufacturer of advanced, solid-state, or static ultrasonic metering solutions for water utilities, Kamstrup also delivers network communications and software solutions for the water industry.
“In North America, we are primarily focused on water; in Canada, we are also engaged in the heating and cooling meter market,” opens Bruce Bharat, Country Manager and Vice President of North America at Kamstrup.
Kamstrup’s origin story revolves around vision, innovation, and perseverance. Since Olaf Kamstrup embarked on his journey as a self-employed technician, the company has been driven by its late founder’s mantra – “there is always a better solution.
“To this day, those words drive our people as we pioneer advancements in smart metering solutions through our values – inspire, lead, and deliver,” Bharat continues.
Some pivotal moments have required bold decision-making in keeping with Kamstrup’s vision and values. In 1991, for example, when Kamstrup was a small, agile company amidst a sea of bigger, more successful industry giants, the decision was made to invest in new technology based on the ultrasonic measuring principle over 20 years earlier than any other incumbent water meter provider.
As an early adopter of static ultrasonic technology, Kamstrup left mechanical metering behind over 30 years ago. Today, the company dominates the water industry – delivering the most ultrasonic meters in the market.
“We are the only metering provider in North America exclusively offering a full line of static ultrasonic meters, from residential to large commercial and industrial.
“We are the company to watch in the water meter industry and are rapidly growing,” observes Bharat.
Kamstrup is widely considered one of the industry’s leading providers that helps utilities measure, manage, and analyze water consumption.
For decades, the water industry has been taught to manage and react. In contrast, Kamstrup has a different approach – it listens and learns.
“There is no such thing as innovation without understanding and empathy, and just like Olaf Kamstrup, we are relentless innovators,” reflects Bharat.
In the market, Kamstrup’s meters are an objective point of difference — their quality is unmatched. They are made of a composite material that resists cross-threading – this characteristic alone receives much attention.
“We also offer stainless steel options for customers concerned about ground shift. All of our commercial and industrial meters are stainless steel,” he adds.
Inside the meters and across its portfolio, Kamstrup embodies the future of water: focused, clean, and high-quality.
“In offering a portfolio exclusively focused on static meters, we offer only the future. We provide reliability, accuracy, and durability as we have the highest-quality meters in the water industry. Kamstrup’s return and customer satisfaction rates are unmatched,” outlines Bharat.
Indeed, Kamstrup’s state-of-the-art meters can identify leaks – known as “real losses” – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on both the consumer and distribution side thanks to integrated acoustic leak detection. In doing so, they enable utilities to “see” underground leaks within the distribution network, prioritize repairs, and help reduce the non-revenue water.
This is achieved simply by doing what water utilities have always done: installing meters without hardware or additional networks, like other commercially available solutions. It also adds a new, unique dimension to the traditional advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) business case, primarily focused on operational benefits, that help accelerate return on investment and create a more sustainable environment.
In one instance, a utility reduced water loss from 51 percent to 28 percent three months after deployment.
This was the case in Oneida, Tennessee, a testament to the company’s technology and the team’s commitment to drastically reducing water loss.
“The easiest way to change customer expectations is to demonstrate Kamstrup in action, to install a meter in the ground, in a house, or other application. Similarly, our customers are our best advocates. Their results and successes best explain the benefits we can offer,” Bharat highlights.
Along with moving to a new facility, the company’s third North American expansion project in 12 years, Kamstrup is celebrating a milestone project win. El Paso Water is installing Kamstrup’s AMI system and software with meter-integrated acoustic leak detection across more than 220,000 homes and businesses in El Paso, Texas.
“It’s our largest project to date. It is a win for Kamstrup, El Paso, and our distributor partner, Ferguson,” Bharat comments.
The project began with a pilot in which El Paso Water installed several hundred meters across the street from a competitor’s product – half of these were manufactured by Kamstrup.
“In a short period, it was clear that Kamstrup meters were measuring more accurately and pulling in more revenue than our competitors.
“Kamstrup’s solid state meter showed consistent and reliable performance. Kamstrup meters paid for themselves, and El Paso committed to a city-wide project in just over a year,” shares Bharat.
The project has many interesting aspects, but one of Bharat’s favorites is that Kamstrup was a uniting factor for the utility. In other words, Kamstrup meters delivered added value, satisfying concerns across the organization, from the meter shop to customer service teams, and from finance and operations to sustainability.
Some projects undertaken by Kamstrup have been more challenging, but the company has overcome many issues.
“I think about projects such as Milcrofton, Tennessee, where their legacy automatic meter reading (AMR) systems began to fail before they were expected to, increasing the operation cost to the utility. We brought in our product, and the crew’s first reaction was to dismiss it because it was different. They mistook our composite meter for plastic.
“The Milcrofton crew took one of our meters and tested it. They put a 24-inch pipe wrench on a vice with the meter and couldn’t misthread or break it. They admitted that the amount of torque applied would undoubtedly have damaged a brass meter,” Bharat declares.
Milcrofton went on to become Kamstrup’s first AMI customer in
Furthermore, Iredell County in North Carolina has a highly rural environment, which can be challenging for AMI technology.
“We were able to deploy the collector infrastructure to read meters remotely and cost-effectively, enabling Iredell Water to read meters across their entire 450-mile service territory at a success rate of over 98 percent,” Bharat divulges.
The revenue capture that Iredell Water received through low-flow accuracy with Kamstrup meters has delivered an increase of 10 million gallons from one year to the next.
“For nearly two decades, they carried mechanical meters and missed a lot of consumption.”
Additionally, a project in Jackson, Mississippi, presented challenges as the state capital was engaged in a lawsuit with a previous contractor over poor performance. Therefore, Jackson was thrust into a simultaneous financial and water crisis.
“They were losing significant amounts of water before delivery to citizens, the billing and receivables were at a low point, and the water quality was unstable, leaving the citizens of Jackson without safe, clean drinking water.
“Through our partnership with Sustainability Partners, we approached Jackson with MaaS, which enabled them to overhaul their infrastructure with no upfront capital investment or financial risk,” Bharat shares.
Jackson is now beginning to deliver safe, clean drinking water again, and receivables are increasing. Kamstrup technology helps the city restore trust and generate revenue through accurate metering. Its meter-integrated acoustic leak detection also helps locate leaks within Jackson’s distribution system.
INNOVATIVE METERING INFRASTRUCTURE
Not all AMI solutions are the same. Kamstrup has elevated what is possible with AMI by integrating measurement and detection capabilities with communications inside the meter.
“There is a reason why Kamstrup boasts more ultrasonic installations than our competitors – our meters simply outperform the competition. Once customers install our ultrasonic meter in the ground, they love the performance, quality, and fast return on investment.
“We are constantly innovating to deliver utility technology that meets their current needs and a solution that anticipates tomorrow’s operational demands. We are proud to be at the forefront of innovations and technological advances in the water industry,” prides Bharat.
One of Kamstrup’s standout technologies is the flowIQ® 2200, a groundbreaking solution redefining residential water metering. The ultrasonic meter features acoustic leak detection integrated into the meter, enabling utilities to monitor their distribution systems for leaks.
It also features best-in-class low-flow detection that measures even the most minor consumption below 1/10th of a gallon per minute. It is a vast improvement over mechanical meters and better than any available static meters.
“Our meters minimize the amount of water that goes undetected. The term we’ve coined in our business is, ‘life happens at 1/8th of a gallon’. Most meters in North America today will not capture water flow at such a low rate, where life happens,” he notes.
The meters have no moving parts, so the performance does not degrade over time. For utilities, such measurement sensitivity and durability can amount to significant, even transformational, revenue recovery.
The flowIQ® 2200 is the most accurate residential meter in the industry and the only one capable of listening bi-directionally, on the consumer and the distribution side, for leaks.
“In 2022, we extended all our ultrasonic meter and flow benefits to large six-to-12-inch commercial and industrial meters with the flowIQ® 4200 line. It combines the non-degrading accuracy and enhanced low-flow measurement of ultrasonic technology with a field-replaceable battery for easy maintenance to increase water revenues, maximizing the return on investment for water utilities.
“Kamstrup’s flowIQ® 4200 is designed for commercial and industrial applications, but the 10-inch version can detect a toilet flush! No other meter of that size can detect flows that low. With that type of low-flow capture in a large meter application, the return on investment is very rapid.” exclaims Bharat.
FACILITIES OF THE FUTURE
A new state-of-the-art, advanced manufacturing facility in Cumming, Georgia, complete with robotic automation, is on the horizon for Kamstrup. It will also house the company’s corporate offices, innovation center, and North American headquarters, which it moved into in mid-December 2023, with production slated to begin transitioning in early February.
When the transition to the new manufacturing facility is complete, Kamstrup will be the only water metering company manufacturing static meters inside the US. Most incumbents, even ones producing mechanical meters, have moved manufacturing operations outside of the country.
“We moved into our new manufacturing facility in December last year, and we will mark the occasion with a grand opening celebration planned for March 21st, 2024,” Bharat reveals.
The site totals over 150,000 square feet (sqft) and will be able to support over three million meters annually.
“We expect the first meters to come out of the new manufacturing facility in early February. We are excited about welcoming our partners, customers, and community leaders to the opening,” excites Bharat.
Moreover, regional expansion is already underway. Kamstrup boasts the largest AMI network deployment in Mexico and looks forward to delivering value to water utilities in Canada and the Caribbean.
Looking towards the future, Kamstrup continues building an unrivaled sales team and distribution network – focusing on small and mid-sized customers and explicitly centering on the larger water utilities in North America.
“We focus more on marketing and creating brand awareness around our innovative technology through targeted campaigns, content, and education. We love our utility customers and look forward to highlighting their success stories even more as we grow together.”
Kamstrup is helping many cities and utilities operate more efficiently, and it aims to educate communities, ensuring they can leverage the best water technologies in the marketplace and ultimately conserve more water.
“We are bringing our new facility online to manufacture more meters to serve our customers in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Optimizing our organization means we will continue to deliver better services and technology. Our product roadmap is exciting, and we are poised to add even more innovation and value to the market in 2024 and beyond,” Bharat closes.