Ask David Hughes, the new chairman of the Valve Manufacturers Association of America (VMA), what he sees as the most significant pressure the valve industry of today faces and he’ll point to the need to find new ways to offer and create expertise.
Hughes, who is director of Global Accounts-Final Control, Emerson Automation Solutions, took over as VMA’s top leader in September at the organization’s annual meeting.
In mentioning expertise, Hughes said he is referring to challenges not only for the industries that use valves but also for those that make and sell them.
His own background gives him experience in several of those areas. Hughes has more than 38 years in the valve industry, first as a channel partner/distributor and now as a manufacturer.
Early in that career—the 80s and 90s—he says the focus for the industry was on developing new technologies: new types of products that improve performance. That particular focus has not changed; however, it has been supplemented by the need for new levels and sources of knowledge.
“End users are seeing the number of their own subject matter experts (SMEs) related to valves decline through retirements at the same time budget constraints prevent these SMEs from being replaced in kind,” Hughes explains.
This situation has created a deep need for “technically knowledgeable suppliers,” who can provide expertise for valve sizing and selection lost by this attrition, he said. In addition, end users attempting to achieve top performance in project execution “need to find capable partners [with the right expertise] that can get involved early on,” and provide creative solutions that can help a project get needed funding and ensure it stays on budget and on schedule,” he added.
Meanwhile, those who make valves and related equipment are facing ways to “be more relevant to large end users,” he adds.
Simply having a valve that performs well or is lower in cost is no longer enough.
“Customers are looking for suppliers with a very broad offering related to their industry” so they can reduce costs at the same time they need exceptional technical and project capabilities, Hughes says.
They also face new pressures such as the new legislation related to tariffs, which is still under observation and difficult to assess, thereby creating “a major challenge moving forward,” he adds.
As VMA’s new chairman, Hughes says one of the most important tools he’ll have in his arsenal is the association’s educational arm, whose mission is to help fill the gap in expertise, as well as access to the association’s legal counsel, which is looking into the ramifications those trade tariffs might have.
VMA is also in the process of surveying the membership to see what other needs the valve industry currently has. Hughes will work with VMA President William Sandler, other new and current board members and the executive committee to analyze the results of that survey.
Hughes took over the chairmanship from Mark Nahorski, president, PBM, Inc. Other new board members and leaders include VMA Vice President Bryan Burns, president & CEO, DeZURIK; Program Chair Brad Ellis, senior vice president, Crane Co.; and new members Nathan Brunell, product line general manager, BHGE; and Seth Guterman, CEO, American Valve.
At the annual meeting, attendees also recognized and thanked several people for service to the industry including outgoing board members—Jim White, senior general manager, Curtiss-Wright Valve Group–Industrial Division, and Bruce Johnson, VP business units, Emerson–Flow Controls.
The association’s top honor this year went to Stephane Meunier, director of international business development, Cowan Dynamics, who was named “Person of the Year.” Meunier has served the valve industry many years on the program committee and as a member and chair of the Technical Committee.
VMA Service Awards in recognition of time and expertise given to the valve industry were presented to Carlos Davila, product manager, Crane Fluid Handling; Thom Jessup, sales manager, EGC Enterprises; and Donald Polasek, North American service manager, ValvTechnologies.
The complete list of board members can be found at www.vma.org>about vma.