With the future of the market looking towards heightened production and automation, and with supply chain challenges having intensified in the past year, ensuring quality parts can reach plumbing and heating installers is essential. Lee Flood, Director of Quality at RWC, delves into the processes required to manufacture fittings to a high standard and how rigorous quality testing is fundamental to the UK’s built environment.

The age-old saying of quality over quantity still stands true to this day. Celebrating its 60 Years of Trust anniversary, RWC’s renowned brands, JG Speedfit and John Guest, recognise the crucial role reliability will continue to play within the market. Stringent testing methods must be integrated into modern business processes to ensure safety is the foremost priority for manufacturers.

This is especially important over the next decade, which will see an increased reliance on the heating and plumbing industry, with innovative construction projects on the rise meant tonot only cater for the growing population needs, but also to help reduce the environmental impact our buildings have. And by supplying dependable parts, manufacturers can providecontractors with the technologies needed to capitalise on new work, while installing reliable systems that help improve our built environment.

Increased reliance on quality

As robust infrastructure becomes increasingly important within the domestic, commercialand public sectors, it’s now imperative that new builds are supplemented with reliable fittings and pipework. Not only does this increase the longevity and upkeep of the building, it alsoreduces long-term maintenance costs – a significant consideration for building contractors.

Looking at the recent government rollout of the hospital building programme as an example, the integration of reliable heating and plumbing systems throughout each build will be crucial to the programme’s success. The initiative aims to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 using a £3.7 billion budget. While the investment in highgrade parts may increase upfront costs, the long-term savings and benefits should be prioritised – especially in critical applications where downtime and maintenance can be costly.

Equally, as we saw during the COVID19 pandemic, reliance on quality parts that provide forfast and secure connections heightened, particularly in the domestic sector, where plumbers had to minimise time at a customer’s property to help reduce potential exposure to the virus.Furthermore, February 2021 saw a healthy increase of 4.8% in weekly pay for self-employed installers, which has been growing since 2020, further indicating the surge in demand for the plumbing and heating trade. And manufacturers such as RWC must enable installers to create quality plumbing systems to prevent leaks, ensure homes are safeguarded, and keep costs for reworks to a minimum.

Looking ahead, it’s essential that testing must continue to be integrated into processes to help the heating and plumbing industry bounce back from the impact of COVID-19. However, to achieve this, certain challenges will need to be considered and overcome. 

Current challenges within the marketplace

Increased demand over the last couple of decades has played a crucial role in the quality of products produced today. Reputable manufacturers often prioritise producing increasedvolumes of parts at a high rate of production to meet the market’s demand, while stillensuring safety and material composition is not compromised

Adding to this, manufacturers both within the UK and those shipping to the UK need toconsider the difference in regulations after Brexit. While it looks likely that the UK’s material regulations will mirror the existing EU frameworks, manufacturers will need to be ready to adapt to any unexpected changes in the market.

Equally, governments are now working towards various net-zero goals. The UK is set to achieve a 78% reduction in harmful emissions by 2035, to eventually reach net-zero by 2050. Knowing this, manufacturers must prioritise the use of cleaner and purer materials to improve their carbon emissions. Looking ahead, companies will need to ensure performance and safety is continually met and adapted alongside the adoption of greener materials and processes.

Reliable testing methods

In the heating and plumbing manufacturing industry, there are several testing methods for parts and fittings that should be carried out to give installers the confidence they have the most reliable products for the job. By doing so, defective batches can be quickly identified and taken out of production at the earliest stage for analysis. These tests include measurements of critical dimensions, material quality and pressure checks through hydrostatic testing, pipe flattening, impact resistance and joint integrity – among many others.

While some of these tests must be conducted manually, measurement checking and identifying damaged or defected parts are both examples of processes that can be automated using surveillance systems. Previously, parts could only be checked at a certain rate, as a human can only take in so much information at once. Whereas by utilising integrated camera systems and AI technology, large batches can be checked in a matter of seconds, giving better accuracy and faster rates of production. 

The future is quality

For companies yet to adopt automation into their production process, successful integration of AI technology and camera surveillance will be expected to meet demand and newproduction standards. Improving quality testing methods not only ensures productionefficiencies and minimises recallssafety is also improved, liability risks are reduced and brand value is greatly enhanceda valuable asset in highly saturated markets!

Considering the current testing processes and challenges ahead, businesses should begin evaluating how more environmentally friendly compositions and materials can be introduced. For example, plastic fittings and valves have been found to be more sustainable duringmanufacture due to less energy needed for the production of final components when compared to other materials. While plastic is often negatively associated with the environment, the long service life of plumbing solutions made of this material means theirlongevity marries well with their use, unlike single-use plastics.

Sustainability, from material to the method of production, will play a major role in the years to come. Businesses looking to stay ahead of the competition should consider how they can become more sustainable, both in the short and long term. 

Quality products from a quality brand

Having worked within a variety of markets over its 60 years, RWC’s renowned brands John Guest and JG Speedfit – have created numerous products for industries where quality and performance is critical. Made in Britain and used worldwide, JG Speedfit has utilised its knowledge in testing to provide trusted and reliable push-fit solutions for heating and plumbing professionals for decades.

With a strong customer base, RWC and its family of brands prides itself on continuous improvement through customer feedback and translating this into Research and Development to ensure products meet the exact needs of the market.

Stringent production testing will play an important role in the future of the industry. With improved levels of quality throughout products, reliable infrastructure will be built to higher standards and manufacturers will benefit from increased business, improved brand value and lower product defects. While product checking can still be improved with the integration of better automation and AI, ensuring stringent checks are integrated into business processes will reap rewards in the years to come.

For more about RWC, please visit www.rwc.com