The plastic pipes industry is arguably one of the most important in South Africa as infrastructure such as water distribution, waste disposal, irrigation, telecommunications and a myriad of other services rely on pipe infrastructure to work effectively, says Southern African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association (Sappma) CEO Jan Venter.
He points out that the challenges in the water infrastructure industry lie in the inability or unwillingness of local government to address the problems in their areas of responsibility such as proper planning, maintenance and timely award of contracts.
Additionally, around 40% of treated water is lost, owing to water leaks and old pipes that are long overdue for replacement, while South Africa’s pipes manufacturers are desperate for work.
One challenge, however, is to convince local government of the legality of alternative certification bodies other than the South African Bureau of Standards. Venter explains that, while not much can be done in terms of the manpower problems in local government, the message related to standards and certification is continually being preached. In addition, Sappma also helps in cases where technical advice is required.
Meanwhile, Venter indicates that there seems to be renewed emphasis on the rehabilitation of old pipelines by way of trenchless techniques. To this end, new polymer grades are available and particularly suitable for this process. Another promising development is the manufacture of orientated polyvinyl chloride pipe, which opens new possibilities in terms of possible pressure ratings.
Moreover, Sappma recounts that major potential in the plastic pipes industry lies in the hope that political stability is achievable, to enable increased investment in infrastructure and to provide much-needed upgrading of services for all communities.
In the long term, the industry trusts that natural gas will become sufficiently available, leading to a new industry in South Africa. Other major areas of potential growth for the plastic pipes industry lie in telecommunications, and the mining and oil industries.
“There are many exciting, new markets and opportunities emerging for the plastic pipes industry. We have an ever-increasing role to play, and are making a difference where it matters,” he says.
Sappma hosted its Pipes X conference last month at the Bytes Conference Centre, in Midrand, with the support of the main sponsors: supplier of plastic piping systems and solutions DPI Plastics, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes and fittings manufacturer and distributor Rare Plastics, plastic pipes manufacturer and distributor Marley Pipe Systems and South African HDPE pipe suppliers PipeFlo.
With more than 200 delegates attending the event, Venter says its yearly pipes conference has become firmly established in the industry’s events calendar.
He adds that the hosting the conference and other activities, have proven that Sappma is heavily invested in the wellbeing of the local plastic pipes industry – especially where standards and technical specifications are concerned.
More than 1 500 delegates have been exposed to almost 200 technical papers since Sappma first hosted the conference in 2005. “This year, we were privileged to have 17 experts, including international speakers from Australia, Spain, Germany and the Middle East, who shared their expertise,” Venter details.
Keynote speakers at this year’s conference were previous Springbok rugby captain Corné Krige, who shared some of the life lessons he had learned about effective leadership in sport and business; and solutions provider LHA Management Consultants MD Ralph Triebel who gave an overview of the trends in the local plastic pipes market.
Many of the papers presented at the conference reflected the current problems various industries are facing regarding the accreditation of national standards. Venter explains that high quality in general and long-term product quality in particular, are Sappma’s cornerstones.
Considering that about 60 000 km/y of plastic pipe is manufactured in South Africa, Venter notes that the association is doing everything possible to facilitate alternative mechanisms and prevent a general deterioration of plastic piping systems.
He announced at the conference that Europe’s Plastic Pipes Conference Association had agreed to sponsor ten speakers who presented at this year’s Pipes XVIII conference held in Berlin, Germany, earlier this month. These presenters will visit South Africa next year to present their papers at Sappma’s 2017 Pipes XI conference, thereby giving the event a greater international footprint.
Venter encouraged delegates at the event to work together and do everything in their power to ensure the future of the industry through maintaining excellent quality in pipes manufacturing and installation, and to strictly adhere to industry standards.