Water & Economy

High Quality Demand Vs. Local Government Spending Caps

Franz Grabner, CEO of Pipelife Austria, holds a master’s degree in business administration and describes himself as “highly sales-oriented and decisive”. In his executive role, he wants to “keep the door to his office open for employees”. - (c) C. Hahn

These conflicting interests are also a concern for Franz Grabner, the new CEO of Pipelife Austria effective 1st July. In an interview with aqua press International, he explains how his company still remains on track for success.

aqua press: Pipelife Austria is Austria's biggest plastic pipe manufacturer. The company supplies public water utilities with PE and PVC pressure piping systems and - in combination with commodities such as electrofusion fittings, joints, valves and hydrants, spring water collection shafts and drinking water tanks - with fully integrated solutions. The product range also includes PP, PE and PVC pipes, shafts and sewer equipment for the wastewater industry as well as house connections, drainage pipes and rainwater infiltration systems.

Product quality has always been a key concern of Pipelife, which has earned the company much success also in Austria. Today, local governments are forced to cut their spendings considerably; even federal subsidies - with a total grant of 200 million euros allocated to municipal water management for the years 2015 and 2016 - are inadequate to relieve the situation. What is more, a cost assessment survey conducted in 2012 by Kommunalkredit Public Consulting on behalf of the Ministry of Environment reveals that pipe rehabilitation rates have been far too low for many years. At the same time, the domestic market is flooded with cheap foreign products. What do you think of these challenges, and how will your traditional business cope with the growing competition on the domestic market?

Grabner: Product quality is a key factor in Pipelife's corporate strategy. The main challenge will be to make local governments understand that a combination of high-quality products, proper planning and installation by experts offers huge benefits. Only such an integrated "package" will make the most out of their investment and assures the population a long-lasting infrastructure. Our plastic piping systems have a service life of 50+ years. The old saying 'buying cheap is an expensive mistake' holds true for municipal water management and for the entire infrastructure sector!

aqua press: Since water supply and wastewater pipes are buried in the ground, it will be hard to sell these benefits to the public during election times...

Grabner: That's right. This is why awareness-raising campaigns such as 'VORSORGEN' are so important. This campaign is targeted at mayors and offers them a sound negotiation tool for the public debate. VORSORGEN was developed at the national level by all industry stakeholders - in particular the Ministry of Environment, the water associations ÖVGW and ÖWAV, and the Associations of Cities and Towns and Municipalities. Pipelife Austria supports this important initiative with its representatives on relevant boards and committees. We also spread the word through our reps, our 20 branch offices and our large network of dealers.

New generation of working materials prolongs service life

aqua press: You have mentioned the long service life of modern plastic pipes. Is it possible to further prolong their service life?

Grabner: Definitely. The key to this is the new primary working material generation PE100-RC, an advancement of the proven and tested PE100 generation. 'RC' stands for 'resistance to crack', which implies resistance to slow cracking and thus a longer service life. For pipes which are conventionally laid in sand, PE100-RC provides a safety reserve. But it also support innovative installation methods like reverse circulation or burst lining. Pipelife already uses the new primary material in its AQUALINE product series, which has been developed for the drinking water sector.

We expect that PE100-RC will develop from an exquisite working material to a commodity. Other products with a huge potential are multi-layer pipes and protective jacket pipes, which are made of a PE core and an outer layer of mineral-reinforced PP. A real challenge for production!

Please read the whole interview in our 3/2015 “aqua press International” issue.

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