In March 2023 a delegation from IOPSA visited Germany to attend the World Plumbing Council (WPC) general meeting which was held as part of the ISH trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany. Whilst in the country, IOPSA used the opportunity to meet with Kreishandwerkerschaft (KH) in Munster they are an artisan education body. The delegation was made up of Adriaan Myburg (President), Brendan Reynolds (Executive Director) and Steve van Zyl (Technical Manager).
World Plumbing Council meeting.
The WPC general meeting was held as part of the ISH trade fair. Delegates attended from USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Whilst various interesting and enlightening topics were discussed there were two clear themes that emerged from the conference.
Firstly, sustainability was probably the most discussed topic both in and out of the meeting. In particular energy and water. It is clear that the whole world is desperately trying to find solutions to climate change, global warming and the market demand for more sustainable solutions. Heat pumps were a much discussed solution which is increasingly gaining popularity. For example, Germany requires 600 000 heat pumps to be installed each year for 5 years, that is 1644 heat pumps every single day, a monumental task.
The second big theme from the meeting was the worldwide shortage of skilled plumbers. It is not so much that there is a shortage of people but rather a shortage of plumbers with the right skills needed to face modern challenges. Many countries are going to extraordinary lengths to attract both young and old to the trade. There was much discussion about the need for the migration of skilled plumbers from country to country, however, the reality is that this could take a long time to change. The bottom line, we all need to do more to encourage young people to join trades, encourage women to see the trades as a good career option and improve the standard of education.
The next World Plumbing Conference will be held in Shanghai 17 -20 October 2023 https://www.wpc-sh.com/
ISH Trade fair.
ISH is the largest plumbing and HVAC trade fair in the world. It is held at Messe in Frankfurt which is a huge trade fair venue. The scale of ISH is simply mind blowing, over 150 000 visitors from 150 countries, 2000 exhibitors in 12 halls totalling over 300 000 square metres. It is almost impossible to get through it all in the 5 days. For South Africans’ in particular the scale is hard to comprehend and the numbers are simply staggering.
Once again there were some themes that came across strongly.
It should be no surprise that this was a recurring theme and it really was, in almost every single conversation or exhibit sustainability was a theme. From the way products are manufactured, to packaging, to tooling, to installation methods, to the consumption of water and energy, virtually every product is trying to compete to be the most environmentally friendly. Of key importance to the SA market is that ceramics are out due to the high energy demands during production, new composite materials are taking over. 4.5lt flush is the new normal, no longer 6lt. PVC is completely out for waste water. Soldering of potable water pipes is now banned in Europe and many other parts of the world, crimping or pressing is all that is available.
Digital connected electronic plumbing components.
An incredible amount of product on the trade fair was “smart”. The trend from previous years seems to have blossomed and nearly every kind of product has some sort of electronic component and virtually all of them are connected in some way to a smart phone. From tools, to toilets, showers, baths plumbers will need to start improving their knowledge of electronics and the internet of things.
Colour is back!
Yes, believe it or not, every hall with sanitaryware and taps was a rainbow of colour, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a 1980’s retro party. The move away from ceramics to composite materials has allowed for an incredible range of new colours and variations in design. Taps and mixers seem to be moving in the same direction with all manner of colours and finishes available.
Tools have also undergone a revolution, there is a definite focus on high quality tools that reduce the time, effort and difficulty of jobs. From lifting heavy objects, to pipe maintenance of every sort, new installation and testing tools the variety is endless. But these tools all have one thing in common, they all reduce the amount of time and labour needed to do a job. The efficiencies that the right tools can bring have been shown again and again.
Heat pumps, heat pumps, everywhere.
The sheer number of heat pump exhibitors and the vast number of people in those stands was hard to comprehend. The worldwide demand for heat pumps is incredible and the pace of technological advancements in heat pumps is phenomenal. It seems as though the whole world has decided that this is the best solution and they are investing in it in a big way. By far the most popular hall and by far the most talked about subject.
This visit was specifically to discuss the ongoing partnership between KH and IOPSA, specifically in regards to KH’s new project in Bloemfotein with Motheo College. We also discussed the possibility of skilled worker migration and gained a lot of insight into the German education system and methods of educating plumbers. KH kindly arranged for IOPSA to meet with a local plumber, Willers who have an extremely professional business. Visits to the Bosch Training Centre and Tece were also very useful in understanding how things are done in Germany. Finally a visit to Engergieland2050 and organisation which strives to improve sustainability in the region for some discussions of their success stories and looking for areas of cooperation.
IOPSA would like to thank the following organisations for their assistance in making the trip possible;
Calafrica, Patric Gordon
Caleffi SPA, Fabio Rossi
KH, Frank Tischner and Aika Drescher