TANKS & CYLINDERS
“Not only does the virtual reality representation
of the unit provide an invaluable visualisation of
the parts that make up the system, it also offers
a look into the science that powers the product”
Integrating new technology to
bridge the skills gap
Stuart Doggrell, water heating general manager at Fabdec, looks at the role virtual reality will
play in providing insights into heating plumbing products and technology.
The UK’s manufacturing sector is
on a constant search to uncover
the latest technological disruptor
that can improve efficiencies and
This commitment has been a bedrock
of its sustained success in the past years,
and with the UK’s exit from the European
Union looming on the horizon, this
dedication to improving the way we work
is key to future-proofing our businesses.
However, it can be a difficult task to
establish which technologies are here
to stay and which are a flash in the pan,
artificially inflated by the hype that often
accompanies any innovation.
In the water heating sector, a key
development in technology that has had
a transformative effect on the way that
products and concepts are understood
plus installers are trained and educated, is
In partnership with the Chartered
Institute of Plumbing and Heating
Engineering (CIPHE), manufacturers
have developed a totally virtual
representation of heating and plumbing
products that can be accessed on mobiles,
laptops and tablets, providing insights into
the product and technology without the
need to physically inspect it in person.
This method of gaining information
provides benefits in allowing installers
and end-users to view the inner-workings
of a complete system, without the need to
open the unit to view the composite parts.
This is further compounded by
the fact that when viewing the visual
representation, it can simulate the
effects of the system being run in normal
operation in a totally safe environment,
demonstrating the product’s optimum
performance. Conversely it can be used
to demonstrate inherent problems in a
system that can be identified without any
risk to the operator.
Not only does the virtual reality
representation of the unit provide an
invaluable visualisation of the parts that
make up the system, it also offers a look
into the science that powers the product.
This is particularly useful following
the introduction of new unvented water
heaters that incorporate the “Venturi
effect”, which eliminates the need for an
internal floating baffle or an external
expansion vessel and automatically
replenishes the internal expansion air
Understanding the scientific process
behind the method and the way the
Venturi valve works in normal everyday
operation will be key for installers and
help them to educate the home owner
when specifying the unvented water
heater for their own homes.
As the popularity of virtual reality
increases, our goal is to work alongside the
CIPHE to introduce similar technology
with an augmented reality capability.
When completed it will not only allow
installers to show a representation of a
product or system, but also start to dissect
it piece-by-piece as in real-terms if there
was a fault diagnosis to be carried out.
This could save vast amounts of time
and allow maintenance and repair to be a
much more straightforward process.
As demographics change across the
industry and the UK, it is vitally important
that manufacturing keeps up with other
industries as an attractive destination for
those leaving school or university.
The introduction of exciting new
technologies like virtual reality help to
position the sector as forward thinking
It also creates new opportunities for
people with transferable skills and who
may not have considered the sector
previously. This improves its visibility to
those with unique skills that have not been
properly utilised in the industry before.
In accepting young talent with new and
ground-breaking ideas, UK manufacturers
can ensure a strong pipeline of forwardthinking
employees who can continue to
develop innovations that will drive the
Virtual reality is also invaluable in
developing the skills of the existing
industry workforce. Of the estimated
200,000 plumbing and heating installers
across the UK, it is some 8,000 and
growing that CIPHE members and,
therefore, have access to this technology.
Increasing this number of members is
paramount to ensuring that installers are
informed in a non-patronising manner
and able to familiarise with the products
and technology available to them. This
in turn will increase installer efficiency,
lower the number of maintenance issues
that arise following installation, and
ensure the safety of installers and endusers
in the longer term.
From an end-user perspective,
understanding the science in a manner
that powers the hot water source in their
home can lead to environmental and
energy saving benefits.
For example, conventional unvented
systems will lose pressure and with
neglect water may pass to waste as a safety
Understanding why this has occurred
or how to prevent it reoccurring could
potentially result in water and energy
saving, benefitting the environment and
lowering overall product life-cycle costs.
ENQUIRY NUMBER 116
A virtual reality training system alongside Fabdec’s
Excelsior unvented water heater
52 Heating & Plumbing Monthly | JUNE 2018 | www.hpmmag.com