When it comes to data, in the words of Queen, ‘we want it all, and we want it now’ (if not sooner) and companies are well aware that their bottom line can often depend upon this need for speed.

If a mobile web page takes more than three seconds to load, 53 percent of users will simply abandon it, according to research from Google. On a computer, this abandonment rate catapults to 87 percent, should a page take more than two seconds to come to life.

Great expectations

This demand has piled the pressure on hyperscalers – the mega data center facilities responsible for keeping our increasingly digitized world turning – to build bigger, better and faster than ever before. But thanks to a global pandemic that brought most manufacturers and deliveries to a grinding halt, the data center industry is still feeling the residual effects, in the form of continuing supply chain issues and frustratingly long lead times.

Add into the mix the fact that hyperscalers tend to build and operate multiple sites across multiple locations around the world, and it’s easy to see why constructing these enormous facilities on time and to budget has become far more challenging.

Hyperscalers and their customers expect the same high-quality service, regardless of location; from design, to construction, all the way through to operation and end of life. But as construction schedules get increasingly tighter, hyperscalers need to ensure they’re working with manufacturers that have not only the global expertise, but also the global means, to deliver what they need, when they need it.

In order to successfully deliver these site agnostic deployments, on time, to budget and to the standard required, operators need to work closely with trusted partners, with global expertise, and localized, in country, manufacturing capabilities.

Georg Fischer (GF) Piping Systems is a global expert in manufacturing maintenance-free, long-lasting plastic piping systems, with solutions to help transition its customers away from traditional metal piping systems, to a faster, more cost-effective, more sustainable alternative.

A global footprint

Boasting a global presence, GF Piping Systems has recently expanded its capabilities in the APAC region. DCD sat down with Ben Sheppard, data center business development manager Aus/NZ at the company, to find out how the company’s global presence and expertise, combined with its network of global prefabrication shops is ensuring site agnostic success for its APAC customers.

“We currently have locations in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, but nothing in the Northeast Asian sector. We wanted to better serve our customers in this region which is why is why the decision was made to open a new OSM factory in Taiwan,” says Sheppard of the expansion.

And thanks to GF’s extensive experience in the semiconductor sector, this expansion not only supports data centers, but microelectronics as well.

Having access to this global network of 12 off-site prefab workshops – with more currently going online – means GF Piping Systems is able to provide modular plug and play solutions to its customers how and when they need them.

This not only helps GF’s customers meet construction deadlines, but helps mitigate lengthy lead times, supply chain issues, and shortens overall time to market. After all, a data center isn’t making any money until it’s operational.

And it isn’t a case of winning the location lottery as to which of GF’s customers can benefit from these localized workshops. Should the size and location of a major project warrant a local temporary solution, GF can make that happen, utilizing the necessary local stock to support the project in the fastest, most efficient way.

This is the beauty of having access to a global network. Each fabrication shop can back up another, independent of where the customer is or wants to go. They all work with the same guidelines, meaning that customers receive the same performance and quality, regardless of their location.

“Many data center owners want a site agnostic design, and we can deliver that. So for example, if they deploy in Australia, they will get the same in Thailand, if they deploy in Thailand, they get the same in Japan, if they deploy in Japan, they get the same in Taiwan,” says Sheppard.

And thanks to this global presence GF Piping Systems doesn’t only walk the walk, but talks the talk, quite literally.

“GF is present in 11 countries across APAC. Across the APAC region, we have three production facilities and four fabrication sites. In each country we serve, we have people on site that can speak the native language, so we are able to educate our local customers around Georg Fischer and the use of plastics, explaining the process, the benefits and how a particular product will suit their environment. So we are quite lucky in the sense that we’re not only site agnostic, but language agnostic as well,” explains Sheppard.

And this educational element extends even further. It’s no secret that a shortage of skilled labor is an industry-wide issue, and another reason construction schedules end up running over time and budget.

“Finding a local skill set, or local labor that knows how to work with plastic solutions can be a challenge,” says Sheppard. “This is why our fabrication facilities can also be used as training facilities.

“Having the opportunity to be able to deploy, train, or upskill local workers [SB3] in certain regions is really beneficial, not just for ourselves as a business, but for the local communities as well. We are able to provide training on different plastics or welding technologies, and can offer them internal certification within our facilities.”

Knowledge is power

Although customers get the same quality service across all locations, different geographies of course face different challenges. This is where partnering with a manufacturer that has extensive global experience becomes incredibly advantageous.

“In Taiwan we’ve spoken to a number of end users that have concerns around corrosion. So we can put forward a 100 percent corrosion free system, which is perfect for what these guys are looking for.”

And, of course, the APAC region is prone to extreme weather, and earthquakes are not uncommon. Therefore the ability to perform seismic analysis is a major differentiator for GF Piping Systems when working with customers in this particular geography.

“Plastics are obviously very good in a seismic region due to how they move. We are able to produce an engineering report to essentially say ‘okay, if you were to use a plastic solution in this scenario, there will be no issues,’” explains Sheppard.

As if the possibility of an earthquake wasn’t challenging enough, harsh temperatures across the APAC region also need to be contended with.

“In regions like APAC, we have to look closely at how the pipework moves, expands and contracts. We are able to work with our advanced engineering services team in Switzerland to ensure our plastics systems are correctly designed, fabricated and installed,” says Sheppard.

Once all that has been signed off, then, and only then, will GF prefabricate, followed by a complete quality assurance check, whether that is a dimensional check or a hydrostatic pressure test. What’s required will be driven by the expectations of the client.

World class quality

Downtime is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of data center operators the world over, and equipment failure is a common culprit.

With downtime costing more than $100,000 per hour for 98 percent of companies, not to mention contributing to project delays affecting 55 percent of construction projects today, it’s easy to see why quality assurance is high on the list of priorities.

Over 200 years of innovation, expert engineering and prefabrication form the basis of GF’s solutions. And to ensure the highest quality standards are met, GF Piping Systems is involved in the compete project from start to finish.

From the moment GF makes or molds a material, it is given its own unique batch number, so when it’s later transferred out to a local sales company or to a fabrication facility, there is full traceability throughout its journey.

“When a customer receives our QA pack they can see when that particular fitting was born or when the pipe was made, which is really useful. We also use GF technology or machinery to weld the components together, which again means full traceability in terms of quality assurance, says Sheppard.”

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Staying in front

Training is the key to staying abreast of developments in an industry as fast moving as the data center sector, says Georg Fischer’s Ian Waldock

And should a client request it, GF Piping Systems can also perform non-destructive testing (NTD) on its products. This is a testing and analysis technique used to evaluate the properties of a material, component, structure or system, for characteristic differences or welding defects and discontinuities, without causing damage to the original part.

“GF is the only company in the world that can NDT plastics,” says Sheppard. “And in mission critical facilities, particularly those in remote locations, if a failure were to happen, it would be catastrophic. So customers not only have that safety barrier of complete quality assurance in the form of GF materials and GF welding, but on top of that we can also tell them what has happened in that weld through non-destructive testing of the plastic.”

A clear commitment

From its commitment to global expansion in under-served regions, to training up and educating people within local communities, GF Piping Systems seamlessly balances delivering the right high-quality products to suit its customers’ needs, with the – often forgotten – human element of large-scale data center projects.

The APAC region is a positive area of growth, and via its global presence, local capabilities and engineering expertise, GF Piping Systems is ensuring that growth continues, securing site agnostic success throughout the APAC region and beyond.

To find out more about GF Piping System's data center solutions, click here.