Each enthusiastic young engineer that comes into the workplace wants to reinvent the world. However, when that factor is combined with the reality that the numbers of regional sales offices for valves is growing and growing, the amount of combinations of valves that can be bought and used becomes endless.
Inquiring sales people have a host of questions for new engineers—from what materials of construction are required to how to determine temperature ratings, pressure ratings, valve styles, service duty, etc. The sales rep is just doing his or her job in trying to figure out what the customer wants. But in the end, those reps are setting up the young engineer for failure by bombarding them with terms and information they don’t yet know. The young engineer then makes a best guess on answering the sales questions, and sometimes he or she chooses a solution that is a special order or does not match the plant standard. Companies need a way to help them out.
THE ENDLESS COMBINATIONS
I began the process of creating a best practice valve design for young engineers to follow by taking a close look at control valve catalogs and realizing just how many combinations there actually are. If you look just at a standard rotary ball valve, for example, you see two choices for body style but then you have another 16 options for the type of ball. Next, you might see two choices for protector rings and four choices of shafts. That’s followed up with another six choices for both bearings and seals and four choices for packing material. Adding up all those options gives you 36,864 different combinations of valves, and the only thing you would see when standing next to the valve you choose is the body style. This doesn’t count looking at the actuator, positioner, diagnostic package, air piping or fail position. Knowing that valves at our facilities faced very easy and standard applications, I knew I needed a way to limit the choices and have the young engineer focus on only the sizing aspects of a control valve.
To begin the process of choosing a standard valve best practice, I took the datasheets used on a recent project and sent them to a sales office we have used since the beginning of my career. I then compared that office’s quote to what I actually ordered on the project. (The initial quote actually came from a sales office I had never used before.) The first thing I noticed was that I could not differentiate between the two quotes on several line items. Yet I could clearly see they were not the same specifications.
To better compare the two quotes, I reached out to the corporate account representative for the valve manufacturer we frequently use and asked her to go over the quotes with me. We dissected the quotes line by line until we could make a decision for all 110 different lines on the quotes.
As we went through each line, the goal was to fit the valve specifications to our standard valve, which is a mild-service duty valve that doesn’t face high temperatures and doesn’t need to be made from exotic metals. When we would get to a line item that did not match between the two quotes, we’d pull up the valve catalog and find out all the options that were possible. In cases where multiple options for the selection made sense, we would then look in the database for the manufacturer’s valve warehouse and find which item was the most commonly stocked item. We did this so we could choose components that were standard off-the-shelf items, which meant not worrying about a long delivery for emergency part numbers.
ROLLING OUT THE STANDARD
Once all selections had been made on all 110 components to make up the standard valve options, I asked my account representative to put together a quote for me that listed globe, butterfly and ball valves from 1/2-inch to 12-inch in both carbon steel and stainless-steel body construction. I could then take that quote and use it for budgeting purposes on all projects without going straight to the valve manufacturer in the first and second stages of the project development process and get accurate numbers while assuming the valve is going to be line-sized for initial sizing. Once the quote was completed, I worked with the account representative for the best plan of action to assure no matter where in North America I was buying a valve, I would get the exact valve we had just specified.
Her suggestion was to send an email distribution to regional sales offices, then follow that up with a call to each office to discuss the purpose behind the standardization. After she had finished working with the regional sales offices, I reached out to one of my plants in each regional sales office area and asked them to get quotes on one valve and send me the quotes so that I could see whether or not our new standard had been successfully quoted.
The results came back with great success, and we did not have any regional sales office that had quoted the valve differently than our standard.
To complete the standardization on our end, I worked with one of my regional engineers to develop a checklist sheet that allows young engineers to focus only on those selections that are directly related to the sizing of the control valve and not the material of construction, so they are not inundated with choices. Instead, they know exactly what they need to size a control valve successfully.
CAPITALIZING ON THE STANDARD
Now that we have been able to fully implement the valve standardization across our business, we have seen several benefits.
On the repairs and maintenance side, we have reduced the number of spare parts we have in the warehouse, making one standard rebuild kit for each style of valve. From the capital project side, we have reduced the amount of time spent engineering each valve, allowing the project team to focus more on other items during the design phase of the project.
Our strategic sourcing group has been able to work with the valve manufacturers to increase our discount percentage on the valves, resulting in lower-priced valves for both capital projects and replacement valves purchased on repairs and maintenance budgets.
We also discovered an added benefit: This standardization project, which originally set out to make sure our plants were using the same products for common installations, has led us to a lower overall cost of ownership on valves and a standard valve that is customized for our process.
This story originated from a presentation given by Jeremy Berg and Rebecca Turner, key account manager for Emerson Process Management–Fisher, at the 2013 Emerson Global Users Exchange last fall in Grapevine, Texas. For information on the exchange, go to www.emersonexchange.org.