By Brad Smith | Nov 07, 2016
Founded: RK Water, a business division of RK, was created in 2012. RK was formed in 1965.
Industry: Industrial & Equipment
Products: Water filtration and technology
Its parent company is family-owned RK of Denver, founded more than 50 years ago and now one of the largest building contractors in the West with more than 1,350 employees. RK Water, just four years old, is one of seven business units and focuses on water treatment services and manufacturing. The division specializes in industrial water conditioning for steam boilers and open-condenser and closed-loop systems, including cooling tower maintenance and filtration system installations. It has started offering groundwater treatment for construction sites as well as laboratory water analysis.
The unit is run by Vice President Jeff Gucker, who says RK Water helps its customers with the latest, often cutting-edge, technology. As its customers grow, so will RK Water. "In some cases we can represent the product as well," Gucker says. "We have an opportunity to push their product and find applications for their use."
An example is RK Water's first customer, the Silver Bullet Corp. of Denver. RK started manufacturing Silver Bullet Water Treatment equipment in 2012, the same year the patented technology won a Best Venture Award from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The equipment uses an innovative oxidation process instead of traditional water treatment chemicals for industrial cooling towers. The system, certified as an Advanced Oxidation Process, kills dangerous bacteria like Legionella while also conserving water and electricity.
The Silver Bullet technology and equipment also is in the second year of a Green Proving Ground study conducted by the National Water Quality Laboratory in Lakewood, Colorado. Gucker expects the test, which would approve the system for use in government facilities, will be completed in 2017. It's already in use globally, including at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Oxford Hotel in Denver, and NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex near Colorado Springs.
A more recent customer is Ocean Motion International (OMI) of Littleton, Co., which was selected by the DOE to compete in the department's $2 million Wave Energy Prize program. OMI's patented technology uses the energy created by ocean waves to produce low-cost drinking water, electricity, and hydrogen fuel.
"We're manufacturing a prototype vessel that uses ocean wave action to hydraulically pump seawater to a turbine for desalinization systems," Gucker says. That prototype, which RK helped OMI develop and manufacture, will be used in the DoE's competition.
Gucker says customers typically bring their ideas and ask RK Water to help guide them through product development and commercialization. "We spend a lot of time developing the product and helping develop the strategy. That is big leap from traditional manufacturing," he says, adding that his unit assists in development and commercialization from start to finish.
RK Water also is the exclusive, custom manufacturer of Water Ion Technologies (WIT) products, which use electromagnetic reactor cells to convert water into a stable gaseous form of water called SG Gas. WIT can be used in water purification, hydroponics, holistic health, wound care, and even cosmetics. The technology has been licensed by RK, AquaNew, Florida Integrative Medical Center, and Sarasota Medical Products.
When SG Gas is infused back into liquid water it creates polarized water, which the company, based in Sarasota, Fla., says is the best ingredient to enhance products for health-conscious food, beverages, cosmetics, and nutraceutical formulations. The WIT machines carry a use license from WIT plus a service and maintenance agreement with RK Water.
RK Water's parent, RK, expects to add several hundred employees in the coming year. Gucker doesn't expect a big employee surge in his division. "I would love to say we will add a bunch in Water but we're waiting for the manufacturing customers to get their big hit," he says. "I think it will happen."
Gucker says all the division's products and services now have something to do with water treatment, purification or water for energy. But, he says, "that doesn't mean that is all we can do, only that those products have sought us out."
Challenges: RK Water's future is tied to emerging products from its customers, so Gucker says the biggest challenge for his division is being patient and "waiting for their products to start to take off. We're manufacturing not for mature companies but for upstart companies that take some time to emerge in their market. When that happens our business will blossom. As their business succeeds, so does RK Water."
Opportunities: The challenge also creates the opportunity because as RK Water's customers grow, so does RK Water. "The reward is partnering with these smart, innovative green technologies. Our opportunity is that as their business grows we can expand our business. In some cases we can represent the product as well." Gucker says there is a growing, worldwide need for water purification, especially for green technological advances.
Needs: Gucker has two things on his wish list: First, a wider acceptance by the commercial water and water treatment industries of green and sustainable technologies like the ones RK Water develops, and, second, broader exposure of its products, especially through its product development and commercialization services.