Plastic Pipes Conference Association # 2010 Vancouver
While most of the competition in the pipeline business are investing in research and new developments, offering substantial training courses, ensuring that there is an independent and strict inspection regimes, to advance and increase the successful use of their various products, the HDPE pipe industry is, I believe facing major issues because we have, allowed our standards and our controls to drop, while in the rush to expand the demanding and growing market.
The impressive growth of the use of HDPE pipes around the world over the last 30 years is a testament to the need. The demand for the supply of raw material, and the work we all still have to do in the developing Countries and the potential for the different applications, especially water, was outlined by Rugraff and Scheelen at PPXIII in Washington in 2006 with their paper “Polyethylene Pipes, The natural choice for sustainable development”(1). The numbers they gave were very impressive and exciting.
But, while all the major investments and the numerous developments have greatly improved the materials used, and the pipes abilities and capabilities, the other parts of the package, such as, the jointing equipment and accessories, the availability of substantial training programmes, the quality control regimes and the whole ‘joined up thinking’ procedures have, in my opinion, stood still or in some cases, gone backwards from where it was when I started in this business in 1978.
This can be due to many issues. Probably some is due to the pressures of privatisation. The products and services are now being designed and sourced to please the accountants rather than the engineers. Some of the products, that are so important to the whole system being secure and safe, are now being produced with the aim of winning purchasing tenders, rather than to the successful joining of the pipes.
It seems that the accountants are selecting machines, services and fittings on price and not allowing the engineers to select them on need, suitability and performance. The decision makers are not necessarily looking at the overall costing, which should includes labour, ongoing maintenance, whole life costs and many more issues that go to fulfilling the whole picture that should make HDPE the pipe they choose to use. This is resulting in a dangerous trend that could have a devastating effect on our business.
Already some major Utilities, very large users of HDPE pipes, are asking questions about their exposure and their commitment to the use of these pipes because of the problems they are experiencing with the large failure rates and issues they are experiencing, particularly when using electrofusion. Some of which were highlighted by S. MacKellar, D. Lowe E. Ingham and C. Ashdown in their paper Solutions to Installation Difficulties with PE Pipe at Washington PPXIII. (2)