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CWJJ Episode 85: AGA Live: Hydromax USA

CWJJ Episode 85: AGA Live: Hydromax USA

Monday, November 1- On this special episode, Jim and James take a visit to the Hydromax USA booth while attending #AGAOPS21.

Quick Links:

Hydromax USA on Linkedin

Episode Transcript

 [0:00] background music] [0:00]

Jim Schauer:  [0:19] Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to this riveting and exciting episode of “Coffee with Jim & James,” live from the AGA Orlando. James, are you excited to be here at the Hydromax USA, too? [0:00]

James Cross:  [0:30] I am. I am. [0:00]

Jim:  [0:32] I am too. [0:00]

James:  [0:33] Excited to meet these guys. We have some awesome guests today. We’re gonna let y’all do the intros. If we do it, we’ll screw it up. [0:00]

Jim:  [0:39] Yep, we will. [0:00]

David Stiger:  [0:41] I’ll go ahead and start. My name’s David Stiger and I am vice president of gas operations at Hyrdromax USA, so all of our gas teams across the United States, watching them day‑to‑day. [0:00]

Mark Congdon:  [0:56] Thanks. Mark Congdon, vice president of new product development? I look after new products that become available. That’s one of the great things about being at AGA, all kinds of new products, new hardware, new software, new potential partners, all kinds of great stuff. [0:00]

John Chapman:  [1:09] My name’s John Chapman. I’m the senior vice president of sales and business development for Hydromax out of beautiful Atlanta, Georgia, area. [0:00]

James:  [1:16] Guys, it’s AGA week. We’ve been waiting for it, can tell our big sponsor here… [0:00]

Jim:  [1:23] Huge space. [0:00]

James:  [1:23] space. [0:00]

Jim:  [1:24] This is unbelievable. [0:00]

James:  [1:25] Thanks for letting us be here. Tell us a little bit of what it’s been like being back here at AGA, being here, rubbing elbows with folks, just fellowship. What’s it been like? [0:00]

John:  [1:37] We’re so excited to be here back in person and to see our old friends and colleagues. And, for me, this event’s always been about collaboration. So some of the best ideas are cooked up, and we’re able to get together and solve problems as an industry. And I think I’ve seen a lot of that going on at this week. [0:00]

James:  [1:52] We’ve heard that a lot. We’ve had a bunch of people over at the booth, actually on the podcast saying that same thing, collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. [0:00]

Mark:  [2:01] Oh yeah. Well, and with the pandemic, we haven’t seen people in a long time. So there’s people that we’ve been talking to for years but we never met in person. And now we get a chance to meet them. And so it’s been, yeah, that collaboration, meeting with people, it’s been great. [0:00]

David:  [2:12] Yeah, done a lot of the webinars since the pandemic started and there’s a different environment when you get to actually go and have a Q&A after the technical presentation, talk to the presenter. So I’ve really appreciated being able to go back up… [0:00] [[2:26] crosstalk] [0:00]

James:  [2:26] Actually, for me, it’s telling jokes. [0:00] [[2:28] laughter] [0:00]

James:  [2:31] Nobody’s there to laugh on the other end. You don’t know if they’re there. I always say it must be what Jim feels like. [0:00]

Jim:  [2:35] Cause nobody laughs at my jokes anyway, so I’m used to it. You know, that’s why I’m so shy, timid, and reserved. Anyways… [0:00] [0:00] [

James:  [2:41] laughs] [0:00]

Jim:  [2:41] we’ll leave that alone right now. Gentlemen, let’s just pretend I’m walking right through the exhibit hall for the first time and I come across a Hydromax USA booth. And I walk in and I say, “Tell me a little bit about you,” or, “What’s new in your world?” What’s, what’s, what would you want to tell me if this was my first time in the booth? [0:00]

David:  [3:01] Yeah, great. Well, we are still committed to our cost monitoring survey programs. And we’re constantly trying to innovate to make sure that we can reduce risk across both of those business lines for us. But the new thing for us has been a project called UtilAlert, got a booth right behind our camera here. [0:00] [3:17] UtilAlert is a real‑time excavation monitoring system. So essentially it goes on an excavator, and then it can warn the excavator operator if they’re going to encroach on a high‑risk gas line in real time. [0:00] [3:29] Then it can also notify the dirty team at the the utility. It can notify the owner of the excavator that they’re digging near a high‑risk asset. And so it gives kind of 360 real‑time visibility to any potential risk for excavation. [0:00]

Jim:  [3:41] What a great safety measure. That’s… [0:00]

James:  [3:43] Huge. [0:00]

Jim:  [3:43] That’s phenomenal. [0:00]

David:  [3:43] Give a shout‑out to GTI and OTB because it came out of a research project GTI OTB and, you know, they brought it to… [0:00]

James:  [3:50] Shout out. [0:00]

David:  [3:51] its original form, and we’re taking it from there. [0:00]

Jim:  [3:54] That’s great. Anything else you gentlemen want to add if I was up first‑time person in the booth? [0:00]

John:  [3:58] Well, for us, it’s all about digitalization of processes. Our founder had a difficult realization early on. What we do is too important to miss. Anything that we do, we have to do it right. We have to do it 100 percent. [0:00]

Jim:  [4:12] OK. [0:00]

John:  [4:12] And so we started early on digitalizing all of our processes so we can track, trace, and analyze every step of every job we perform. And so our focus is very intense on that particular subject. [0:00]

James:  [4:25] I know you’re in environmental You’re going to jump on the environment, [inaudible] a second ago. [0:00]

Jim:  [4:30] Yeah, so two things I wanted, that, that tracing and tractability. Let’s hit that in a few minutes because that’s a very big hot button. But speaking of hot buttons, you mentioned environmental, sustainability, items like that. Bring us into that world that you’re living in every day and what Hydromax USA is doing about that. [0:00]

John:  [4:47] Well, other than safety, sustainability is really one of the core pillars that everything we do a Hydromax USA is built upon. Things are changing. You know, our industry, our natural gas industry, our license to operate isn’t guaranteed, right? There’s, there’s a lot of threats. [0:00] [5:02] We see constantly in the papers and in the news that towns are eliminating the ability to install new natural gas service, both residential and commercial. We’ve got to be cleaner. We’ve got to be more sustainable. We’ve got to be more efficient. [0:00] [5:15] And so, especially with ESG being such a hot topic right now, sustainable investing, even our bottom lines can be hit if we don’t do the right thing when it comes to reducing fugitive emissions when producing greenhouse gas emissions. [0:00] [5:29] So the entire Hydromax USA portfolio, it’s kind of built around, again, safety and sustainability. David mentions our new focus now, beyond cross bore inspections and leak survey, we’re talking about damage prevention. Why, what’s that got to do with sustainability, right? [0:00] [5:45] Well, the EPA has recently commented that, that up to 60 percent of all fugitive emissions come from dig‑ins and damages. These super‑emitters are blowing gas everywhere. So we’re going to try to figure out how to stop that with our customer partners. How can we eliminate those dig‑ins together with solutions like real‑time excavation monitoring and others? [0:00] [6:03] Yeah, sustainability, when we do a leak survey, we’re going to make sure that we don’t miss any leaks. No leaks left behind. And we track, trace, and analyze every step of every job we perform. [0:00]

James:  [6:14] You see me geeking out. [0:00] [[6:16] laughter] [0:00]

Jim:  [6:16] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. [0:00]

James:  [6:18] So my background before this was technology. So I know you’re all great on the, big on data collections, especially in that leak survey realm. Tell me a little bit about that, [inaudible]. [0:00]

Mark:  [6:19] Yeah, that a great question. You know, we go to great pains to make sure that when we collect data, we collect it in that digital format, right? We digitize that data. We [inaudible] GPS. We take in, you know, methane measurements to every breadcrumb that we collect. [0:00] [6:43] We do that because once that data is collected, now you can do something with it. So it’s actually on the screen behind you. When you, when those leaks are found and you have that geospatial element to all your data, that’s when the fun begins because now you can start to analyze that, right? [0:00] [6:57] You can do queries on your, on your GIS database. And you can see, “Hey, where are those leaks? Do we have any trends? And do those trends correlate to an installation date, an installation method, a material, whatever it is?” Previously, all that data was hidden in stacks of paper maps. [0:00] [7:13] That’s no longer the case. It’s now right in front of you. And you can sort and peel that data wherever you want. So now that, all that extra effort you made to collect that when you were out there bears fruit in a big way with, when you have tools like that, a dashboard you can really look at, analyze. [0:00]

Jim:  [7:27] That’s powerful. [0:00]

James:  [7:28] It’s super important. [0:00]

Mark:  [7:29] Yeah. [0:00]

James:  [7:29] Data’s super important. But on the backside of that, they don’t know. We, we hear a lot about AI, artificial intelligence. [0:00]

Jim:  [7:40] Yes. [0:00] [[7:40] background announcements] [0:00] [0:00] [

David:  [7:40] laughs] [0:00]

James:  [7:40] Welcome to AGA. [0:00]

Mark:  [7:40] Yeah. [0:00] [0:00] [

David:  [7:40] laughs] [0:00]

James:  [7:40] It’s part of the experience. [0:00]

David:  [7:40] Yeah. [0:00]

James:  [7:40] But AI’s very important. It’s something that, that, it’s important. Can y’all bring us in a little bit on that? Especially Jim. [0:00]

Jim:  [7:40] Yes. I’m a novice. [0:00]

David:  [7:40] Yeah, yeah. [0:00] [[7:40] crosstalk] [0:00]

David:  [7:40] Yeah, absolutely. So I recently read a book, Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” And he talked about valuable companies of the future are going to be companies that use computers to empower people to solve really hard problems. [0:00]

James:  [8:09] Wow. [0:00]

David:  [8:10] That’s what Hydromax USA believes in. We have machine learning algorithms that, they don’t replace the human element, but they make the human way more efficient at massive data set, you know, QC processing. So we use QC algorithms to enable with machine, with machine vision for cross‑bore analysis and for leak analysis. [0:00] [8:31] Because when the technician is walking and collecting parts‑per‑million breadcrumbs at every single point, if they walk past something because they didn’t hear the alarm, that the announcer went off, the car horn went off, or whatever it may have been, now we can catch it programmatically. So you… [0:00]

James:  [8:44] That’s what I was going to ask. [0:00]

David:  [8:45] get rid of it. [0:00]

James:  [8:46] You know, as an end user, what do they see? You know, because they ask things like, you know, the Black Box behind the scenes that you don’t really know. But the way it’s translated to the user, whoever that might be, that’s [inaudible], right? [0:00]

David:  [8:58] Exactly. [0:00]

James:  [8:58] How can you make them better as well? [0:00]

David:  [9:00] Yeah. [0:00]

John:  [9:01] I like to think of digital transformation in, in the terms of the four Ps. So I think in the next few years, everyone’s going to be able to present. You’re going to hear a lot of folks talk about breadcrumbs. We’re going to present the first P. [0:00] [9:11] At Hydromax USA, we’re really focused on the next three. We want to prescribe, want to use machine learning? Want to use artificial intelligence to prescribe thoughtful follow‑up actions, actionable insights, if you will. We want to predict. We want to find out what happens next. [0:00] [9:27] Artificial intelligence needs to tell us, based on these models, what could happen if things continue on the way they are now. And finally, then, the fourth and most important P is prevent. We want to prevent incidents before they even have a chance of… [0:00] [[9:39] crosstalk] [0:00]

David:  [9:39] Yep. [0:00]

Jim:  [9:39] That’s fantastic. [0:00]

James:  [9:39] We’re passionate about damage prevention. [0:00]

Jim:  [9:39] We are. [0:00]

James:  [9:39] Our business is to make the world a safer place to work. [0:00]

Jim:  [9:39] Yeah. [0:00]

James:  [9:39] And for us, that starts with damage prevention. Guys… [0:00]

Jim:  [9:51] I’d like to wrap it up. I have one little, we usually do a funny question at the end. In this case, let’s keep it AGA related. [0:00]

James:  [9:57] It’s AGA. [0:00]

Jim:  [9:57] It’s AGA week and we’re here and we’re live. One word to describe your experience being here at AGA. [0:00] [[9:57] crosstalk] [0:00]

Jim:  [9:57] Yes, absolutely. We’ll bend the rules. [0:00]

Mark:  [10:10] Wow. [0:00]

Jim:  [10:10] One word to describe your week here, G‑rated. [0:00] [[10:11] laughter] [0:00]

David:  [10:11] Wow. Well, now you’ve got that caveat in there. OK, one word. Illuminating. [0:00]

Jim:  [10:11] Ooh, that was a good one. Wow. [0:00]

Mark:  [10:11] I’ll stay on the I theme. I was going to say intriguing. I’m just intrigued by all the great solutions and tools that are out there that us and others bring to, you know, to help, to really help this industry. [0:00]

John:  [10:32] I like, I like things that are easy to remember because I forget a lot. So I’m going to stick with the I, yeah. [0:00] [[10:35] crosstalk] [0:00]

James:  [10:35] that one, too. [0:00]

John:  [10:35] innovation. [0:00] [[10:35] crosstalk] [0:00]

Jim:  [10:37] I usually buck the system. [0:00] [[10:41] laughter] [0:00]

Jim:  [10:41] So I’m going to go with an F word, easy out there, friends. This has been a week friends. And that’s my word for the week. I know you’re a little nervous, yep. [0:00]

James:  [10:53] I’ll go with inspired. And I was going to say that before you all went with the Is. I’ll say, walking around this hall, unlike other shows I’ve been to, it’s like we had two years off to really get our lives together… [0:00] [0:00] [

David:  [11:04] laughs] [0:00]

James:  [11:04] and then put it out. And there’s so much innovation and everything out there. And everyone’s so proud of what they’ve built over the last couple years. I love seeing that this week. [0:00]

David:  [11:15] Yeah. [0:00]

Jim:  [11:16] Absolutely. [0:00]

James:  [11:17] And I love being here with you… [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] Absolutely. [0:00]

James:  [11:17] Thank y’all for having us. [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] Yeah, thank you. [0:00]

John:  [11:17] Appreciate it. [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] Thank you, gentlemen and everybody that’s behind the scenes. All Hydromax USA… [0:00]

James:  [11:17] All 70,000. [0:00] [[11:17] applause] [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] that are out there, thank you for making this happen. Until next time on Coffee with Jim & James, James and I want to say a special thank you to everybody. And as we always say, what do we always say? Stay safe. [0:00]

James:  [11:17] Stay safe. [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] So… [0:00]

James:  [11:17] Bye, everybody. [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] until next week. [0:00]

Mark:  [11:17] Thank you. [0:00]

John:  [11:17] Thank you. [0:00]

Jim:  [11:17] Thank you. [0:00] [[11:17] applause] [0:00]

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