Hoping for measured change

How Krohne is planning to increase its share of the UK water market

The mighty calibration rig at Krohne's Dordrecht manufacturing and test facility can handle flowmwters upto 3,000mm

The mighty calibration rig at Krohne's Dordrecht manufacturing and test facility can handle flowmwters upto 3,000mm

Electromagnetic flowmeters are currently the meter of choice for the UK water industry. Versatility of application and installation and the fact they are unintrusive, coupled with improvements in accuracy, reliability and data transmission have all had a big effect on their adoption. In an industry where purchase cost often rules, however, a sharp decline in price throughout the 1990s has been instrumental in the success of magmeter technology.

The fact ABB Kent has been able to sell meters at a price acceptable to an industry which has been seeking to achieve major cost reductions ever since privatisation has been vital to the company's success. Manufacturers wishing to charge premium prices for flow measurement products were simply unable to compete, as rival supplier Krohne discovered. According to Peter West, the company's marketing manger, in the past the rigidity of Krohne's pricing structure has hindered market penetration in the UK. "Over the years we tended to go more for profit than volume. We have lots of products for the water industry, but we have got to get the prices right," he told WWT.

West sees the core strengths of Krohne's products as high standards of build quality which ensure robust, reliable meters with highly competitive whole life costs. The company has found, however, that quality alone is insufficient to win orders, and West believes it now has a better understanding of what water companies want. As an example he cites the two-wire meters used for specialist process applications. To reduce installation time and costs, the need to complete a two-wire connection has been replaced with a more straightforward plug-in connector.

With many framework agreements coming up for renewal during the next three to four years, Krohne will be presenting what it believes to be more attractive packages. Pricing is being reviewed, commissioning and maintenance services - which water companies are increasingly seeking as part of the deal - will also be offered. Service provision is likely to have a bias toward rapid replacement of failing meters rather than the undertaking of onsite repairs.

At Interkama 2001 in September, Krohne will be unveiling Magcheck, a new servicing tool. Magcheck is a portable, in-line flowmeter verification system which runs a functionality check on flowhead, converter and cables while the flowhead remains in-line. Buried flowmeters can be checked without excavation, and once the plug-and-play cables are connected verification is carried out automatically. Data processing is undertaken at a work station.

Magcheck is Windows 95, 98 and 2000 compatible, and meets ISO 9001. Verified accuracy is guaranteed to within ±1% of the original factory calibration - the system is compatible with all present converters and sensors.

As utilities renew frameworks, West is hopeful they will become increasingly willing to take into account the whole life cost of owning and operating flowmeters as well as purchase price. The pump market has already witnessed such a shift of emphasis, and whole life costing is an area in which West believes Krohne's meters can compete favourably.

Accuracy is another area Krohne perceives as a strength. At a production facility in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, meters are calibrated on what the company claims is the 'largest, most accurate flow calibration rig in the world'. Calibration range spans 18m3/h to 40,000m3/h with an accuracy of ±0.013%, the rig can calibrate flowmeters of up to 3,000mm. Every instrument leaving the factory is wet-calibrated by direct volume comparison, and supplied with an individual calibration certificate. The rig has received accreditation from the RVA, the Dutch council for accreditation, to calibrate on behalf of the NKO, the Dutch calibration organisation.

In response to an anticipated growth in demand for ultrasonic flowmeters, the Dordrecht site will soon have a dedicated ultrasonic meter production facility. Although demand in Europe is principally for magmeters, use of ultrasonic devices is likely to grow as resistance borne of problems with early installations are overcome and the price gap between the two technologies narrows.

According to Fredrich Hofmann, Krohne's product manager for both electromagnetic and ultrasonic flowmeters, the magmeter market is peaking with few new applications likely to emerge. As a pointer to the future of ultrasonics, however, Hofmann cites developing markets such as China, where demand is much greater than anticipated.


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