From The Pipeline: The Power of the Pandemic On Water – After All is Changed, We Will Meet Again

the pipeline - SWWA

This article from The Pipeline was reproduced in part with permission from the SWWA. To read it in its entirety, please see the link at the bottom of this page.

We share this excerpt with you because our own Bryan Lastwika contributed his thoughts on some of what Pro-Line Fittings did to face the new challenge of COVID in the waterworks landscape. – The Pro-Line Fittings Team

It’s hard to believe that an entire year and a few months have whipped by without a conference to bring all of us happily together. The province of Saskatchewan is slowly opening back up and we are all crossing our fingers that we do not have to endure another pandemic wave. Not only have all of our lives changed with regards to new ways and new environments, but some of us have also become more introverted whether we intended to or not. Our work and home lives have transitioned, some for the better, some for worse and for some it is much different.

As November sneaks up on us, we are anticipating meeting again in Saskatoon for our SWWA conference and most are optimistic that we will let our hair down and dance like we never have before! To realize we have taken for granted that we once sat side by each in chairs, listening to speakers and instructors on stage, seems a bit of a distant memory. This year, many of us participated in other virtual conferences trying to do the best we can with social distancing and technology.

The question now is, how will things be in the new normal moving forward for all of us and in the water industry?

Do you recall the first 1-2 months when you would observe the dry and cracking hands of others due to the amount of sanitizer being used and the news reports about the number of new cases in every region within Canada and the world? Some feared going outside of their homes, let alone being concerned of a toilet paper shortage! For myself, I will remember the week when the pandemic was announced in Banff, Alberta during the Alberta Water and Wastewater Operators conference. The banquet was cancelled within one day and not only shocked the attendees but the Banff Park Lodge that had prepared meals for the conference finale. All of a sudden, our lives transitioned, children were home from school and we all had to manage whether single, married, with or without kids and pets. Then came the news and all the reports.

What made this more challenging was the fact that each province seemed to have different COVID-19 protocols and stay at home orders in addition to rules around social gatherings, sports, and recreation. Celebrating events such as weddings or even properly mourning with our loved ones for those who had passed away was near impossible. Fast forward to this week we are navigating people’s choices and taking one of 3 vaccines to protect our workplaces and the other people we are around taking one of three vaccines to protect our workplaces and the people we are around in addition to ourselves.

Let’s talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our water and wastewater industry within the province of Saskatchewan and within Canada.

As a person in a business development and sales position within the water industry, it is evident that many of us have limited our travel or we only travel as essential services. Who would have thought we would be operating with no sales calls to vendors and much less face to face meetings? “Now we are only conducting sales calls primarily on request, whether this is a condition of upset, crisis or troubleshooting. Screen time for our employees is up 80% vs how sales roles operated before the pandemic” says Kelly Franks, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Klearwater Equipment and Technologies. Personally, I agree with Franks. One unexpected benefit of video calls has been that I have come to know my colleagues and customers on a deeper level. I have met their families and pets spontaneously from their home computers and have more virtual time with many individuals versus awaiting the next time we can be in person. As Franks and I discussed his children and how we have become more techy in this era, he brought up the importance of social media for companies to have a presence within our industry on sites such as LinkedIn.

Companies such as Pro-Line Fittings, have taken advantage of this time to focus on building an online presence. They created company videos to demonstrate to the industry, what they do in the business of water. A positive byproduct was being able to personally introduce members of their team. “We have expanded our online offering and become more creative to generate content for LinkedIn, gaining more exposure through social media as we have way less one-on-one time” says Bryan Lastwika, Sales Manager of Pro-Line Fittings. “It was a way to generate more face-to-face time with our product line and our people, given the fact that we cannot attend conferences and do in-person sales calls as we did previously.” The video content that featured on their social media, was aired as a special event for World-Wide Water Day. They had 100 unique viewers at its peak and has now been viewed and shared by many times that when this article was written. “We relied on people, mainly our existing contacts and people we know. The ability to see new people is limited and having new business development discussions are missed. New hires are also harder to connect with.” says Lastwika.

If you rewound our lives to early March 2020, we would never imagine that we would endure economic changes such as lumber shortages and a surreal real estate demand in some areas. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on just about every industry — sticking a wrench into the normal forces of supply and demand — and lumber is a prime example. When the pandemic hit, many lumbermills closed and the real estate industry never anticipated the growth we’ve seen in this downturn and that growth hasn’t abated yet.

Within our water industry we are all being impacted by the cost of pipe due to resin shortages extended lead times and an international chip shortage caused by the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was then exacerbated by the three day blockage of the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade routes. 13,000 containers were halted, and many other boats redirected. […]

Keesha Dorosz
Western Regional Account Manager Smart Water Solutions at KTI Limited / Sensus

Read the full article below.

The Pipeline – Summer 2021

Visit Saskatchewan Water & Wastewater Association (SWWA)