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Xylem Keeps Prestigious Pool Projects Afloat During Pandemic

Reliability, high operating efficiency and low maintenance costs are the top features sought by leisure centres for their pool pumping equipment. Such was the case when Xylem Water Solutions UK offered its chosen solution for a number of leisure centres being built across the UK during 2020, despite the pandemic.

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Xylem partnered with Stockport-based pool engineering firm FT Leisure to design pool pumping solutions for 18 new swimming pool centres being built across the UK this year, including learner pools, leisure waters and competition pools of all scales.

The coronavirus pandemic during this timeframe, however, presented unforeseen challenges. With the rapidly changing circumstances, regular communication with the client became more vital than ever and project management to overcome the many logistical hurdles saw a step change advance. The ‘new normal’, as society adjusts to a more regulated safety environment, has also meant a greater need for leisure facilities that meet strict hygiene standards – which Xylem’s products and extensive knowledge and expertise in the sector has proved more than able to guarantee.

The challenge

With FT Leisure delivering the pool water technology for high-profile new builds, like the £73m Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Smethwick, which will host the diving and swimming events for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Xylem had to design and deliver main pool pumping solutions for all 18 projects on time, and in compliance with the given specifications.

Characteristic of the smart operational management of Xylem’s high-profile construction partners, FT Leisure was seeking to streamline the way it worked by awarding the contract for a number of developments at the same time to drive efficiency and boost cost savings.

“As this major initiative took place during 2020, the level of potential disruption for each development was high,” says Kevin Loughman, Xylem’s Business Development Manager – OEM. “But the shared aim was clear from the outset: to work smarter and in close collaboration with FT Leisure’s project management team to ensure each project was delivered on time and met the stringent specifications.”

The solution

Working closely with FT Leisure, Xylem designed a bulk solution for all the required projects across 2020, which included approximately 58 end suction pumps, 74 booster pumps, 20 DIWA submersible sump pumps and 32 Magflux Flowmeters to meet the client’s requirements.

“The circulating pumps supplied had to offer maximum efficiency to ensure minimum running costs to the end-user,” says Kevin. “These pumps run 24 hours a day to ensure healthy pool turnover rates of approximately three hours for a 25m pool.”

In addition to cost, pump efficiency was a major consideration when it came to the tendering against leading competitors for FT Leisure’s 18 projects. In many cases, the market requires over 80% pump efficiency which Xylem is well placed to provide.

Kevin adds: “We differentiated from our competitors by offering more than just the pumps; due to our wide product portfolio, we were also able to offer other integral components, like the Magflux flowmeters and VSDs. But in this case, it wasn’t just about being a component supplier – there was the additional project support supplied beyond the pool plant room that added real value.”

The official order was received in November 2019 but each project was delivered separately throughout the following year. Juggling multiple sites across the country, with COVID-19 also thrown into the mix, led to several delays in which the scheduled arrival of equipment needed to be pushed back. Xylem introduced monthly project review meetings via videolink, to keep both the customer and Xylem’s team up-to-date. The teams were able to plan ahead through constant communication and project delivery timelines were adhered to.

“Prior to the pandemic, meetings had been more adhoc as both offices were close to each other, but during the lockdown period we realised it was imperative to formalise the process with regular project review meetings to constantly look ahead, anticipate and plan ahead, and work more smartly. It was vital from a project management perspective, in such exceptional circumstances and with a roll-out programme of this scale, that timelines and delivery targets were stuck to,” says Kevin. “That is where Xylem’s sector-leading knowledge comes to the fore, allowing our teams to accurately predict what was needed. Our order team in Axminster, Devon, were instrumental in liaising with the relevant factories to ensure delivery dates were met.”

The outcome

The new partnership will see the successful delivery of the pool plant needed across all sites by March 2021, with FT Leisure acknowledging the flexibility of Xylem’s team to meet their needs during a year of unprecedented changes.

Simon Whittingham, Managing Director of FT Leisure, says: “We made the decision to work smarter and more efficiently with our recent contracts, so we took a different approach by inviting tenders in late 2019 for each component package for 18 upcoming new builds.

“As well as the clear cost benefits, it allowed us to build on the new relationship that we had developed with Kevin at Xylem.

“Xylem were able to bring everything we needed together and more, not only in terms of the products but also the service and support that was offered, which far exceeded our expectations. As a team, we were able to have confidence that we were in safe hands, with the project being reviewed regularly to make sure each separate part was on track. This avoided any further delays when there had been unavoidable hold-ups on site.

“Xylem’s communication with our colleagues was clear throughout which helped everyone to understand the next goal and how (and when) to reach it. The partnership has been a great success, thanks to the extra effort put in during what could have been a stressful time for all.”

Kevin adds: “The approach taken on this project – to have a clear pipeline of work and to work more closely in partnership with our client – had maximum benefits on both sides.

“Here at Xylem, we value this more holistic view of solving water and this was reflected by our mode of working in close partnership with the client to offer a complete solution and full national roll-out on time and well within budget.”

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