As the world market continues to grow, so do the challenges of selling products into various countries around the world. As part of its multipronged value to members, the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute is actively engaged with the Department of Commerce and other organizations to work to eliminate nontariff trade barriers worldwide, including duplicative product testing requirements in addition to overly restrictive or prejudicial codes and standards.

"It is not acceptable to ignore these changes and continue on 'business as usual,'" says PMI's President John Lauer, director of international business development, Sloan Valve Co. "One example of PMI's efforts to adapt and grow is the adjustment to our by-laws, which enables us to reach out to 'non-U.S. based' enterprises with business interests in the NAFTA countries."

PMI also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with its counterpart association in the United Kingdom. The MOU facilitates an information exchange between PMI and the Bathroom Manufacturers Association. Each of the organizations will now actively exchange technical, economic and regulatory information.

PMI's continued involvement with the CEIR (European Valve Association), as well as the Department of Commerce, provides additional resources to help it stay abreast of world trade issues.


Closer to North American trade, a major hurdle was cleared in a technical trade barrier between the United States and Canada with regard to plumbing fixtures and fixture fittings. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers and CSA International signed an agreement to harmonize many of their plumbing product standards.

The agreement calls for ASME and CSA to harmonize all of their overlapping plumbing fixture and fitting standards. The first harmonized standard addresses fixture fittings and is about to be approved and published. Efforts are also under way to harmonize the IAPMO Z124 standards for plastic fixtures with CSA B45 and ASSE 1016 for shower valves with CSA B125. The harmonization of these standards will eliminate almost all of the technical differences between the United States and Canada.

The ASME/CSA harmonization effort eliminates duplicate efforts to write standards in the United States and Canada and allows products to be designed, manufactured and certified to a common requirement. With regard to shower valves, a task group has completed work to harmonize the technical requirements of ASSE 1016 and CSA B125. The new language has been included in the ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125 standard that was recently balloted. If all goes well, ASSE 1016 and the harmonized CSA B125 standard will have nearly identical performance requirements when the next editions are published later this year.

National, International Standards: Standards are used to ensure that a product measures up to its design specifications and is safe for use.

Product standards are an important source of information and are referenced in almost every plumbing code and regulation. Standards establish minimum physical and performance requirements, reduce antitrust and product liability exposure to manufacturers, and reduce technical trade barriers.

Because standards play such an important role in establishing mandatory plumbing requirements, it is critical that they be developed through a voluntary consensus process that ensures their integrity and meets essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus, due process, and minimization of overlap and conflict.

Standards may include product design requirements, test methods, classifications, recommended practices and other considerations. It is a document that has been prepared, approved and published by a recognized standards development organization.

Regional Differences

But these issues are not limited to the "world." Conflicting codes can be an issue here, right in our own backyard!

The uniformity of local, regional and national plumbing regulations and codes in the United States is extremely important to the plumbing industry. There are more than 40,000 political subdivisions in the United States that establish requirements for plumbing products and systems. Each one of them has the potential to establish unique requirements.

When technical requirements across the country are fragmented, uncoordinated and in conflict, they act as trade barriers that can prevent products from being sold in all areas. This also makes the design, manufacture and distribution of plumbing products more cumbersome and costly.

Although regional differences do exist and cause serious problems for the industry, they continue to be eliminated due to the work of PMI, national and multinational standards, and model codes.

Regional differences that prevent the sale and installation of plumbing products in a particular market can be devastating to a manufacturer if the market is significant. Making changes in product design, material, manufacturing and distribution may prove to be too costly for a particular manufacturer to compete. For those manufacturers who can compete in these areas, the increased costs to develop regional products and the logistical problems with inventories and distribution detract from efforts to develop new products and improve performance.

Meanwhile, the consumer in these areas is hit with higher prices because additional cost has been passed along to them with fewer options to choose from.

Suppliers can be disadvantaged if they are left without product lines to meet regional requirements. Like manufacturers, logistical and inventory problems are created for wholesalers who do business in multiple regions with conflicting product requirements and rely on central distribution systems to help manage their inventories.

Model Codes

Model plumbing codes have been an important factor in reducing the number of regional differences. A model plumbing code is a set of model plumbing requirements developed for the purpose of offering it for adoption by federal, state and local governments.

Most states and localities in the United States base their plumbing regulations on "model" codes developed by one of three organizations: the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, the International Code Council or the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association.

The remaining states develop their own plumbing code or are without one. In the instances where jurisdictions write their own codes, they look to the model codes for reference purposes. In those states without a statewide code, most political subdivisions adopt one of the model codes.

There are only a few states and major jurisdictions that continue to write their own codes. State and federal agencies that do not adopt model codes to serve as the basis for plumbing regulations pose the biggest problems for plumbing manufacturers because regulations produced and enforced by these agencies often contain outdated requirements that differ from those in areas that use model codes.

PMI Takes The Lead

On technical matters, PMI and its members take the lead in bringing the industry to consensus on critical issues and bringing the "real-world" perspective of plumbing manufacturers to the forums used to develop codes, standards and regulations. PMI fosters strong working relationships with the model code organizations, standards developers, state and federal regulatory agencies and other allied trade associations in order to accomplish PMI's technical goals of safe and uniform plumbing requirements that are free from unnecessary restrictions.

PMI constantly monitors and responds to legislative, regulatory, and codes and standards initiatives as part of its mission to advocate and protect the interests of plumbing product manufacturers.