TapMedic in a Circular Economy

Two words loom large in corporate manufacturing today; they are ‘irrepairable’ and ‘obsolescence’.  Today’s business model is often described as ‘take, make & dispose of’ and coupled together they mean users like us are literally forced to replace products instead of being given the option of repairing them.  This is solely so that manufacturers can maximise profits; at our expense financially and the planet’s expense environmentally.

This process is a linear business model.  Products are made, consumed and dumped and it goes on ad infinitum until either our money or resources run out.  Not good for users and simply appalling for the environment and our childrens’ futures – but extremely profitable in the short term.

There is a growing alternative – The Circular Economy – design, use, fix & return.  It’s a movement driven by increasing recognition and realisation that the current linear business is genuinely impossible to sustain.

The whole point of the circular economy, for me at least, is to drive forward by looking back.  Back to a time where we designed for longevity, repairability and the ability to recover and reuse most, if not all, of the materials used in order to minimise environmental impact and protect our finite earthly resources.

TapMedic’s invention was heavily influenced by the utter wastefulness of the linear business model as written about elsewhere on this site.  The awful impacts in all manner of spheres were identified so we decided to make absolutely sure our design would demonstrate that the circular economy could be both morally and financially rewarding for all involved.

Just like energy in physics (it’s never lost but only changes ‘state’), there can be no ultimate loss or gain.  In designing TapMedic what we have done is turn the winners and losers from the linear model on its head. Where once shareholders and corporations made money at the expense of users and installers, we wish to give it instead to users and installers – with some for us too.

TapMedic will be made in Europe.  We do not exploit countries where people are paid little just to maximise profits.  We do not ship halfway across the globe at huge cost to our environment and our childrens’ futures.  Where possible, we make locally and instead of destroying livelihoods for literally fractions of a penny we aim to bring skilled jobs and family stability back.  We encourage reuse, we encourage, endorse and facilitate repair.  We encourage and facilitate any feedback on how we can make what we do and how we do it better for our planet.

At a headline level we do not seem to offer much; after all, what’s a few new tap cartridges?  However, our embarrassingly simple concept is applicable globally.  The 3 million we see as our annual market here in the UK is but the tip of the iceberg of an existing the worldwide market waiting for us.

Red = existing solution costs Green = TapMedic solution costs

When we looked at the market for taps globally in places like social housing and health, we found a couple of manufacturers consistently outperforming everyone else.  It turns out these guys win by offering continuity of supply above all else.  That is, they offer a long life time for their kit by supplying spares.  However, the initial cost of the taps and the ongoing spares costs are still astronomical. Using TapMedic, lower cost taps could be specified saving millions in itself and, more importantly, ongoing maintenance would cost less than 10% of manufacturers prices for an almost infinite period.  Again saving endless millions.

That, dear reader, makes TapMedic a true contributor to the Circular Economy…  What do you think?

Installers lament… (why plumbers are blamed)

Plumbers across the globe are blamed every minute of every day for taps having to be replaced rather than be repaired. We all have our faults, but the genuine irony of this blame is that we are entirely innocent for once; it’s not our fault !

Richard Parkinson of American Standard Inc (ASI) filed his original patent for the Ceramic Disc Faucet (tap) in 1972 and his idea was to eradicate all of the inherent problems associated with the first screw down tap patent of 1845 filed by Guest & Chrimes of Rotherham and make life easier for people. The valve we all today think of as an American Standard invention is actually a design patented by the Speakman Company in 1986.

By the 1980s the UK were installing these types of cartridges in quantities; today the Speakman design seems the universal default. Production has mostly moved to China where today they are churned out by the hundreds of millions each year at prices the West struggle to even buy the raw materials for. China apparently makes over 85% the world’s taps and cartridges.

Compare an original Speakman cartridge with one made today and you’ll see little change in how its construction. However, manufacturers have introduced a myriad of small variations into other aspects of it and these variations are the ultimate cause of taps being more likely to be replaced today rather than repaired – regardless of their age, cost or overall condition. The needless, wasteful replacement of otherwise perfectly serviceable taps has become our default and it’s this that drove TapMedic‘s development.

Some of the variations to be found are:

– direction of cartridge opening
– size of cartridge
– ceramic disc size
– flow rate
– outer spline diameter
– spline count
– spline height
– overall height
– shrouded or not

When you calculate the number of variations, by multiplying the current individual offerings together, the answer comes out at over 345,000 …

Repair not replace - TapMedic in a Pegler RuneIn real life though not all variations are available in all sizes – yet – so we end up with a genuine number of variations (so far) of just over 2000. Obviously still far more than any sane plumber would/could source, pay for and then carry with them.

TapMedic cartridge bodies (½ & ¾”) are universal. The spindles come separately (currently 18, 20, 24 & 28 splines with usable lengths from 25mm to 120mm so you fit the one you need on the day. The shroud adapter is also separate so, again, it’s only fitted if it’s needed – as indeed it is on tap in the image; otherwise the shroud would fall off!

In our extensive field testing, we have managed to achieve a staggering >90% success rate of instantly repairing on-site versus <10% without the kit. It’s very simple. It’s very quick. It’s very reliable and it’s very profitable for installers. In fact, it is more profitable, and far less hassle, than cheap tap changes and, most importantly, you have a far happier customer as a consequence.

Instead of reasons why taps are so rarely repaired, we, and those we continue to speak to, TapMedic is the reason taps will rarely be replaced. That’s great news for customers, wonderful news for installers, good news for British Industry and the environment but rotten news for Chinese manufacturers …

What do you think? Our Twitter feed is here or email us at blog@tapmedic.co.uk