New industry labelling scheme answers sectoral requirements

The next big change for the plumbing industry is making its way to address some of the challenges of product compliance.

Following on from the October issue of Plumbing Africa where we introduced the new and exciting changes in the plumbing industry, we further unpack the new labelling scheme and its benefits.

SAWNamed the South African Watermark (SAW), the scheme is the result of a two-year development process by the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), under the participation and leadership of the industry.

SAW was initiated as a response to industry’s needs and requests for assistance in identifying compliant products according to the South African National Standards (SANS). IOPSA has driven the creation of the scheme on behalf of industry and strongly supports its intended role and objectives.

The scheme has been established as a not-for-profit organisation with its objective purely to be a value-added service to the industry, thereby increasing the level of quality and safety in the plumbing sector for the ultimate benefit of the end user. The team comprises industry members with decades of substantial knowledge of the sector, supported by international experts, and is headed by executive director, Herman Strauss.

How everything works

With the many different product references and claims in the market, it becomes extremely difficult to know what products to choose, and to know their compliance status. The base of SAW’s model is a register with a vast array of products that comply with SANS standards. This register will be publicly accessible through all electronic platforms.

So, whether you are a plumber, architect, specifier, or building your own home, SAW’s online platform or app offers the flexibility of being able to search through the register for listed products per application or to verify a product’s compliance at the store, prior to purchase, by scanning the product’s barcode. SAW’s register is a voluntary list and may therefore not list all compliant products, but the usefulness of the register across multiple sectors is invaluable.

Although manufacturers and suppliers voluntarily join SAW, to date there has been an overwhelming support from the industry. Strauss is happy to report that many companies have been excited to list their products on the register. In fact, there is already a long list of companies that are queuing to be listed. Compliance with SANS remains the essential foundation element.

Another major benefit of the register is the detail to be made available to users because at the moment, a product is either certified as compliant or not. It is not possible to see the product or to understand more about it. Through SAW, there will be access to an extensive database of images, diagrams, and details about each product through the online search functionality.

The requirements of SAW’s processes afford the confidence that each product that is listed will consistently meet quality and standards.

Adding products to the register

The requirements of SAW’s processes afford the confidence that each product that is listed will consistently meet quality and standards, as well as ensure continuing reliability and transparency of all information. Essentially, this also speaks to the ‘golden sample’ products that get approved, only for the manufacturing process to be changed often, resulting in non-compliance. This is not the case with the SAW objectives.

Only once all the criteria for listing have successfully been satisfied, and all checks and balances are in order, will the product be added to the register. The core requirement is that official documented evidence of compliance has to be submitted to SAW and then the various verification processes are initiated.

The business model is not one of a ‘once-off’ process of adding products onto the register never to be reviewed. Each product that is listed is consistently checked for compliance through factual and authentic checks and balance systems. The auditing process is very thorough. Not only are the products and models verified, but also all technical elements, such as the appropriateness and consistency of the manufacturing process on site. This applies no matter where the products are produced: locally, in Europe, China, or the US.

Through contractual agreements, manufacturers or suppliers carry the ultimate responsibility for their products meeting standards, and although SAW will not be obligated to enforce compliance or be a ‘policing agent’, they will hold the manufacturers or suppliers to a high degree of accountability for the products they produce and will require consistency in meeting all requirements.

Looking forward

Currently, SAW is at the operationalising stage with the business model finalised and a central register being populated with data. Keep an eye out for the official public launch in Q1 2019.

The SAW scheme is evidence of the development and changes that are possible for industries, coupled with available technology and broad knowledge bases. Industry change happens through participation and working together. Keep watching this space for updates on this exciting process.

For further enquiries about the SAW, please visit

August 2019

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