My Year in Industry

We have a long history of working with Universities through collaborations, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and providing work placements for students to spend their year in industry with us. Our recent student- Shane Hopkins from Harper Adams University blogs about his experience with us.

DSC03114As part of my degree course at Harper Adams University I am required to do a year’s placement with an engineering company to get to grips with how a business works and how I can apply my course to the real world.

Even though my degree specialises in off-road vehicles, I liked the challenge of ARM and the scope of experience it could provide.

As the UK’s leading specialists in natural wastewater systems, I certainly took the plunge into the unknown but it has given me much needed experience.

My main role is in the research and development (R&D) department working on a method for cutting costs associated with the refurbishment of reed beds.  This has been extremely rewarding as I am helping pioneer new techniques and processes.

A main part of the research has involved exploring various methods of liquefying sludge, speaking to various companies for help in selection of equipment and how to best use it, putting together a method for judging whether a site is suitable for liquefying, and how to carry out the operation and processing anything left over.

Once fully developed, ARM will be able to make significant savings for clients who usually send sludge to landfill.

DSC03013In addition to R&D, my year in industry has provided me with experience working in all areas of the business, including design, construction and out in the field with the maintenance team.  Using CAD modelling software for rendering projects and drawing site plans, as well as ensuring a project site continues to operate and meet environmental consent has been part of the learning curve.

Although at university you are responsible for seeing your projects through from start to finish, it is different in the working environment and being able to tap into the team’s experience has enabled me to improve my project management skills and learn how to juggle multiple demands.

Working on my own project whilst helping on others has also improved my time management skills!

The variety of work I have been exposed to has provided insight into how a company works and what it is like to be involved in all the individual areas of a business.  This has helped me to understand what is being asked and what is needed.

As an insight into industry, I believe this experience will be invaluable and when complete, I will have developed a skill-set which can be easily transferred to my first step into full employment.

If you are interested in working at ARM as part of your Year in Industry, or working on one of our research projects as part of your Masters dissertation or PhD, please contact us.

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Our DNA

Tori SellersDirector, Tori Sellers talks about growing the business, our DNA and what makes us stand out from the rest.

Who are we? We started as an agricultural engineering company making agricultural equipment and then changed our focus completely into wastewater treatment. We’ve been in existence since 1947 but since the 80s, we have been purely focused on reed beds which are constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment. We are the UK’s largest reed bed and wetland designer and constructor with a commitment to research and development (R&D).

2013 was a fantastic year for us. We had our highest number of reed bed projects resulting in prestigious award wins. It makes you think, what makes ARM, well ARM? What are we doing right and what could we do better?

I started the company on a program last year called Growth Accelerator. It is a match-funding government program to deliver training and coaching with the aim of doubling your business. It’s being delivered through our established PR company Kinetic.

The first part of the program was very interesting. We had an internal session asking the team who are we and what makes ARM special? Through these sessions with the team, brain storming and pulling together the views of each department to understand how they see ARM, we came up with our DNA, our core, our business. How we all internally make the business a success and how we should be seen externally by you, our customers.

ARM is WIKA – World Class, Innovative, Knowledgeable and Adaptable.

We are widely known as the largest reed bed company in the UK, and also have partnerships in Spain, Denmark, France, South Africa and Australia (so far).

We are a founding member of Global Wetland Technology and the Constructed Wetland Association. We present our R&D findings to peers from across the globe at seminars and conferences. To us this is best practice but when you really think about it it’s a privileged position to be in.

Our innovations in wetlands are continual and ground breaking. Installing the first potable sludge treatment system in the world and bringing FBA aerated reed beds to the UK with over 30 systems installed so far. We are just about to start on another UK first with French partners Epur Nature.

If there’s one thing that’s key to our success, it’s knowledge. We have a process team who have unrivaled knowledge on all types of wastewater treatments.

You have to adapt to survive and we do. We adapt to new markets and new technologies, internally ensuring the skill levels are the highest they can be and we adjust to our customers’ needs.

So why are we in business? What makes us stand out? To pioneer innovations in natural wastewater treatment solutions and we stand out because we are always one step ahead. We do not know of any other company who will guarantee their systems removal rates.

Is this how you see ARM? Our corporate image is extremely important and we value your feedback. Get in touch with us through Facebook – ARM Group Ltd or Twitter – @ARMLtd.

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FP7 funding secured for Autonomous Reed Bed Installation – ARBI

Patrick Hawes

ARM Consultant, Patrick Hawes introduces the new FP7 project that ARM is involved in.

Last year ARM along with four other SMEs and two research establishments were successful in securing funding for an FP7 Research for SMEs led research project, funded by the Research Executive Agency within the European Union.

Starting in September last year, the Autonomous Reed Bed Installation project (ARBI) will run for two years. Primarily the project is investigating the capacity of magnetic resonance (MR) to detect levels of clogging within reed beds and subsequently to develop a suitable probe for use in-situ in the field. This would enable measurement and ongoing monitoring of the degree to which a reed bed is clogged and how this is affecting its performance.

The ability to predict clogging rates and effects on water treatment capability will enable reed bed operators to plan refurbishment strategies and forecast budget requirements more accurately.

The primary parameters that govern the microbial mechanisms of action within reed beds are oxygen transfer and temperature. The first can be controlled by using aerated systems and the latter through heating. Increasing either of these parameters will enhance microbial activity and hence treatment performance. Improving microbial activity, however, can also raise biomass levels and thus clogging rates within the bed.

The ARBI project is looking at using the data generated from the MR probe to adjust aeration and heating within the reed bed to optimise the clogging rate against water treatment requirements. The adjustment of effluent delivery point is also being reviewed.

The final element of the project is to focus on commercialisation of these elements in the form of a ‘pre-packaged’ reed bed in a container which can be linked to other similar units expanding treatment capacity. The ARBI systems could be hired or purchased for temporary or permanent treatment situations and maintained/operated under a service agreement depending on the particular client requirements.

The mobile and flexible nature of these systems would be most attractive to small industrial applications, temporary treatment scenarios or housing developments. Although the fundamental technology developed from the project could be applied to larger schemes also.

The four SMEs and two research establishments involved in the ARBI Project are:

ARM Ltd, UK – SME,
Lab Tools, UK – SME,
Lightmain, UK – SME,
Nottingham Trent University, UK – Research Establishment,
Oxyguard, Denmark – SME,
Technosam, Romania – SME
Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain – Research Establishment.

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Can we learn from AMP5?

Phil Hooson ARM LtdPhil Hooson, our new BDM discusses the transition from AMP5 to AMP6 and how it affects contractors to water companies.

With the switch from AMP5 to AMP6 now just over 12 months away, most companies and contractors working with water companies will be taking a sharp intake of breath in the hope that the transition is much smoother than it has been in the past.

As most of you will know, the water industry in England and Wales operates on a five-year cycle called Asset Management Plans (AMP’s).

Prices are set by Ofwat at the beginning of each period following submissions from each water company regarding the company’s overall strategy, implications for price limits and average bills as well as strategic objectives such as service performance and environmental outputs.

Historically, water companies have always indicated that they will award a similar level of work across the five year period but this has not always been the case. Most suppliers see a very quiet first year, a hectic year two, three and four with year five tailing off as the AMP starts to wind down and contracts are closed out or completed.

Whilst the above may not have a significant impact on the water companies or their shareholders, in the short-term it can certainly have a major impact on the companies and contractors supplying the industry.

Difficulties in managing the fluctuation of projects during the first year of an AMP has led to some companies cutting their staff numbers or switching to other market sectors to provide a much more consistent level of work.

However, the water companies are starting to appreciate that there are issues and a number of them have already started setting up their main contractor agreements well in advance of the next cycle so that they can ‘hit the ground running’.

At the same time they also appear to be staggering their framework agreements with equipment suppliers, thus ensuring that the frameworks do not necessarily start and finish in line with AMP periods.

In some cases the water companies are now looking to extend their framework agreements beyond the traditional five-year period to create a positive impact between one AMP cycle to the next.

Time will tell how smoothly we switch from AMP5 to AMP6 but we are all learning from the current cycle.

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Milestones in wastewater treatment

David CooperDavid Cooper, Managing Director of ARM discusses how the use of constructed wetlands has evolved to keep up with the demands of pollution control.

Where population densities are low, wastewater treatment facilities are crude at best and non–existent at worst. Where population densities are high, the facilities have to be a lot more formal and sophisticated.

The world of wastewater treatment is similar in many ways to other areas of human activity. Innovations and developments occur by fits and starts, sometimes driven by events and sometimes by man’s inherent instinct to try something different.

Since the turn of the 20th century we have seen a number of distinct periods in which domestic wastewater treatment has moved from sewage farms to sewage works. The latter consisting of separate components – primary removal of solids and some organic matter; secondary removal of biodegradable organic matter and suspended solids and finally tertiary removal of residual suspended solids.

These works were frequently configured as primary settlement tanks followed by trickling filters followed by humus tanks.

Towards the end of the 20th century a number of more compact solutions were developed where the three stages; primary, secondary and tertiary, were incorporated into one piece of equipment.  At the same time, we have seen the introduction of constructed wetlands or reed beds into the mix of proven technical solutions for wastewater treatment.

Once again we have seen innovation and development by fits and starts. The initial dominance of passive horizontal flow reed beds is now being overtaken by passive and active vertical flow reed beds.

Passive vertical flow reed beds are now being used to treat the sludge generated in conventional water and wastewater treatment works. They are also being used to treat raw sewage.

Active vertical flow reed beds are now being used to treat a wide range of industrial wastewaters such as airport run-off contaminated with de-icing agents and wastewaters generated by the oil and gas industries.

Constructed wetlands provide a wide range of removal mechanisms which can be harnessed to develop natural solutions for treating wastewaters generated by ‘fracking’ and wastewaters containing ‘emergent pollutants’ which stem from household products, personal care products, medicines, hormones, drugs, pesticides and much more.

On-going research and development in all wastewater treatment technologies will result in further changes in the future as it continues to meet the challenges created by emerging pollutants and regulatory requirements.

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