Creating opportunities in a challenging market

by Keith Sanders, PIA Councillor and Life Member

While members of the Australian pump industry are continuing to operate in a challenging environment, the PIA is actively involved in sourcing new opportunities for the industry – and training members of the industry so that they are in the best position to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Australia represents a relatively small market for industrial and commercial pumping equipment, and yet pump products are coming under increasing focus from governments to make a contribution to reducing the greenhouse gases generated by their use in a wide variety of applications.

Based on information available to the industry from Ibis World, the demand for pumping equipment in Australia is around $3 billion per annum. 2015 was a tough year for most players in the market, while 2016 was somewhat better.

Growth is not expected to exceed 1 per cent in the next couple of years, so there will be plenty of competition for the business that is available.

The share of imported product over locally produced pumps is steadily increasing, and this trend is likely to continue. Despite the lower value of the Australian dollar, exports are also down on previous years, so the industry has some difficult issues to grapple with.

While these figures do not exactly align with PIA’s coverage of the market, the trends are relatively consistent with the association’s assessment of the overall size of the pump market and rates of growth reported by members.

Energy efficiency is also a major challenge for the pump industry. There is already legislation covering pumps used in pools and spas – a system of star ratings has been developed that both Australian and overseas manufacturers need to comply with at the consumer product level.

There are also moves being made to legislate for the more efficient use of pumping equipment in industrial applications, although this is not yet well developed.

Under the banner of the Emissions Reduction Fund, the Department of Environment & Energy is drafting proposals for Industrial Equipment Upgrade legislation and pumps are included in this, with PIA making a contribution to the early discussions. However progress is slow and the political landscape is constantly changing.

In addition, work is continuing with submissions to the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), covering possible amendments in the National Construction Code (NCC) for next year. The principal areas of interest will be pumps for HVAC systems and Fixed Fire Protections systems.

While not a major player in either of these sectors, PIA is working with AIRAH and FPAA in an effort to define strategies that reduce energy consumption and strengthen compliance to specifications already operating in these sectors.

With this level of uncertainty, it is not surprising that there is no major investment in pump manufacturing activities, and one can expect to see further rationalisation in the years ahead. What this will mean to service levels and supply lead-times is hard to predict, but it is not looking good for local production of pumps.

The new potential is likely to be in better pumping systems, with reduced operating costs by improved design, lower power consumption and better performance monitoring of equipment already installed in the field.

So, what are the strategies for growth? It’s not an easy issue to deal with. It really requires a close look at the business model being employed by companies and identifying where the competitive advantage exists for that particular business.

One obvious advantage is that Australian businesses are closer to the customer and should have a detailed local knowledge of customer preferences, local legislation, OH&S requirements and even the climatic conditions that apply to various plant sites around Australia.

This really means an investment in know-how, and leads to identifying opportunities for education and training of key personnel about the particular applications that prevail in the local market.

PERIOD Revenue ($mil) Imports ($mil) Exports ($mil) Total Demand ($mil)
2014-15 1291.7 1925.6 354.6 2862.5
2015-16 1283.9 1756.3 361.4 2678.8
2016-17 1305.8 1944.8 358.8 2891.8
2017-18 1324.6 1995.3 365.8 2954.1

(Source: IbisWorld Report 2017)

What PIA is doing to help

In an effort to support members, PIA has increased its involvement in providing seminars and training programs directly aimed at improving the skill level of people operating in the industry.

In the first six months of 2017, the Association organised a series of events aimed at improving the level of expertise of people in the field and also providing improved links to other organisations with similar objectives who need to communicate effectively with customers in specific market sectors.

By sharing knowledge on emerging technologies, the influence that can be brought to bear on government will increase and better decisions can be made to support local industry.

Specifically, PIA has introduced a program to train engineers and technicians in preferred installation and commissioning procedures.

The initial start-up of rotating equipment requires a careful and thorough inspection and testing program to ensure the equipment is put into service in the most favourable conditions.

At this stage several courses have been run in Melbourne and Sydney, with a future course planned for Brisbane in September this year.

These courses are open to members and non-members and can provide invaluable opportunities for both supplier and customer to understand the importance of the installation and commissioning process, as well as any corrective action that may be necessary to ensure optimum operating reliability through the life of the equipment.

New pump station design or even the upgrading of an existing station needs to be undertaken with the most accurate information on future demand.

This is not an easy task as projections need to be made many years ahead and stations are often developed in stages, so that the initial stage is complete and in operation before any expansion is contemplated.

There needs to be objective data available about the current demand and how reliable the equipment has been in service.

Condition monitoring is becoming increasingly important from this perspective, and a number of PIA members offer services that can measure, record and analyse existing pump operations to provide accurate information. Better information means better decisions and cost effective solutions should result.

With this in mind, PIA organised a one day seminar at the Bruce County Conference Centre in Melbourne on 24 April. A group of experienced engineers presented a series of papers to outline the scope of equipment and services for pump users to consider.

Entitled How to get the best out of your pump, the seminar attracted a good audience and the feedback from participants was excellent. This has encouraged PIA to run a similar program in Perth in August and it will again be open to members and non-members. We believe by sharing this knowledge, there will be a better understanding within the industry.

The seminar opened with a review of international pump standards, focusing on work that has been done in Europe and USA, delivered by Ron Astall, Ken Kugler and Keith Sanders from PIA. Ken and Ron also combined to look at rotodynamic pump performance testing and make comparisons between the expectations of accuracy in both the works test environment and actual site conditions.

Later, Keith Sanders reviewed ANSI/HI 9.6.5 – which offers pump monitoring and failure detection techniques for rotodynamic (centrifugal and vertical) pumps. Participants then heard from Malcolm Robertson from Robertson Technology about the thermodynamic method of determining pump performance including a case study in a site situation.

The seminar also included papers from the supply side with a presentation from Nasir Akolawaha of KSB Australia on sensors and protection methods for submersible sewage pumps.

PIA invited Spiro Fkiaras from WEG to give everyone an update on the latest MEPS regulations for electric motors and this was most interesting. To complete the program, Josh Pinto of Endress & Hauser spoke on process instrumentation and Praveen Salian outlined the remote online condition monitoring services available from SKF.

These papers outlined the latest trends in the industry and should help users to design pump stations to capture important data on performance and equipment condition over time.

Following the success of this seminar, PIA intends to present a very similar program to pump users and suppliers in Perth. This will take place on Thursday 10 August at the AMC Jakovich Centre in Henderson. Bookings can be made on the PIA website.

Not everyone can spare a full day in their busy week, so PIA also has a series of shorter programs that can be presented at technical meetings, either organised by the association itself or provided to other organisations with whom PIA has some sort of reciprocal arrangement.

PIA is happy to discuss such possibilities with anyone who wishes to consider working with us. Current programs are featured on the PIA website – head to www.pumps.asn.au.

Australian pump companies have a long history of being leaders in hydraulic technology and it is important for this expertise to be maintained. PIA is keen to share this expertise with customers, particularly when operational problems are causing concern. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Upcoming PIA Events

Technical Meeting

8 August, 4:30pm

Flowserve Offices

 

Installation and commissioning course

23 August, 8am-5pm

Link Pumps

4 Ponting Street, Williamstown VIC

For more information, or to book your spot at either of these events, contact Keith Sanders on 03 5981 2680 or 0421 323 123.

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