Welcome to Connections, a McElroy podcast all about pipe fusion, where we tackle industry new, jobsite success stories, and more from the world of thermoplastic pipe.
Pipe Fusion Trends and Insights From a Land Down Under
Pipe fusion innovations, opportunities, and challenges facing industrial sectors don’t concern one nation: it’s a global issue and one ripe for discussion.
Host Daniel Litwin tapped two Venezuelans to help him out for a peek inside the Australian pipe fusion market. McElroy Australia’s Sergio Arellano, International Sales Manager, and Sergio Yibrin, International Tech Service Manager, brought their wealth of industry knowledge and expertise to Connections from that great land below the equator.
A mechanical engineer by trade, Arellano worked in Venezuela’s oil and gas industry before transferring to Perth, Australia, in the early 2000s. He joined McElroy in 2012 as their International Sales Manager. Not to be outdone, Yibrin is also a mechanical engineer with a deep background in hydraulics and electric house assemblies. He came to Australia in 2013 and joined McElroy a year later, helping companies with after-sales services of McElroy products.
“Productivity and efficiency are key in this market.And therefore, McElroy shines..."Sergio ybrin
“Australia is a very big country, but we only have 10% of the population the U.S. has,” Arellano explained. “All of our population is concentrated, mostly, along the coasts. There are few big towns or populations inland. We also have a lot of resources that require operations to take place inland, so some of these operations can be very remote.”
But with Australia’s population growth rapidly expanding, Arellano explained that many utility projects such as water and gas distribution, pipelines, and sewage, are underway to handle these new needs.
Yibrin said that due to the remoteness of some of these vital operations, there are high costs associated with running them, including renting and maintaining equipment. “Productivity and efficiency are key in this market. And therefore, McElroy shines in these areas with the incorporation of the iSeries , the Vault, the Datalogger 7, and the TracStar.”
PE Pipe’s Role in the Future of Infrastructure and Sustainability
Tyler Kern tapped two true subject matter experts to explore the role PE pipe plays in today’s world of infrastructure and its uses in many different applications.
Peter Dyke, Executive Director at the Alliance for PE Pipe, and Brett Stone, Sales Channel Manager for PE Pipe at McElroy Manufacturing, were thrilled to get the opportunity to speak about the many benefits and use cases of this versatile piping material.
One question Dyke gets a lot is, why does the Alliance for PE Pipe exist? The quick answer is education.
“We exist to educate people about the market,” Dyke said. There is a considerable knowledge gap in people’s awareness and understanding of the technology offered by polyethylene pipes. “It’s a great mission. It’s an intellectual sell to the engineers, but it’s also a demonstration sell to the guys working in the field.”
“It performs the best, it fails the least, and it has the most minimal impact on the citizenry during construction than all the other pipe types.”Peter Dyke
With its B2B focus, Dyke said the Alliance’s market focus for PE pipe is on municipalities, civil engineers and contractors.
What makes PE piping the best product of its kind? “It’s the longest-lasting, lowest-priced conveyance product on the market,” Dyke said. “It performs the best, it fails the least, and it has the most minimal impact on the citizenry during construction than all the other pipe types.”
If PE piping is the best, doesn’t it cost more than other solutions?
“We cost a third to a half less than ductile iron, yet we perform hundreds of years more,” Dyke said. “We have solved the typical failure mechanism of PVC and ductile iron.”
While the benefits may be plenty, getting the word out about PE piping is still an undertaking. Still, it’s a mission Dyke and the Alliance are happy to undertake.
An Update on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
As Washington looks to pass a new infrastructure bill to fund a variety of projects, it will certainly impact many industries.
The bill seems to be on the move, but where do things stand? Breaking all of this down, Connections host Tyler Kern welcomed two guests – Kip Eideberg, Senior Vice President, Government & Industry Relations, Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), and Kevin Miller, Senior Advisor, Miller Pipeline.
Eideberg began with an overview of AEM and its interests. “We represent the equipment manufacturing industry. My role is one of policy and advocacy.”
Miller Pipeline’s primary business is gas distribution work, but they also have a division that supports the wastewater industry.
Eideberg then provided an update on the infrastructure package. “I haven’t seen this much positive momentum for this in at least 10 years. It includes $1.2 trillion in funding for transportation, water infrastructure, broadband and the power grid.”
"The water rehabilitation of lines and doing away with lead pipes is encouraging news."Kevin miller
Miller commented that he expects the bill to drive more work for his company. “The water rehabilitation of lines and doing away with lead pipes is encouraging news. They have been neglected for years.”
Of course, challenges can still hinder the bill’s progress. “If Congress can put policy ahead of politics and move with the bipartisan deal, that’s what could derail things,” Eideberg said.
Miller also noted that the labor force and getting the right equipment pose concerns, as well. “The labor force for underground construction was stretched before the pandemic, and lead times on equipment have gotten longer.”
“We can’t find enough talented people, especially younger ones, to get into the industry. When the money would start flowing is another question. If it goes to existing programs, it could be within six months. If not, then we’re looking at 2023,” Eideberg added.
Plastic Pipe and the Future of Infrastructure
To get a closer look at what’s occurring in the plastic pipe industry, Connections got the opportunity to speak with David Fink, President of the Plastics Pipe Institute.
He and Jim Johnston, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer for McElroy, joined host Tyler Kern for a deep-dive discussion on plastic piping and Fink’s history in the industry.
Fink may be new to his role at PPI (he joined the institute as President in 2020), but his experience in plastics goes back 25 years to when he got his start at Dow Chemical.
“I started in sales in polyethylene resins and moved my way up into marketing and measurement positions,” Fink said. He then switched over to the manufacturing side for 13 years at WL Plastics. Fink is no stranger to the Plastics Pipe Institute. He was a board member for many years before taking the opportunity to become PPI’s President in January of 2020.
“PPI allows competitors to collaborate on information when it comes to codes, standards and regulations,” Fink said. The goal is to advance the opportunities for plastic piping systems. “The market for piping materials continues to evolve, and, obviously, as the infrastructure, such as water and sewer, gas, and other piping infrastructure, ages, it is a great opportunity for us to be out on the forefront and advocate on behalf of our membership.”
Public affairs and governmental relations are a PPI focus Fink believes essential to help recognize the role plastic piping can play in solving these infrastructure needs and challenges.
Beyond advocacy, Fink said education is another essential role for the PPI. They recently launched an online education platform geared to the contractors, engineers and key stakeholders in the plastics community. “We launched PPI e-learn, which is a learning management system,” Fink said. This platform provides flexibility in learning with a 24/7 education tool.
Shining a Spotlight on Pipe Fusion
Jeff Turner, Sales Channel Manager for McElroy, and Ryan Ethier, creator of the Facebook group Gods of Fusion and Western Canada Utility Sales Manager at ISCO-AH McElroy, joined host Tyler Kern for the first episode of Connections, a new podcast series by McElroy.
This series is dedicated to the pipe fusion industry. McElroy, an industry leader in pipe fusion since 1967, uses thermoplastic piping in all types of infrastructure projects and applications. Turner and Ethier provided their insights on what McElroy does and what this series is all about.
While 2020 proved to be a challenge for McElroy, like it was for many areas of business, they weathered the storm by finding new opportunities to reach customers through online training, something so successful they will be continuing with this through 2021.
Turner said there is a lot to look forward to.
“One thing 2020 taught us was we were able to expedite the production of some of our online courses for operator qualification. You can do some things before arriving at a location to get your qualified operator hands-on experience that you can do online," he said. "That allowed us to expedite that process not only for the PE side but also for the polypropylene side. And, of course, we’re also adding our podcast to the mix. So, it’s an exciting time for us to be informative and to talk to people and educate them.”
Knowledge exchange is an important part of the pipe fusion industry, and learning and sharing information with others fuels Turner and Ethier’s passions.
Ethier created Gods of Fusion to help share his passion with like-minded folks.
“The pipe fusion industry is not just an industry; it’s like a big family,” Ethier said. “The other passion I have for it (pipe fusion) is we’re installing something in municipalities, in mines, aquaculture, agriculture, and all kinds of infrastructure that doesn’t leak. It’s a great product for everybody.”