Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and various travel and live event restrictions, the PIA took its AGM online in November, allowing all its Members to attend from the comfort of their home or office. During the meeting members heard about the association’s achievements and activities across the year, as well as plans for 2021, with the hopes that in-person events and training will be able to resume.

The PIA reported that despite the challenges of COVID, it still had a successful year engaging with the industry and working behind the scenes with government and other organisations.

Engaging with the industry and others

COVID-19 meant that in-person events and training were cancelled for most of the year, with various restrictions limiting travel and in-person meetings. PIA rose to this challenge and was able to adapt to bring Members together.

Before the initial lockdown in late March, PIA was able to successfully hold a Breakfast Meeting in February at Cummins South Pacific in Scoresby, Melbourne, which saw approximately 36 pump professionals hear about engines, controls, panels and associated equipment for pumping systems.

PIA was then able to go digital, working with Pump Industry magazine and its publisher Monkey Media, to bring the Flow Technology Virtual Conference to over 200 delegates in June.

One of the major activities that had been scheduled for 2020 was the new Pumps and Systems Training Course, a nationally recognised, competency-based training program facilitated by Irrigation Australia, a PIA Member and Registered Training Organisation.

Initially slated to be a four-day in-person program, PIA organised for the initial three-day theory component to be completed online, with the final practical component to be completed at a later date at each attendees main city when restrictions allowed.

PIA reported the response to the new training was good, with 14 people registering and undertaking the course, and a number of others expressing their interest in participating in future ones. PIA has also continued engaging industry and other organisations through other avenues.

When COVID restrictions were first introduced, PIA wrote to State and Federal Ministers to clarify the status of the industry as an essential service, allowing Members peace of mind that they were able to keep operating as long as health and safety precautions were put in place.

This engagement ensured the industry was able to keep operating throughout the various state and territory restrictions and lockdowns.

Engaging with standards

While activity was quiet over 2020, PIA has continued to engage with Australian and international standards organisations to review and provide expert comment on related standards.

There were three main committees PIA took part in:

• FP-008 Fire Pump Committee

» Committee currently inactive and AS2941 is now seven years old, however no organisation has proposed its revision

» Miscellaneous ISO fire standards had been issued for review but none requiring input by the PIA

» AS2118.2 Automatic fire sprinkler systems, Part 2: Drencher systems reviewed with no commentary necessary

• ME-030 Pump Committee

» AS ISO ASME14414:2020 Pump system energy assessment published in April

» Various ISO standards reviewed with comments as applicable, including ISO 13709:2009, ISO 14847:1999, ISO 5198:1987 and ISO 16330:2003

» Draft Australian Plumbing Standards reviewed and comments submitted as applicable, including DR AS NZS 3500.0, DR AS/NZS 3500.1:2020, DR AS/NZS 3500.2:2020, DR AS/NZS3500.3 and DR AS/NZS 3500.4:2020

• EL-58 Energy Efficiency for Swimming Pool pumps Committee

» AS 5102:2019 Performance of household electrical appliances — swimming pool pump units, Part 1: Measurement of energy consumption and performance was published in late November 2019

» Draft AS 5352 Swimming Pool and Spa Heat Pump Systems is currently being written. The PIA resolved to remain on the committee as an Observing Committee Member, but will not provide technical input. PIA expects to review and comment if and where appropriate

PIA has also been working with the Australian Government E3 Energy Efficiency Equipment (E3) Program in the Technical Working Group, providing input into the discussion paper for industrial pump MEPs.

Activity with this program came to a stop in March, however in November the E3 released technical papers addressing industrial pumps, compressors and boilers for industry to provide comment.

Updated publications released and being worked on

Work on PIA publications has also continued. Updates to the fifth edition of the Pipe Friction Handbook was completed and it was published in April to a good response, with an additional two print runs needed since.

An update of the Pump Technical Handbook has also been taking place and is expected to be completed by the end of Q1 2021, with publication in Q2. These updates would not be possible without the help of a number of volunteers lending their expertise, and the PIA thanks them for their time.

An expanding membership

PIA was pleased to report membership has continued to grow throughout the year. In the 2017/18 period, membership stood at 73 with an increase to 86 in 2018/19, and in 2019/20 this increased to 98, a 14 per cent rise.

The association is hoping to continue this growth trend in 2021 and see membership increase to over 100. A resolution was also put forward to Members for the acceptance of a third category of membership (Group Membership), following expressions of interest by franchisers – that have a number of franchisees – to become a PIA Member.

This resolution was passed, helping the PIA membership to continue to expand in future years.

Planning for 2021

PIA acknowledged that while the situation is looking up for Australia, 2021 is still very uncertain. The association is hoping circumstances will allow in-person social events to be held again and is currently planning to hold six Breakfast Meetings and 2-3 Pump Systems Training Courses across the year in various states.

A dinner is also planned for 2021 to take place at the AGM as has happened in previous years. However, if the situation remains uncertain, PIA will instead look to hosting smaller social events throughout the year across multiple locations in its place to ensure all Members will be able to participate.

Women in the pump industry

To end the AGM, Kyle Kinsella, Managing Director of Regent Pumps, provided attendees with an interesting and thought-proving presentation on women in the pump industry.

Kylie has a background in pneumatic equipment and first got into the industry as a product manager for pumps, meters and reciprocating compressors.

Having never seen a pump at this stage of her career, she was fortunate to have three mentors in the company and was provided the opportunity to travel overseas for training at manufacturer facilities, allowing her to learn about various pumps and their applications.

As her career progressed, she undertook an Advanced Diploma in Business Management to solidify the skills and knowledge she had gained as she moved into management and sought new roles. At this stage she was the only woman in a similar role in the industry.

Kylie recalled interesting stories about how she was perceived in the early days, mentioning at one particular conference she attended where she was the only woman, she said she thought the other attendees were convinced she was there to serve tea and coffee.

In other instances, there were potential customers who would speak to any men first, even though she was the manager.

In 2006, she was recruited by Roger Withers as the first female manager for Matthew Davis, part of Regent Holdings, and 18 months later she was working behind the scenes on all the businesses in the group.

Kylie said while she was proud that more females were now employed in key management roles at Regent Pumps and other companies, overall the perception of women in the industry hasn’t changed a lot – there are still very few women, but this is slowly changing.

She said her general feeling was that women needed to prove themselves, work harder, and justify how they can juggle home life with a career and possibly children.

Another issue is that the pump industry is still perceived as male dominated and is closely related to other industries such as building services, mining, water and wastewater, and oil and gas that are also seen as male dominated.

She said with almost 60 per cent of students enrolled domestically at universities or other institutions being women, the pump industry needs to create ideas on how to capture this growing representation of women to realise the benefits that they can provide.

In 2019 studies by the Business Council of Australia and the Workplace Gender Equality, showed businesses who employed women in key management roles were producing higher profits and getting better results. Kylie said women in management can bring a diverse business approach to the team, as well as their talents and management skills to the pump industry in other various roles such as mechanical engineering, business, HR, sales and accounting. She believes the way to get more women in the industry is through:

• Training and opportunities, and helping to facilitate that by not overlooking them
• Improving recruitment practices to not use wording that shows gender bias
• Have leaders recognise and develop talented women within their organisations
• Developing a mentor program that women can access

There is a strong case to create change, and the industry needs to support and develop rising women. She said it only took one managing director to get her career started in the industry, and the current leaders have the opportunity to replicate that for other women.

For women already in the industry she encourages them to challenge themselves, be proactive, do things for themselves, continue learning, be bold and know they are good enough.

The virtual PIA AGM was facilitated by Pump Industry magazine publisher Monkey Media and hosted by Monkey Media Managing Editor, Laura Harvey.

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