SA Plastics

Pipes XI conference sets bar high for local plastic pipe industry

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SAPPMA chief executive Jan Venter welcomed Zoran Davidovski, chairman of the Plastic Pipe Conference Association. According to the PPCA man, one of the problem for pipe manufacturers in all countries is that specifying personnel often don’t know much about the capabilities of plastic pipe, and hence select traditional materials, and this is clearly a problem in Africa too – so the onus is on to better present the benefits of plastic pipe performance

SAPPMA’S Pipes XI conference at Emperors Palace in September has set the bar high for the future of South Africa’s water infrastructure and engineering professionals.

More than 300 delegates from around South Africa, southern Africa and the world were treated to two days of in-depth and world-class presentations delivered by 35 speakers – including 18 international and 17 local experts – on issues relating to plastic piping, water infrastructure and engineering courtesy of the international Plastic Pipe Conference Association (PPCA), which sponsored the best speakers at the Pipes XVIII conference in Berlin last year, to present in South Africa in a spin-off conference.

According to the PPCA’s Zoran Davidovski, the global conference has had six spin-off conferences around the world since the first one was hosted in Beijing in 2009.

“Just as connections are vital in the pipe industry, so too are the connections made between people and professionals in this field, and for this reason we are pleased to see the South African industry so well represented as this year’s conference,” said Davidovski, stressing the importance of attending and hosting international conferences.

“Survival needs invention, and the best way to be inspired and to learn is by allowing yourself to be educated and your mind stretched by learning from your local and international peers”.

Highlights of the conference included a keynote address by guest speaker and well-known economist Dr Roelof Botha, who looked into his proverbial crystal ball to predict whether or not the state capture issue will force the South African economy into a recession.  Botha offered a closer look at the socio-political landscape of the country and how this would impact the local economy and the plastic pipe industry specifically.

“The next 18 months will be turbulent, but this doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities for growth.  What we are currently experiencing in our country is a deepening of a democracy. It is important for us to invest in skills transfer, public-private partnerships and to restore the functionality of our leadership.  With effective leadership, smart policies and team work, there can still be a bright future for South Africa,” Botha encouraged.

Other speakers who presented include Tony Radoszewski (PPI in the USA) on ‘Manufacturing and Infrastructure in the Age of Trump,’ Bruce Hollands (PVC Pipe Association in the USA) on ‘Life cycle assessment of PVC water and sewer pipe and a comparative sustainability analysis of pipe materials,’ and Dr Andreas Frank (Polymer Competence Centre in Austria) on ‘Lifetime prediction of PE100 pipes based on slow crack growth resistance’ to name but a few.

When asked what they thought of this year’s Pipes XI conference and whether or not it had benefitted them to attend, the delegates were very outspoken and full of praise for the level of expertise of the presenters.

“This was a high quality conference with excellent networking opportunities,” said Charl Fourie, technical manager at Chemsystems.

“It was a great platform for learning and interacting with my South African and international peers. I was very impressed,” said Neo Mekgoe, marketing assistant at Safripol.

“I will definitely attend SAPPMA’s Pipes conferences in future.  I highly recommend it to anyone! I really enjoyed the last two days and learned a lot,” said Werner van Huysteen, sales manager at Alprene Plastic Products.

“It was amazing to have these world leaders who are considered to be gurus in the field on South African turf and presenting to us. Attending their presentations at international conferences is almost an economic impossibility for South Africans, but having these calibre of speakers here and at such an affordable rate was an opportunity that nobody should have missed,” said George Dilliyannis, technical support engineer at Safripol.

SAPPMA CEO Jan Venter said the conference once again highlighted the importance of pipes and pipelines in civilization and infrastructure: “Water distribution, waste disposal, irrigation and telecommunications all rely on pipelines to function. An extensive network of reliable water and sewage pipelines are essential for establishment and growth of civilization.

“Although we find ourselves operating in a tough business climate and the economic recovery has not been what we hoped it would be, the importance of what we are do remains undiminished.  We take a long term view on these things, and will continue to fight for maintaining the standards and integrity of the plastic pipes being manufactured and installed locally,” Venter said.

Davidovski concluded the conference by saying that it is clear that South Africa faces many challenges and resistance to change. However, it is encouraging to see that despite this, the technology employed in the manufacturing of plastic pipes is increasing both the quality and the quantity of drinking water to the country and its people.

“Many of the presentations delivered centred around sustainability and invention.  It is important to remember that these are never cast in concrete. We look forward to seeing what will come out of SAPPMA’s Pipes XII conference next year, and will continue to keep a watchful and expectant eye on the South African plastic pipe industry which has proved itself to be tenacious, committed to excellence and passionate about raising standards,” Davidovski added.

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