Come Rain or Come Shine

Come Rain or Come Shine

A change in the market in 2003 saw leading Australian manufacturer Davey Water Products change the way consumers used water.

A change in the market in 2003 saw leading Australian manufacturer Davey Water Products change the way consumers used water. With that change came some installation and specifying difficulties; however, the strength of the product has seen these problems overcome. Jonathan Jackson speaks with Paul Johnson and Rankin McKay about the strength of Davey’s product offering and the issues plumbers should be aware of.

It’s not easy to change a market, but Davey has been doing this since founder Frank W Davey opened his auto electrical repairs business in 1934 in Carlton, Victoria. Frank found a niche offering; a same morning changeover electrical accessory service to country vegetable growers and buyers, which expanded into pumps and water products.

Almost 70 years later, the tradition of creating new markets has continued as Davey launched into the rainwater control sphere.

“Frank was well and truly out of the company; however, his spirit of innovation continues to this day, particularly in fire products and in the RainBank, which is where we focus our attention,” says Service Manager Paul Johnson.

The RainBank allows householders to replace up to 40% of their potable or drinking water usage with rainwater. It harvests rainwater all year round and automatically decides to source rainwater first. It will only use mains water as a back-up, ensuring your essential services inside the home always have water.

This is a product that was created to deal with Australia’s climate, first in drought and now in variable weather patterns. It was created because there was movement towards water conservation that needed to be addressed. This is a movement that plumbers were initially slow to adapt to, but have now changed their tune.

Davey has been considerably pro-active in training plumbers to the use of sustainability-based products. There are several fundamental issues that must be adhered to.

“Many of the initial problems occurred because installers weren’t reading the instructions,” says Paul. “If the schematics are followed, you won’t have too many problems.”

Paul states that many of the problems occurred because the market didn’t exist before 2003.

“It was a new device to the industry and we didn’t make it plumber proof, but we have reversed the message through training,” Paul says.

Rankin McKay, General Manager of marketing, originally came in as a contractor to rewrite the instructions which proved to be quite successful, but as Paul says, “Plumbers don’t sit there and take the time to read all of the instructions because they contain a lot of information which isn’t necessarily relevant to them. Maybe down the track we’ll have one for the plumber, the homeowner etc… But we have worked hard to simplify the instructions as best we can.”

Initially some of the problems included plugging the device into itself and leaving the pump running after departing the site. Today a single GPO minimises the chance of having the device plugged into itself.

Training all master dealers also minimises any risk of damage.

“We rely on master dealers; they have knowledge and training and service the product, so they will specify the correct pump for the application,” Rankin says.

The RainBank was the first product in this market. There were bound to be hiccups as the market adjusted, but it has become the norm and is mandatory in some states.

In fact this is a product, like many of Davey’s products that is used around the world and like Aspirin, Band-Aid or Esky, has become the trademarked name used to describe generic opposition products.

That speaks volumes to the strength of the brand and the quality of the product.

“People refer to our competitors as the RainBank,” Rankin says. “The name has become generic for the category. Even builders refer to it as RainBank, but the product itself is a rain harvesting system. The RainBank is custom-built here and can be a bespoke product for builders who need them.”

A tour through the Davey factory convinces of the quality and strength of the brand. As Quality Manager, Simon Arnold guides us through the warehouse; it is evident that quality control is second-to-none. The factory is a vast-expanse of machine and man working in unison within defined areas to ensure that no batch of any product is faulty. From laser guidance to paint work, the kinks are ironed out and unsatisfactory product thrown away. Each person working on the floor is responsible for some part of production and therefore must take ownership if something goes wrong. This is quality assurance at its most rigid.

This quality control is the reason for Davey products’ international acceptance.

“In Africa and Malaysia there is a lot of interest,” Paul says. “These are countries that worship brand and that has a positive impact on us. These are countries that are running Horizontal Multistages (HMs) without any covers in 50°C temperatures and these products stand up. It’s because we test them at 100% humidity for three months. That’s Bali on steroids.”

Being Australian-made helps with international recognition, but it is not the be all and end all anymore. Any manufacturer worth his salt knows you need to offer more than an Australian label.

“Whingeing patriotism doesn’t work anymore. If you are good technically, have good values and are Australian-made then people will buy the product,” Rankin says.

“People are internationalised and while we can claim Australian and this makes us unique, a lot of success boils down to history, quality and having the dealer network. A Davey dealer will be able to advise on quality and support. We have an extensive rep force and dealers on our frontline. In this digital age, if you do the wrong thing you are found out much quicker, but we have nothing to hide and are very transparent. We are successful because the quality and reputation established by recent practice is key. The quality of the last experience will either connect or disconnect you and we make sure we remain connected.”

Training is a big part of that quality assurance and Paul wants to make it clear that there are several do’s and don’ts when installing a RainBank.

One thing people should be aware of is that it will not work without mains power.

“The mains provide the initial 125ml needed to detect a real demand for water. Otherwise the pump would start from the slightest leak.”
Other things to consider are adequate ventilation for surface mounted pumps. This is not a consideration for the submersible variety. Installation within a confined or covered space can lead to overheating. Isolation valves are handy so that the house can remain functional and the mains operational.

Preparation of the tank bed is also very important. The RainBank should be easily accessible. Landscapes can change and tanks can distort. And the RainBank should be mounted in the horizontal position.

“Some RainBanks are mounted into tanks and even if there is a 15ml movement or the tanks swell, this will put pressure on the pump and will cause a leak. Flexible piping will help that or if the RainBank is mounted directly to the wall, the two surfaces can’t move.”
Speaking of pipework, this should be positioned at a point in the tank below the float.

“We don’t want to be drawing the last couple of millilitres which is all the dirty water. The outlet and pump must be level. If the pump is positioned too high, it means the pump and outlet are out of sequence.”

What sets the RainBank apart from its competitors is the float system. This means when the tank runs out of water, it won’t try to restart itself. With pressure switch models, when the pump runs dry, there is no water lubricating it and the pump will suffer damage. The RainBank has the ability to reprime itself and has a failsafe. When the tank is full again, the pump will automatically switch back.”
Finally, noise should be a factor when installing the pump. The RainBank has an electric motor, which although makes minimal noise, can be heard. If you are installing near a boundary or next to a bedroom, you may want to reconsider the positioning if your customer is noise sensitive. On the other hand, a submersible pump will kill the noise altogether.

History will record that Davey stands in a class of its own with regard to pumps and water management equipment and has done for some time. For plumbers, this means confidence in installing a product that works and has industry respect. Though technology is always difficult to come to terms with, particularly when it changes so rapidly, Davey is determined to make the lives of plumbers easier by offering simple instructions, training and an all-round quality product.


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