From the Top: Q&A with Ian Barbour

What is your title and how long have you been with the business?

My name is Ian Barbour, and I am the general manager of Dow Water & Process Solutions and president of FilmTec Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company. I have been associated with Dow's water business for nine years.

How did you get started in this field? What is your background?

I joined the Liquid Separations business in July 2000. As a 27-year employee of The Dow Chemical Company, I have led various business initiatives, including the acquisition of OMEX Environmental Engineering in July 2006 in China and launching the Dow Water Solutions business in September 2006. My career has largely been based in the commercial arena with roles in sales, marketing, market research, and supply chain for several business units.

I was born in Pinetown, South Africa, attended school in the United Kingdom, and I hold a master's degree in psychology from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

What is your primary business?

The company is first and foremost an industrial water business but we sell into a wide spectrum of applications. Our products are used for the full spectrum of water and non-water treatment applications, including production of ultra pure water, home drinking water purification, sweetener processing and the purification of foods, pharmaceuticals, and other products.

The company's enabling-component technologies—reverse osmosis (RO) membrane elements, ion exchange (IX) resins, ultrafiltration (UF) and electrodeionization (EDI) modules and selective removal media—are in applications that produce clean water, such as seawater desalination, contaminant removal and industrial water reuse.

What is your business' greatest strength?

Our greatest strength is a commitment to providing solutions. World-class products and unparalleled expertise allow us to provide meaningful answers to customer challenges. Our products are consistently leaders in their categories and provide our customers with better overall system performance.

Who are your customers?

Original equipment manufacturers who design and manufacture water treatment systems are our primary customers. However, due to our expertise and commitment to providing industries with solutions—not just components—the company serves as an expert consultant to many organizations that install our membranes and components as parts of larger systems. This includes municipalities, desalination plants, power plants, and many other manufacturing facilities in the food, pharmaceutical, and electronics industries.

Does your business have any recent environmental certifications or awards?

FILMTEC reverse osmosis membrane elements are found at the largest desalination facility in the Southern Hemisphere, the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant in Australia. Run entirely by wind power, this desalination plant treats 144,000 m3 of seawater per day and has won several awards for its environmental stewardship.

What is your business' average revenue over 2006-2008?

The company has enjoyed double-digit growth over the past few years. With the addition of Rohm and Haas ion exchange resins to our portfolio, we are approaching $1 billion in annual revenue. We expect this growth to continue due to increasing demand for fresh water.

What makes your business different from others in this field?

Dow Water & Process Solutions offers the broadest portfolio of enabling components to the water purification and industrial processing industries.

The company's recent acquisition of Rohm & Haas is a major step in Dow's strategy of growing its performance products and specialty portfolio to deliver more consistent earnings growth. With this latest acquisition, Dow Water & Process Solutions is the world's largest RO and IX business and the only brand to offer both technologies.

These enabling-component technologies—RO membrane elements, IX resins, UF, and EDI modules and selective removal media—are hard at work in applications like seawater desalination, contaminant removal, and industrial water reuse to produce more than 9 million gallons of clean water each day. In the end, higher-performing products are good for business. Our quality components help our customers deliver better water quality, which enables our customers to expand their market share.

What are some of the opportunities you are pursuing?

R&D is at the heart of Dow Water & Process Solutions. We recently broke ground on a $15 million dollar technology center in Spain to improve our capabilities to offer our customers the latest products and services. This year, we acquired a robust process solutions business from Rohm and Haas, and we're very excited about the new opportunities that these non-water applications will bring. Instead of offering only ion exchange, we will be able to offer a broader array of potential solutions for these customers.

What kind of work is being at the Water Technology Development Center in Spain?

The center in Tarragona, Spain will include capabilities for application development and component testing and is designed to accelerate the commercialization of Dow's water treatment technologies, which help to enable the production of clean drinking water from various water sources, including seawater.

Does your business offer employee training related to environmental compliance?

Training is provided to employees and offered through multiple avenues within the business. Most of the regulatory compliance training is provided at a company level by country of impact, which is managed and delivered by The Dow Chemical Company's Regulatory Management Organization to key personnel within the business to ensure compliance. State and local regulatory training is typically managed by the business' manufacturing facilities involved and is support by the Regulatory Management Organization as well.

The Dow Chemical Company's Regulatory Management Organization offers key services, which are:

  • Knowledge of Environmental Health & Safety regulations to determine compliance requirements that affect Dow facilities.
  • Review services on projects/processes to ensure protection of health, the environment, and to minimize liabilities.
  • Regulatory Requirements Change Management including training on new requirements, internal auditing, and new regulation interpretations.

What are the tools you use to keep up with regulatory changes?

The internal Dow Regulatory Management Organization monitors, tracks, evaluates, and assists operations with the implementation of new and changing regulatory requirements. The business has members of this organization assigned to support each geographic area's compliance. The business uses a companywide Management of Change process to document and track regulatory changes and acknowledgements to these changes. As a business, we also use internal self assessment and auditing processes to maintain compliance.

Dow Water & Process Solutions also uses data systems to track, monitor, and document operation parameters as required specific to the each location's requirements. Instrumentation and control systems are in place, maintained, and monitored to confirm compliance.

What environmental regulations must your business comply with?

Our manufacturing facilities are subject to applicable air, chemical, water, and waste management regulations based on the geographic location of manufacture. In the United States, some of the environmental requirements include air emission permitting and plant discharge permitting, as well as, hazardous and non-hazardous waste generator, spill prevention, and safe chemical transportation requirements.

Do you manage the business in a sustainable way?

Dow Water & Process Solutions is deeply committed to local citizenship, product stewardship, and to reducing our impact on global ecosystems and use of natural resources.

In fact, our parent business, Dow Chemical, has an aggressive set of 2015 sustainability goals that we are helping to meet. These goals include energy use and greenhouse gas emissions reductions up to 75 percent, more efficient water use, and waste reduction.

Dow supports the UN Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. This vision is reflected in the company's sustainability goals—a public commitment to pursue solutions to the global water crises and other pressing world challenges.

To demonstrate our commitment to affordable, safe and sustainable water supplies, Dow is driving a 35 percent reduction in the cost of water reuse and desalination through component technology advances and business models for small water treatment systems in the developing world. We continuously improve Dow's own water use efficiency and catalyze awareness and action on the global safe water crisis through leading innovative partnerships with corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies.

Dow Water & Process Solutions recognizes that clean water is a precious resource, and we are actively pursuing water system optimization projects this year to reduce our water use at our facilities by up to 15 percent. Additional water use reduction goals are currently being defined for 2010.

What is your business's greatest challenge now?

Water is the single most important chemical compound for human life, and yet today, more than a billion people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. The world has the know-how and the ability to meet this global water challenge, and Dow Water & Process Solutions is committed to being part of the solution.

Water is also key to the operations of vital industries around the globe. Industry must responsibly and proactively manage its water use while creating economic growth to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource, and our technologies can and will help cost-effectively drive water reuse to enable industrial growth.

The attention on the water crisis is gradually shifting from a local level to a global level, which means more opportunity for a global business like Dow Water & Process Solutions to make a difference through our business practices and the solutions we offer.

Where do you see your business in the next five years?

The company is working aggressively to make solutions available in water-stressed parts of the world, making the undrinkable drinkable, and we continue to develop breakthrough technologies that will further this goal.

Technology alone isn't the answer, and we're proud to share a commitment to solving the global water issues with our parent, Dow Chemical Company, as well as non-profit organizations such as World Water Challenge and International Aid that are dedicated to bringing clean, safe water to sustain life and economic development in underserved parts of the world.

Fast Facts about Dow Water & Process Solutions

Brief history: Minnesota has been home to FilmTec Corporation since 1977. Dow acquired FilmTec in 1985.

Dow Water & Process Solutions was officially launched as a business unit of Advanced Materials in April 2009 with the close of the Rohm and Haas acquisition.

Headquarters: Edina, Minn., with offices in Spain, France, China, Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Employees: Approximately 1,500 people globally, with more than 750 supporting operations in Edina.

Products and solutions: In Ashkelon, Israel, 40,000 FilmTec elements purify enough water daily to provide approximately 15 percent of Israel's households with clean, safe water—enough to fill 35 Olympic swimming pools.

In conjunction with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, FilmTec membranes were installed at three water treatment facilities, helping the Chinese government meet its commitments to reach a wastewater reuse rate of 50 percent. These components help treat an estimated 45,000 m3 of water a day.

FilmTec membranes help to produce 25 million gallons of safe water per day at the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant in Florida, the largest of its kind in the United States.