Customer-centric innovation, more value and new market niches: How one Canadian manufacturer is innovating for continued growth

Oct 15, 2015 | Client Stories

ProMinent Fluid Controls Ltd. is in an enviable position for a Canadian manufacturing company, posting steady year-over-year growth as a top producer of components and systems for chemical injection and water treatment in the oil and gas, mining and chemical industries.

But the subsidiary of Germany-based ProMinent GmbH isn’t prepared to rest on its laurels and content itself with the pace of organic growth in the markets it already dominates for pumps, disinfection monitoring and controls equipment.

Instead, Guelph-based ProMinent is pursuing an ambitious growth agenda based on localized, customer-centric innovation that aims to deliver more value and tap into new market niches and sectors.

“We’re the ones with a target on our back, so we need to innovate,” says Walter Schajnoha, ProMinent’s Systems Business Development Manager. “For us the question is, how are we going to access new clients or markets and how are we going to increase the value associated with what we’re currently doing, so we create barriers to entry for competitors?”

For help answering that question, ProMinent turned to Innovation Guelph’s Fast Lane program and industry specialist Jeff Campbell, who helps companies identify and establish target markets, acquire customers and achieve product and market fit and growth.

They looked at different markets, access to markets and the potential for finding proof-of-concept partners for new adaptations of existing ProMinent technologies.

A key focus was on high-end water treatment and disinfection products that can be packaged or “modularized” as complete solutions to address specific customer needs.

The first target was the mining industry for ProMinent’s polymer flocculation technology, which removes contaminants and impurities from water. It proved a tough sell “so we took a step back and applied it to oil and gas,” Schajnoha says.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) now has three ProMinent polymer flocculation systems in place a central processing facility in Alberta to remove sand and other impurities from oil.

“We’ve shown we can bring the entire solution directly from Guelph, drop it in place with limited involvement from a third-party contractor to get the system up and running faster than before,” Schajnoha says. “We know all the pieces are compatible and we can provide more value at a lower net cost to the customer.”

ProMinent is also promoting its polymer flood technology to help oil companies increase production from existing oil wells, along with a preparation station for producing polymer (polyacrylamide).

Delivering a complete solution instead of piecemeal components means building new direct relationships with end-users and bypassing the standard engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) approach, in which ProMinent components would normally be specified, assembled and installed by a number of third-party contractors.

The CNRL deal also serves as a “beachhead” or “lighthouse opportunity” to demonstrate the merits of the solution, says Campbell.

“There’s a big difference between ProMinent’s traditional go-to-market strategy for a new meter pump like our Gamma X, which succeeds our Delta pump and is targeted at clients that already recognize us as a leader, and launching a new system into a new market segment where we’re not yet seen as a market leader, Schajnoha explains.

“We’ve learned through Innovation Guelph that you need to go through a prelaunch process where your principle objective is finding the beachhead or the lighthouse customer – like CNRL in Alberta – that can serve as white paper references. We’re building momentum through those white paper references to provide proof of the ROI associated with the technology, ultimately driving costs down to keep Canadian companies competitive in the global economy.”

ProMinent is also innovating to modify technologies like polymer flocculation for other markets, particularly municipal wastewater treatment, and food and beverage, where the immediate focus is Ontario breweries for plant sanitation and disinfection, wastewater treatment, and overall water reuse.

Doing so draws on the talents of the entire ProMinent team in Canada – which numbers about 62 people and spans engineering, applications and sales. ProMinent is also able to leverage the expertise of 69 other subsidiaries around the world.

“For any industry that we’re getting into right now, we’re quickly finding we need to adapt the product, to create something new and different that the market needs,” Schajnoha says. “It must also afford us the ability to change our position is such a way that we have an advantage over the other players out there.

“It’s difficult because you’re starting without customers, without product, given a blank slate and keys to run and do whatever you want to do. When you’re developing something new it might take a year to get that first order, job or opportunity, but there’s a lot of steps that go into supporting that first opportunity happening.”

Innovation Guelph has provided a framework for that process.

“Jeff has brought to the table a vast knowledge in terms of the entrepreneurship associated with innovation and new business development. His ideas and suggestions have changed the way we look at product development and new business development completely. We now have a measurable process associated with new market and business discovery and product introduction.”

About Fast Lane

Fast Lane is a business acceleration program for small- and medium-sized enterprises (under 500 employees) that are facing technical, efficiency or growth challenges. Part of Innovation Guelph’s Speedway program, it is designed for companies earning revenues of $1 million or more, and provides up to $5,000 in services to help these businesses scale-up their operations.

Since launching in October 2014, Fast Lane has worked with more than 45 companies in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area from a variety of sectors including: Advanced Manufacturing, Agri-Technology, Food & Beverage, Cleantech, Life Sciences as well as Digital Media and Technology.

Interested in entering the Fast Lane? Learn more about the program here or contact Innovation Guelph for more information at 519.265.4495 or We look forward to working with you and helping your company grow to its full potential.

— Story and photo by Stacey Curry Gunn. Stacey is a Guelph-based PR and marketing communications professional who helps businesses grow by sharing their stories. Follow her on Twitter @StaceyCurryGunn.