The World’s Best Piping Program is Almost a Secret
- What is arguably the world’s best piping program is so obscure that it is almost a secret. With about 300 students enrolled, the Piping Engineering program at Indonesia’s Politeknik Perkapalan Negeri Surabaya (PPNS) might have struck the perfect balance between piping engineering and design content for a 4-year degree. Because it serves the Indonesian shipbuilding industry and described in Bahasa Indonesia, it seems to escape notice from the English-Speaking world.
The academic world fights two main trade-offs in its mandate to prepare students for a meaningful career:
Figure 1 Interest was high among PPNS piping students in the recent SPED outreach by Bill Beazley.
- Engineering Depth or Domain Breadth? College-Level engineering courses prefer to re-derive fundamental equations and principles so the Engineer can tailor them to the situation at hand. 4-Year Engineering Programs are frequently squeezed by core courses that are unable to start without sufficient math and science, leaving little time for application courses. Knowing that few practitioners need calculus-based physics has led to Engineering Technology programs with less math and science more lab time and more courses in application areas.
- General Fundamentals or Application Details? There is the problem of which applications to give focus to. Should the graduate be a generalist or a specialist? The colleges prefer to leave it to the employers to reduce theory to practice, while employers prefer a graduate productive from the first day of employment. Since few companies will commit to employment years in advance, colleges produce generalists that can find work in whatever is recruiting at graduation.
So, picking the right blend of focus and depth is always a problem academicians.
The Piping world adds a third problem, Engineering and Design domains are synergistic but not the same. Piping Engineering is concerned with applied physics and chemistry, while design is concerned with piping representations and the “ilities” (fabricate-ability, constructability, maintainability, operability, etc.) While each benefits from knowledge of the other, there is usually not sufficient time to cover both in standard 60-120 hour degree programs. As a result, piping programs must focus mainly on engineering or design.
Figure 2 Pipe marked by students for ultrasonic testing.
PPNS Piping Engineering has chosen the technician’s compromise of applied engineering. They’ve condensed math and science core courses to two courses in math and two in Physics to make room for more lab time, an incredibly broad array of applications. (Most technology programs make this compromise by advance math and science further in application courses.) Almost every core technology course has a laboratory component, including:
- Measurement tools, work bench equipment and machine tools
- Welding and quality assurance by non-destructive test (NDT) and destructive test.
- Laboratory evaluation of various types of pumps
- Pipe fabrication and bending
- Steam boiler
The application topic become very specialized:
- Ship Propulsion
- Codes and Standards of Ship’s Piping Systems.
- Marine Engineering Systems
- Pump and Compressors
- Refrigeration (HVAC)
- Automatic Control Systems
- Sanitary Drainage Systems
- Steam Generation Systems
- Process Technology
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Thermal Piping Design
- Design of Pressure Vessels and Steam Power Plants
- DFKI (design, fabrication, Construction, Inspection) of Tank and Pipe
It’s clear they have shifted to a strategy of multiple applications with a heavy shipbuilding theme.
So why isn’t this huge program better known? First, the curriculum and textbooks are all written in a non-European language, Bahasa Indonesia. It’s hardly a small language, as Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation at 275,501,339 people, behind China, India and the United States. But most of their descriptive material will not show up in common search engines. Much instruction is still conducted in English in order to enable them to read and understand the piping codes.
Second and most important, their approximately 75 annual graduates do not get placed outside of Indonesia. The shipbuilding and other local industries pick them up. A handful of graduates eventually accept jobs overseas to escape the US$250/month pay for a typical engineer in Indonesia.