By Donna Kreutz
Jerome Barrillon knows exactly why he likes the water industry. “In drinking water filtration, there is a never-ending source of problems to fix.” That’s the heart of KX Technologies – finding solutions to water problems. “We offer innovative solutions for the global marketplace. We manufacture custom products based on our unique technologies, centered on our knowledge of activated carbon, extrusion and roll-good media production as well as additives and microbiological reduction. We use all the elements in our toolbox to produce solutions to a given water filtration challenge.”
Barrillon, who joined the company in September 2015, is Vice President and General Manager of KX Technologies, with headquarters in West Haven, CT and a manufacturing facility in Singapore. The company is a global supplier of filters and filter elements, predominantly using activated carbon-based technologies. Barrillon’s experience includes 11 years at Ahlstrom, working in various roles and being heavily involved in filter media. “As part of a strategic expansion, I participated in the development of novel water filter media that’s still in use today,” he said.
The business began as KX Industries in 1989, a limited partnership between Exxon Chemical and KT Corp. In 2007, Marmon Water acquired the assets and changed the name to KX Technologies. In March 2008, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired a majority interest in The Marmon Group, a conglomerate with roughly $8 billion in revenues.
“In the world of drinking water, the type of contaminants and the different water conditions around the world are an ever-evolving landscape. Our challenge has been to offer bespoke solutions to each of these challenges:
• Lead contamination in the US. We have had highly effective lead-removal technology long before it was in the news.
• Microbiological removal in gravity applications for use in the developing world. We have that, too.
• Increased use of chloramine in water treatment in the US. We have products with high chloramine-removal capabilities.
“Our largest current market is producing finished filters for appliances, where the challenge is the size constraint, while needing these small packages to remove more and more contaminants,” he said.
Customized filtration solutions
“Many solutions are already in our portfolio of products but we do not hesitate to invest and develop new solutions as needed. The majority of our business is custom built. We can produce a carbon block to put in a filter housing, design and assemble a complete filter system and anything in between. Collaborating with our customers leads to our greatest innovations in new technologies and filtration systems. We’re very close to the consumer. There’s a quick feedback loop. It’s good to see quickly the impact of the products we make.” KX Technologies serves customers around the world, including North America, Europe, Israel, India, Korea, China and Australia. “From the revenue side, North America is the largest piece of the business,” Barrillon said.
KX Technologies operates one of the world’s largest solid-state extrusion facilities for the production of activated carbon filters. Sister companies include EcoWater, Graver Technologies, Ecodyne and Filtrex Technologies. The West Haven location has about 60 employees and the Singapore facility about 50. A large part of the US staff is focused on research and development; manufacturing at that location is concentrated on the FACT product line. Singapore is the larger manufacturing facility.
The company also manufactures a line of industry-standard cartridges known as MATRIKX®, which is now being combined with KXT’s sister company’s (Filtrex Technolgies) products under Matrikx Powered by Green Block®. The company’s pleatable FACT (fibrillated absorptive cellulose technology, better known as flow-and-capture technology) media can be enhanced to functionalize the media for microbiological and heavy-metals removal, high flow, low -pressure drop and other challenges.
Filter media products
“We just launched a combined product line for our industry standard cartridges, now called Matrikx Powered by Green Block, by leveraging the Green Block technology of our sister company, Filtrex in India. This combines the advantages of both product lines, offering superior performance and an ecologically sustainable construction. We are currently ramping up production of these products. We’re also evolving our FACT to a broader range of capabilities, developing solutions for specific geographies and contaminant challenges in both industrialized countries and developing countries. It is a paper-like media using very fine fibers that are very good at immobilizing carbon. We can make pleated cartridges with the ability to remove bacteria, virus and cysts or use a lead-reduction additive that removes lead very efficiently.”
There’s no shortage of water challenges. “Global population growth is happening in developing countries with sub-standard access to clean water, where bacteria and virus reduction is much more important than the US and Europe aesthetics of taste and smell. On the other hand, industrialized nations are facing pollution issues resulting from decades of producing chemicals and pharmaceuticals. This represents huge opportunities for our industry.”
“It is clear that a universal one-size-fits-all filter is not going to be a reality. The challenges facing water in India, China, Europe and the US are not the same. We need to develop market-specific products and regionally specific products. The successful companies in water purification will be the ones that have a keen understanding of what it takes to filter out the right contaminants for the right type of water conditions and make these products available to consumers at the appropriate price point. Our job is to keep on adding technology to the toolbox so we have more and more options for drinking-water filter problems, which are different in nature across the world. I fully intend to make sure KX Technologies is one of those companies.”