The Bermad Training Facilities

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In this episode of Controlling Water, we are joined by Colin Kirkland, a mechanical engineer at Bermad, who shares how he first learnt to operate control valves. With over 30 years of experience in water supply and irrigation, Colin explains what the different training and education was like during this time, and the importance of creating a safe, hands-on learning environment for engineers at the Bermad training facilities.

Bermad Podcast - Colin Kirkland

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Sarah Hello and welcome to Controlling Water, a space for us to talk valves, water meters, and interesting insights about the water industry. Each episode we’re joined in conversation by industry professionals that specialize in all things, valves, meters, and best practice knowledge in the water industry. We are here with Colin Kirkland, from Bermad Water Technologies, who is talking about the interactive training facility that is used at the BWT offices.

Colin, I’m really excited to talk to you about this. I think it’s a fantastic facility where typically we know that there’s a lot of risk for people to learn on their own equipment that they’re going to be using. And so I’m really excited that we get to talk about this today. We get to learn a lot about it.

Before we do that, though, I’m very interested to ask you this question.

Colin Okay.
Sarah How did you learn about the equipment and how did you learn to use the equipment first?
Colin So, I’ve been in the water industry for a lot of years. I will not say how many, but too many. And when I first got involved in control valves, there’s not a school you can learn it from. So when you’re studying engineering or whatever you studied at university or college, there’s not really anywhere that you can really understand how these products work. They’re actually quite complicated. So a lot of the time when I learnt, I basically read catalogs and went out and made mistakes until such time where I really became confident. And look, I don’t mind saying, I promise you, I won’t tell you who the customer is, but when I first got involved in this, I was a member. I was commissioning a pressure reducing station in a major water authority and I thought I knew what I was doing. I knew what the product function was and what the components did. Because it wasn’t set up correctly and I didn’t really understand the full dynamics, I ended up breaking the pipeline twice that the contractor wasn’t very happy with. But I realised fairly quickly what was lacking and that’s just not possible to do these days. You know, of course you hopefully learn through your mistakes, but that’s how I learned. I guess they called it learning through the school of hard knocks. You spoke to a lot of people and there’s a lot of people in this industry that you will find that are industry specialists. And you, if you’re interested in learning about it, you would listen and see how different water authorities commissioned valves and operated them. And you would learn from that. And it was great. It’s quite a complex valve and people are, as you say, are very nervous about our products because they’re quite complex. But if you actually educate people on them and take away that mistake on it. They’re actually really straightforward if you understand the brain of how they work and why they work.

So that’s how I learned. And hopefully today I’m at some level that I can at least not break the pipeline.

Good to know. That’s good to know. So Colin, can you tell me about the purpose of the training facilities?

For sure. With that in mind that I was saying that, and you correctly said, water companies don’t like you really training the users or operators on their own network, because if they get it wrong, you generate water hammer, you can fatigue the pipe, you can stress it, you can make a failure. And a lot of the time these products are in valve pits below ground. They are very hard to get to, they’re in dangerous locations that require certain documentation and training to make sure if you’re going below ground, it’s safe because you’re in a confined space, so you need certification, breathing equipment, et cetera.

What Bermad decided to do was invest in a facility that was in a really safe environment that wasn’t linked to the water authority, had his own independent pumps and tanks, et cetera. But it was a facility that operators can really get close to the valves and actually use them and make mistakes like.

And really learn. So the Melbourne facility was designed more than probably I think it was six or seven years ago, so that we had some valve trains they’re set up in a classroom where people could be educated on the fundamentals in the classroom, and then quickly move out to the training center where they could be given the tools and they can actually then operate it and work the valves really close.

And that’s a really good safe. To actually learn how the operate definitely. And so hands-on as well that it builds confidence in how to use it is. And if you’ve ever seen fear in someone’s eyes, when they come to the facility and I always ask and say, look, I want to actually give you the tools to let you make it.

And this is a safe environment to make mistakes because then if I can see, you’re about to make one, I’ll say, look, let’s just stop because I can see that you’re going to do this. And this is what the ramifications would be. And you have to relate. What’s happening in this small test rig to what’s happening in the authority cost.

So it’s really good, but it’s, and I don’t want to have listeners to sit there and think that our products are really scary product and they don’t want to work with them if people understand how they work and why they work. Quite straightforward. It’s just a matter of education and it’s a great tool to be able to see it.

So yes, seeing that figure in their eyes, when you give them the shifter and say, look, you modify the pressure. Now let’s make it work. And it’s good. Definitely. Definitely. I love that. I love that. So Colin, can you tell us a little bit about the actual training rigs themselves? What are their capabilities?

So it’s split into. Two separate, complete trains. So we have a hydraulic train where this is running water pressure, where we’ve got a couple of supply pumps in the tank and we pump water up to, I think it’s around 20 liters per second at pressures up to about 12 bar. So it’s replicating what you’ll see in a typical.

Water supply pipeline or an irrigation network or in a building or an irrigation set a system. They are, it will be a multiple multitude of valves and meters on there. So there’ll be pressure control valves. There will be water meters, there’ll be Mac flowmeters, there’ll be air release valves on there, which is what you actually need for the system to work.

So you’re not just seeing, we’re trying to replicate what you’re gonna see in the ground, but in an above ground situation, that’s at chest height, that you can really get close to. So everything is made very robustly. So if there is what a hammer, which we experience every day in this it’s safe, we go through all the safety aspect of it for the users, but it’s a really good environment.

So that’s the hydraulic rig. And then we have a couple of separate rigs that we demonstrate how air release valves actually operate. So these are, we have an air blower which actually shows and demonstrates air valves working in vacuum. So that demonstrates when you’re draining a pipe and the pipe has gone into vacuum.

It’s showing you the air flow coming in. We have all these on that large monitors, so you can visually see it. You can hear it. And you can see what’s right and what’s wrong not to use. We then demonstrate how to fill a pipeline, so we demonstrate the air blower discharging ear at a safe rate, and then at a controlled rate and then at a dangerous rate. And then, we also demonstrate with water as well to show how well they’ll seal at a whole variety of different pressures, because if you don’t have sufficient pressure for some valves, they don’t operate so it’s of very hands-on that you can visually see the products. And that’s the two distinct rigs which we have.

Sarah Fantastic. Fantastic. And so are the training rigs set up for specific market segments only?
Colin Yes, well, we have, because most of these applications are quite similar to a water supply, to a mind, to an irrigation, there are specifics which make it different.

So we have in each of the rigs preassembled and made to suit what’s beneficial to use. So if you were working for a major water authority, we’ll have them configured that way. If you are in a mine, we’d have it configured a different way. If you’re in a building, it’d be different or for irrigation and they have different response rates and different characteristics.

So yes, we tend to set up the rig, which we just modify very quickly before people come to make sure that what they’re seeing is what they’re seeing n the field as well. But it’s again, a nice safe environment.

Sarah Fantastic, fantastic, and such a great way to build confidence.
Colin Oh,confidence is everything. What we are actually looking for when we go to water companies and we say, look, why would you come to one of our facilities? A lot of the time we’re going to the, it might be the operations manager, or it might be one of the general managers of the companies, and what we’re basically going to say to them is, look, thank you. You’ve purchased our product. That’s in your authority. What we would like to do is to empower your users or operators or designers to come to our facility, see the product work and see how it fails because it’s a really interesting thing. People don’t want to demonstrate why your product can potentially fail, but if you know that in advance, you can design failure out of it.

Failure modes are because there’s a product failure or there’s an operator intervention failure, we can design all that out. So we’re actually, we’re being really honest about it.

Sarah Definitely.
Colin Why they work, how they can fail and how to prevent failure. So to anyone who’s interested, and the reason why this is so important is that, you know, because in Australia, we’re in such a large country and we’re very far away from the main cities where the support is, if you empower the people there and they have an issue at two o’clock in the morning, they can get to that location with confidence and fix it. Because I can assure you, I’m not taking the phone call at two o’clock in the morning. It’s about empowering people with good information.
Sarah Of course. And it sounds like the fact that you are open to talking about the failure points means you’re also very realistic and practical about the fact that these products can have issues. And this is what can happen in order to overcome that.
Colin Exactly

the best way to explain that, Sarah if you drive your car every day and you never have it serviced, eventually it’s going to fail. Your tires are going to run out of oil or whatever.

What we’re basically saying, is that we are really giving a really hands-on on how to maintain it, when to maintain it, because the water quality plays a very big issue because if it’s in a mine or if it’s in water, supplier irrigation, there’s very, very different water supplies here. And that impacts on how well the valves operate.

So if you’re really upfront about it and you explain to people, because sometimes it may mean you may have to add a few accessories to develop, to make it safer and it’s really important to have the valve configured the right way that’s safe and understood and not too complex.

Sarah Definitely. Definitely.

Let’s take a short break before we return to discuss role specific training opportunities, the Bermad mobile training rig, and more.

For more information on any of the products or topics discussed in this episode, plus a wide range of resources and articles designed to support you as water professionals.


Now back to the show.

So Colin, I’m conscious that there are training courses that exist as part of the training facility. Can you tell us a little bit about what they are and how they run?

Colin Absolutely. So the training courses that we have, we actually published this on our website under the interactive training facility and it’s broken down into market segments.
Sarah Great.
Colin So there will be, just from memory, we have like water supply, we have mining, we have building services, we have irrigation. And it’s something else that I’ll forget, but doesn’t matter. There’s several of them there where they can… we break down into those market segments what’s specific. So for example, in irrigation it might be these are valves to suit pivot irrigators, or for vineyard control or for orchard.

There’s many different applications. So they’re very, very specific in these courses are really designed, because what we find is that when people come for training and it’s a general training course that we’re doing, the feedback that we’ve always had when we’ve done this training is that “Look, Colin, that was great, but only 10 or 15% of it was applicable. The rest of it was all very nice, but it really didn’t apply to us.”

So these courses, which we do are tailored to suit everything that you need.

Sarah Mmm-hmm.
Colin So it’s really applicable if you’re a building manager and you’ve got a high-rise building and you have our valves there, we’re going to talk about how these are gonna work in your actual application. So it’s very applicable. So when they are leaving, they’re actually getting hopefully 90 or 100% of the course is applicable to what they’re doing.

So even though these are reasonably fixed courses we have, they are completely adaptable to individual requirements.

Sarah Wow.
Colin So for example, if we had a… an irrigation or a mine come to us, they would have a very specific application and they would tell us in advance and we would tailor that course to suit them.

But at least you can see in our website typically what some of those courses are, and there’s also another box in there where you can tick ‘other’, and you can say, look, I’d really like to know about X, Y, or Z…

Sarah Mmm-hmm.
Colin And we can tailor that to suit. So it’s a practical hands-on on the training rig and also in the classroom.

And it’s a free lunch. So what more to ask?

Sarah Hahaha. Well, you know.
Colin That’s right. But the key thing is, which I think people really need to know though, it’s… and I say this is that… if you’re expecting to come along to the training session and sit down and have an afternoon off work and sit here. It’s not like that.
Sarah It’s not the place.
Colin It’s very interactive. We make people actually work. We ask a lot of questions and we really try to assess at the end of the session – Look, did it work? Did it actually… did you get what you actually needed? And we always assess this before we start and when we finish.

But it’s a… it’s a good tool, because at the end of the day, if you’re comfortable or happy with our product, and you know how and why it works, you’ll use it.

Sarah Absolutely.
Colin And that’s the, that’s the fundamentals for it
Sarah Absolutely. I love that. I love that.

So I understand that the number of site locations has increased where it is possible to do the training. That’s really exciting. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Colin Yes, and it was, it was quite a huge investment for the company. We started maybe I think it was six years ago in Melbourne.

And we used to have people coming from overseas, from Western Australia, from Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania – They would come across. But that’s a big expense and it’s a big time. So we decided in recent times, I think for the last 12 months ago, we installed another test facility in our Western Australian office in Perth, which has been hugely successful. We’ve now got one up and running in Sydney and one in Brisbane too, as well.

So we’re capturing the major capitals so that people can come and it’s a lot more practical to come to see that. The individual training facilities are tailored to the markets that they go to, so for example, mining is a big aspect in Western Australia. So we have a lot of products situated for water and for mining. In New South Wales and Sydney, you know, it’s very set up for buildings and for water supply and for irrigation and the same in Queensland. And again, they’re very adaptable that they can change around to as well.

Sarah Definitely. Definitely. And I’ve heard a lot about this mobile training rig.
Colin Yes.
Sarah Is this used Australia wide? How does this work?
Colin What we found was… is that we now have an office in Griffith in the Riverina in New South Wales. And we found that when we’re supplying to a lot of large corporate growers and a lot of irrigation distributors… again, it’s, you know, it’s a seven hour, eight hour drive to get to one of the capitals.

So we decided that to really supplement Mitch, who works from our Griffith office, we put a tandem trailer together that was completely independent. So this has its own genset in it. So it’s a petrol driven genset that we can take away from the trailer, or it just runs into a three-phase system. So, it can independently… We can take it out onto a farm, we can take it to an irrigation distributor, to a water company, to a mine. And it gives them the ability on a slightly smaller scale, because it can only run, I think from memory, up to 60 – 70 meters up to maybe 15 liters a second, but we’ve got air blowers… So we can virtually, we can do virtually everything we do in the major capitals in a slightly smaller scale, but on the trailer.

Sarah Fantastic.
Colin And that’s becoming useful because we able to go to the client.
Sarah Mmm.
Colin So, yes, we’ve been doing that throughout the Southern New South Wales and Northern Victoria and it’s running very successfully.
Sarah Great to hear. Great to hear. So how do people get information on these training sessions and how is it organized?
Colin Ah okay. So on our website, We have a title they’re called ‘interactive training facilities’. You can get a look and a bit of an overview of some of the courses that we’ve got there. There’s a question and answer section at the bottom that you can have a tick situation, put your contact time down.

You can say “Look, in the next three months, it would be great. If we could train eight, ten people for these instances.” It comes to us online, and then we make contact from there and the rest is history.

Sarah Love it. Love it.

Colin, thank you for joining me today. I’ve learned so much about the interactive training facilities and very excited to see how they progress.

Colin Good. You should come along to one.
Sarah I should!

Thank you for the time.

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  • A head-shot photo of Colin Kirkland, The Air Valve Product Manager & Victoria/Tasmania Technical Sales at BWT.


    by Colin Kirkland

    Air Valve Product Manager / Technical Training

    Colin has more than 40 years’ experience working in water supply and irrigation in Australia, including 24 years with BWT. He credits his training at Weir pumps in his native Scotland for providing him with a solid grounding in engineering.

    Colin is a mechanical engineer and a fitter and turner, who prides himself on taking a hands-on approach when designing and implementing successful installations across all aspects of BWT’s products and markets.

    As Air Valve Product Manager, Colin performs training seminars in pipeline design incorporating air release valves around Australia.

    Read more about Colin: Who’s who at BWT – Colin Kirkland

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