‘Pipes manufacturers to be more proactive’

“Non availability of the right, modern-day pipe systems has been defeating the very purpose of infrastructure development in our country. India needs factories that shall dispense the latest pipe systems”
Thanks to the easy availability of foreign and other aid funds, India is witnessing a major infra boom. The government is now engaged in either executing or planning infrastructure projects, including that of water supply and sewerage where pipe systems form the major part.
However, is it really happening? A closer look into what has been happening in the much talked about infrastructure projects would reveal some worrying issues. The tender bids for these projects are prepared with technical specifications that have become history in the developed world. This is even after having employed the so called international consultants by spending crores of rupees on them for preparing the bid documents and to supervise the works.
Through this infrastructure boom, we are intending to match the visible standards of the developed countries, especially the west – Europe. Can this be achieved? The impossibility is almost proved from the fact that most of our bid documents are old fashioned with outdated technical data.
The core issue lies in the fact that our design engineers are dealing with various limitations such as lack of information and non-availability of modern-day systems in the Indian market. It’s a fact that a large number of engineers who are responsible for designing the infrastructure projects in our country are functioning with outdated knowledge and they have little information about the latest systems available in the international market. There is no argument about the fact that our project designers need to be educated about the systems in the developed places and they shall get the whole-hearted support of the government. Yet, we may not be able to find the real lasting solution to this issue.
When we have done and sorted out the first limitation of our design engineers, as I stated earlier, they will be invariably facing the next set of restrictions – primarily the non‑availability of the modern-day pipe systems in the Indian market. In most cases when a design engineer decides to provide the latest system in his project, he has no option but to import it from the European countries. So, what constitutes the latest pipe system of the developed world? It’s plastic, chiefly made of PE and some PVC. Unfortunately, we have in our country hundreds and hundreds of producers doing these pipes, but there are only very few factories producing the allied, complimenting pipe systems. The pipe system is not just about the pipe, but it’s about the pipes and hundreds of types of fittings and specials also.  Knowingly or unknowingly, our leaders are ignoring this fact.
I believe the matter I discuss can be easily understood if I briefly share my experience. I began working for Glynwed Pipe Systems, a European MNC, towards the end of 2007. Globally, Glynwed is one of the leading manufacturers of plastic pipe systems including the electrofusion and compression fittings required for the PE gas and water supply lines. I was asked to focus on the water market, especially to promote the use of PE pipe systems there. As I entered, I saw that the design engineers of the water industry were happily using the concrete, DI and PVC pipes for most of their projects. Some of them had used PE pipes, but wasn’t happy about the olden day butt-welding method to join these pipes, but most of them had little knowledge of this pipe system, which was ruling the water supply system in the developed world.
Glynwed made huge investments to create awareness among the engineers by conducting dozens and dozens of seminars in most of the states of our country. When these engineers saw what pipe system was delivering the designed aspects in Europe, they slowly began to think beyond the concrete, DI and PVC pipes. I do acknowledge the efforts taken by other manufacturers such as the PE pipe production wing of the Reliance, Duraline India, Kimplas Piping Systems, etc. Soon erupted the next issue, the non-availability of the specials such as electrofusion and compression fittings required for the PE system in the Indian market.
We shall understand the ground realities of the west when they started progressing and experiencing the infrastructure boom. It was not infrastructure what they developed first. They began with the industrialisation and to support that they created the infrastructure. The industrialisation was required to create jobs.
We cannot ignore an aspect of the industrialisation that contributed to the easiness of the infrastructure boom in the west. Being already industrialised, with the niche research and development facilities, helped the engineers and companies with the right kind of products to carry out the infrastructure development. The main shortcoming with our infrastructure development is that we do not have the right products available in the market to support the infrastructure development. So mostly our design engineers are not aware of the availability of these products in the international market and if at all they are aware, they hesitate to use as they need to be imported. This will add to the project cost. So for a poor country like us dreaming for an infrastructure matching the world-standard is coming out to be unaffordable luxury.
But we can transform this into an opportunity. We have the funds and skilled personnel. The technology can be made available from the west. The western companies are ready to impart knowledge. So beginning with a factory to produce wares required for the infrastructure development is the right step forward. It will create the much required employment opportunities. Moreover, the right products of European standards at affordable pricing will be available for development. Further, simultaneously, under the roof of the factory, the design engineers can be educated on the new products. And also the contractors can be trained to do better jobs, matching the quality of the west. The end result will be that our dreams will become true, the infrastructure boom shall become real.
Water and Gas Sector
The water sector across the globe is largely using PE pipes for the distribution system. It’s the modern day pipe. The PE system comprises of the pipes, electrofusion specials such as couplers, elbows, tees, saddles for the branching, valves, compression fittings, etc. According to a rough estimate, annually India would need to create nearly 24 lakh house connections. The main drawback here is the fact that we have pipe manufacturing facilities, but needs to have factories that will produce the entire system components. Glynwed has decided to set-up a factory in Goa for producing the electrofusion fittings. Our country needs many more such factories. Another area in the water sector where the manufacturers need to focus is the systems for repairs. Latest repair systems are unavailable in our country. As a result, even small defects in the supply lines can cause stoppages for days and weeks. There are systems in Europe which can prevent these issues. Our industrialists shall invest in these areas to support our infrastructure boom. The distribution of gas is using the same PE system as that of water. The demand for pipes and fittings for this sector is much higher than the water sector. So the same factory can produce the systems to cater the needs of these two sectors.
Sewage Sector
According to experts, in the worst scenario, our country can afford to ignore creating water supply projects, but ignoring the sewerage projects will be disastrous as we are rapidly urbanising. Many of our towns are planning sewerage projects. Unfortunately our design engineers are inclined towards the old systems. The west has done away this with the plastic pipes (double‑wall corrugated pipes) and ready-made PE manhole chambers and allied systems. This new generation inspection chambers can be installed in a few hours. These chambers and pipes are safe and have more design life than the old-fashioned chambers and pipes. Even after importing, these PE chambers aren’t too costlier than the brick chambers. In a year, on an average our country will need nothing less than 12 lakh inspection chambers and allied systems to cater to the currently planned projects. Sadly for us, there is little focus in this area. Our cities are likely to end up having the outdated sewerage systems, that too by giving real hardships to the citizens during the project execution stage.
Thus what we need to do is simple. We need more factories to produce various plastic pipe systems and these factories shall take up the responsibility to create awareness among the design engineers. Eventually, our country can have great industrial and infrastructure development.
Compiled by Babu Paulose,
Business Development Manager, Glynwed Pipe Systems India Pvt. Ltd.

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