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SIEMENS WATER TECHNOLOGIES

Global Technology, Local Business?

Siemens Water Technologies (SWT), part of Siemens AG (Germany), is a leading water and wastewater treatment company in Canada, US, Middle East and Asia. 2009 saw the introduction in the European market of a new technology, Cannibal, based on state-of-the-art propositions for sludge (bio-solid) reduction in wastewater treatment systems. SWT’s purpose is to consolidate Europe as an attractive technology hub of high standards and advanced studies in water treatment and sewage disposal.

The challenge for Siemens resides in Europe being a much national diverse whole of wastewater treatment policies and regulations, recently brought together under the EU Water Framework Directive, with the intention of building a common playground for the supply of clean and safe water. The Cannibal technology consists of biomass processes where sludge is first treated with facultative bacteria, then processed by anaerobic bacteria. The result of this practice, not yet entirely understood academically – the exact biological mechanisms behind the Cannibal process are in fact not known -, is an easier disposal and greater reduction of sludge waste.
However it raises divergent opinions about its efficacy and acceptance in Europe with respect to more conventional technologies regarding the management and disposal of sludge (i.e. incineration, use of sludge as fertilizer, etc). SWT is facing the question how to optimize the cross-border benefits of adopting the Cannibal technology, while penetrating the European market. Being active in Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands, the next step would be entering the UK market. A fundamental tension to manage for SWT is the question of standardizing the Cannibal sludge reduction proposition to reap the benefits of globalization, or take a customized country-by-country approach to cater for – and benefit from – the local needs and circumstances in the different national settings of Europe.

Keywords: strategy, global standardization, local adaptation, waste water treatment.