When shopping around for geomembrane liner companies, it’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed. After all, there are about two dozen companies to choose from. Most of these companies will share three things in common: quality control, manufacturing excellence, and a consistent history of research and development. So how should you differentiate between them? Often, it comes down to each company’s choice of policies and procedures.
Each geomembrane liner company prescribes to certain production methodologies or polymers to create their products. While most geosynthetics carry similar base properties, there are some key differentiating factors between them. In this article, we will explore some of the qualities to look out for in geomembrane liner companies, explain how company policy can dictate product selection, and describe location and manufacturer-specific procedures can create unique advantages.
How do policies and procedures differentiate geomembrane liner companies?
Before looking at the products themselves, it is important to understand how to identify positive traits in a company that specializes in producing geomembrane liners. Most would agree that quality control and manufacturing excellence are at the top of the list, though there are other aspects to consider as well. There are many indications that a company pays close attention to quality control. For instance, top companies implement robust policies and procedures that dictate each step during the manufacturing process. Policies, which set the overall direction of a company, can range from resin sourcing to manufacturing decisions, such as choosing flat die or blown film extrusion.
Procedures, or specific steps taken during operation, are equally important. The extrusion process requires time-sensitive temperature control of the manufacturing environment to produce the best results. Defining manufacturing procedures helps ensure products are produced with a consistent level of quality, thickness, and strength. Additional quality control procedures such as visual inspection of the extruded liner and sample testing are also common steps taken by top geomembrane liner companies.
It is worth noting that policy decisions can heavily impact what kind of products a company is able to produce. While they share many qualities, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liners have some important differences that can make a difference depending on the intended application.
How do policies affect geomembrane liner companies?
Company policies are deeply tied to its long-term strategy, which is critical to its success. After all, even perfect execution of a poorly conceived set of policies is a recipe for failure. Unfortunately, the market often dictates company policy. For instance, the availability of polyethylene resins in North America with a relatively low melt flow index led to the proliferation of the blown film extrusion process in this region. In Europe, where the resin is available with a higher melt flow index, the flat die extrusion process was adopted. Changing regulation and public sentiment can also alter long-term policies such as choosing HDPE over PVC.
PVC and HDPE geomembranes both offer a means of creating a cost-effective waterproofing layer in a construction. While PVC geomembranes tend to be more flexible, HDPE geomembranes are tougher and more durable. The enhanced durability of HDPE geomembranes means that the liner provides good stress crack and impact resistance.
However, there are some drawbacks to the use of PVC. The byproducts of PVC production and disposal are toxic and can build up in living tissue. Additionally, if burned, PVC produces toxic fumes and other byproducts such as hydrochloric acid. HDPE liners are on the other hand are chemically stable and are well-suited for containment applications. Lastly, while flexibility is inherent in HDPE, plasticizers are used to impart flexibility to PVC—think PVC fittings for your household plumbing. These plasticizers can leach out over time causing brittleness and cracking.
How do certain procedures give an edge to geomembrane liner companies?
If you have two companies with the same long-term policies and same overall strategy, how do you compare one over the other? After all, both are using the same manufacturing process and the same resin. At the end of the day, the company with the better execution of its strategy will come out ahead. But what does that mean for you as a consumer? How do you spot the company with the edge? It comes down to procedures.
Procedures are the steps taken to convert raw materials into the final product. Like any recipe, well documented and detailed procedures lead to more successful outcomes. Unlike cooking, however, the stakes are much higher in manufacturing. While randomness and small variations to the recipe won’t ruin a cake, those differences can lead to noticeable differences in something as scrutinized as a geomembrane. The company that incorporates manufacturing process control to their procedures will gain an edge.
You can think of process control as a way to account to for randomness to create an environment that produces results that are more consistent and in line with expectations. Process control at AGRU, for instance, involves carefully controlling the temperature and pressure during the extrusion process resulting in a uniform product from start to finish and across the roll width.
Beyond process control, other notable procedures include onboarding new employees with robust hands-on training, implementing regular testing, and incorporating continuous development of quality control processes.