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Q and A: Drilling and Tapping competition

Entries are now open for the Drilling and Tapping championships at Utility Week Live 2016. WWT talks to competition veteran Malcolm Holmes, Network Service Manager at Anglian Water, for the lowdown

The Anglian Water team compete at Utility Week Live 2015. They won the Drilling and Tapping competition with a time of 2:16The Anglian Water team compete at Utility Week Live 2015. They won the Drilling and Tapping competition with a time of 2:16

Drilling and Tapping: The Info

- The UK Drilling and Tapping competition is organised by the Institute of Water. The next competition takes place at Utility Week Live (formerly IWEX) in Birmingham’s NEC, 17th & 18th May 2016.

- Teams of two are invited to enter the competition, one driller and one tapper. There are categories for contractors as well as water companies, and a ladies competition.

-Last year’s winners were Jason Barrett and Lee Maddock of Anglian Water with a time of 2 minutes 16 seconds. Bournemouth Water won the ladies competition. Morrison US was Best Contractor

- Entries and enquiries to Dan Barton (Institute of Water) at dan@instituteofwater.org.uk. Web: www.drillingandtapping.co.uk.

WWT: How long have you been involved with the Drilling & Tapping competition?
MH: I started off representing Anglian Water in the competition when it first came into fruition as a concept in the early 1990s. I competed in the competition, and was national champion for three years, before going into the judging side of it; then I ran the competition for about ten years. Now, I am still a national judge for the competition but I also look after the team at Anglian Water and make sure that we submit a team.

What’s the main appeal of the competition?
It’s about getting the people that do this as a day job to an exhibition where they wouldn’t normally go, to let other people see the skills that they use during their everyday working lives. It allows people to understand the concept of us connecting a water pipe to the house, and to see that it isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. There is great camaraderie between the teams, so it’s good for networking, and you can bring back innovative ideas from the show that your business can take on board.

What are the key skills that you need to succeed?
You have to show speed and dexterity, and complete the task in a manner that avoids any health and safety concerns. In the competition, any safety violation gives you a 30 second penalty, and that generally would mean that you would not win the competition. So the drilling and tapping has to be done in a safe, controlled, speedy fashion.

How similar is the competition to the day job?
Everyone asks when they see the Drilling and Tapping competition - if it only takes two and a half minutes to put a service connection in, why can they only do two a day when they are in the field? Well, the answer is that in the field they have to dig a hole first! Also, in the field they have other utilities in their way, their equipment isn’t as engineered, and they are approaching it more cautiously. When you are doing it at speed and you are all pumped up, it can be easy to make a mistake.

What’s the worst that could go wrong in the process?
What you are trying to do is connect all the fittings up with the result that you have a supply going through the meter and water coming out of the tap at the back. The worst situation is that you overdraw the water main, and your ferrule pops out, because then there’s nothing you can do, you can’t get water out and the competition is gone. So it is about getting it right first time.

Have the format and rules changed over the years?
The concept has been the same – it’s always about connecting a service pipe to a main and installing a meter and a stoptap. The only things that do change over the years are materials and fittings.

How does the international Drilling and Tapping competition work?
The winners in Birmingham go to America to compete in their competition – it’s a prize that’s arranged by the sponsor, Saint-Gobain. Separately, every year there is a World Water Cup, which rotates between the Americans, the Dutch and the English. This year, it’s at Aquatech in Amsterdam on the 3rd of November. Next year it will be in Chicago, in June. Then in 2017 it will be back in Birmingham. The three countries each have slightly different methods, so you have to learn all three if you want to compete in the World Water Cup.

What would be a winning time?
The winning time last year, from the Anglian team, was 2 minutes 16 seconds. Certainly anything under 2 minutes 30 has the potential to win the competition. All the teams are getting so close together now, that it just takes one little leak or one little fitting that doesn’t go in quite right to add the seconds on that takes you outside the margin of winning the competition. But what it’s really about is a quality tap.

How does the ladies competition compare?
The ladies competition is a fair bit slower, because it is physical work, but they put in the same amount of effort and enthusiasm. It’s great for all the competitors to be there and be ambassadors for their water company.

As a judge in the competition, do you have to make any controversial decisions?
We do, but the judge’s decision is final! We hold briefings beforehand where we say what you can and can’t do. But to be honest, we don’t get too many complaints about our decision making.

- The UK Drilling and Tapping competition is organised by the Institute of Water. The next competition takes place at Utility Week Live (formerly IWEX) in Birmingham’s NEC, 17th & 18th May 2016. Entries and enquiries to Dan Barton (Institute of Water) at dan@instituteofwater.org.uk. Web: www.drillingandtapping.co.uk.


Topic: Contractors , Pipes & Pipelines
Tags: Pipes , water main

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