The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston hosted the third iteration of Valve World’s North American trade show on July 15 and 16, a biennial event that brings together valve manufacturers and distributors to meet with valve users and other professionals interested in the educational offerings and a chance to examine and learn more about a wide variety of products.
The day before the event kicked off, VMA held a one-day Valves, Actuators & Controls 101 course attended by a largely young crowd of more than 100. The seven lessons included an introduction to the industry, multi-turn, check and quarter-turn valves along with all types of actuators and control valves. On hand to present were several of VMA’s experienced instructors: Greg Johnson of United Valve, Ed Holtgraver of QTRCO, Arie Bregman of DFT Inc., Paul Souza of AUMA Actuators and Bert Evans of Emerson Process Management – Fisher. One attendee told VMA staff that “the content was excellent” and the course was “very helpful and worthwhile.” A number of attendees stopped by the VMA booth to thank the association for conducting the course, with some expressing an interest in attending one of VMA’s complete Valve Basics courses, which lasts 3 days. (The next course takes place in San Antonio, Oct. 21-23.)
On The Expo Floor
The expo floor was filled with 200 exhibitors representing many facets of the valve industry including manufacturers, suppliers and distributors. Many VMA members had booths and reported the event was a good opportunity to network with customers and suppliers while catching up with colleagues in the industry.
Also on the expo floor: A Speaker’s Corner where all visitors had the opportunity to attend presentations on a variety of topics. One of these was a hands-on valve packing installation seminar by Vance St. Jeanand Rodney Roth of AW Chesterton. In addition to giving attendees the opportunity to learn best practices for low emission valve packing installation/valve sealing integrity, this session gave a review of the valve condition requirements as proposed in the new low-E addendum being added to API RP621.
Other topics included emergency shutdown actuation, the selection of valves for gas turbine combined- cycle plants and preventing through-wall leakers in cast valve bodies.
VMA President Bill Sandler gave a special presentation on The Valve Industry Outlook for 2015 and beyond. He shared the results of a recent survey of VMA members who generally report expectations of very modest growth in the industry in 2015. In fact, Sandler reported the association had slightly amended its forecast for 2015, prepared early in the year. He expects U.S. valve shipments to be up 1.5 to 2.0%, compared to the originally forecast growth of 2.5%--primarily based on the unexpectedly low oil prices.
The expo floor was very busy on the Wednesday afternoon as VMA member Crane celebrated its 160th anniversary with cake, champagne and a trip down memory lane courtesy Greg Johnson of United Valve. Johnson and VMA also were honored by Crane for their long and devoted service to the valve industry and their roles in upholding Crane’s values.Sandler also introduced VMA’s Career Initiative, a program developed by the association to educate students (from high school through technical schools to 4-year and advanced degrees), as well as the general public, government officials and legislators, about employment opportunities in the valve industry. “Although we’ve had success with offering basics training to individuals throughout the industries that make and use valves, still more needs to be done to attract new and high-quality employees and to encourage mentoring environments,” said Sandler. More information about this initiative is at ValveCareers.com.
The conference was comprised of nine workshops and six plenary sessions and opened on Wednesday with an address by conference chairman John Gill of Bayer. Gill addressed one of the main topics of concern to many companies in the valve and related end-user industries – the loss of expertise. This can be due to re-organization of the company, the retirement of older engineers or the work philosophy of younger personnel, who change companies more frequently than older generations. All of these situations can mean a loss of engineering expertise, and Gill offered a number of steps that management can take to ensure that important knowledge is not lost, especially with respect to proprietary practices.
Jesse Thompson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas discussed the Houston economy: “This is going to be a difficult year for Houston,” he said. “The low price of oil has led to decreased drilling, which is having a huge effect across sectors. Once the market realized there was an oversupply, prices dropped, and then in November, OPEC decided to crush oil prices, which meant rig counts dropped. That has been a pretty good short-term indicator of economy here. But in the last few weeks, they seem to have leveled off, so hopefully they have bottomed out. While the next year will be challenging for Texas, we do not see a recession this coming year. There will still be a little growth.”
Steve Probst of Sage Environmental traced the evolution of purchasing decisions, pointed out that price is no longer the only factor. “It has gone from price to service to caring,” he said. “Caring is spending time and effort, actually taking an interest, helping and caring about your customer. How do you show that you care? What do you do for friends and family? Do you do those for your customer? You have to understand your customer’s goals and your customer’s bosses’ goals. Incorporate caring into your branding, marketing and sales strategy, and you will reap the benefits.”
Wednesday’s workshops dealt with topics including the application of adapter tools for EPCs and end-user NPQC engineers, valve technologies selection for cryogenic applications, and performance and validation.
When giving his presentation on performance and validation, Dr. Brindesh Dhruva of Bray asked the assemblage, “What is the cost of poor quality?” He pointed out that in the long run, poor quality and performance is much more expensive than taking the time and spending the money to assure quality from the beginning. “Design for manufacturability,” he advised. “Engineers must know about manufacturing, so that while the design is being validated, so too is the manufacturing. And always, testing. If it is going to fail, the product should fail in the lab, not in the customer’s facility.”
He also spoke of the need for continuous production validation. “You must have a quality improvement plan,” he said. “As the product matures, there must be a mechanism in place to validate and continually improve the quality. Not only are there direct costs associated with quality issues, the loss of customer confidence is, in the long run, the biggest expense. And often, performance and product quality can be achieved with little or no cost.”
The second day of the conference opened with an unforgettable plenary session with Dr. M. Sam Mannan of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A & M University. “For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost,” he said as he began his presentation. He then went on to explain how one small thing could lead to tragic consequences, and showed footage of the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster, where an apparently simple o-ring led to the loss of billions of dollars and seven lives.
Mannan used this example to illustrate the theme of his presentation: Everything is important in plant operations and it is sometimes the little, relatively inexpensive things, that can cause big problems. “Your work is important,” he said to the engineers in the room. “When you design and operate a well and put in those gaskets, it’s imperative to make sure the right material is used for the temperatures, materials, pressure and everything else. Valves are very, very important. Because they are critical elements of the system, failure can result in nuisance but also injuries and death. Valves are in the first line of defense when protecting against failure.
John Carte of MRC Global followed by outlining the benefits of standardizing specifications in valve selection. “Product deviation causes imbalance,” he said. “Unique items put into the supply channel decrease efficiency. It costs more to manufacture them, and there are increased carrying costs and higher obsolescence rates. By standardizing requirements, there is enhanced flexibility in the supply chain, improved responsiveness to users, increased quality and bottom line, cost reductions.”
In the final plenary of the conference, Adam M. Kushner of Hogan Lovells shared the status of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement practices. “The EPA has a new paradigm for enforcement,” he said. “Next generation compliance. The agency has been moving that way for many years, but now they have a nice title that goes with the new paradigm. It is all about information gathering, embracing developing technologies like remote monitoring, having operators self-police and certify with independent third-party verification.” According to Kushner, electronic reporting and the publication of data and compliance information means that performance reports will be available to the public as well as the EPA and industry. “This is a powerful way to ensure compliance,” he said. “The EPA is not operating so much like cop on the beat now; you won’t have inspectors at the facilities as much. However, operators will need to maintain diligence. It just takes one event to draw EPA’s attention to your facility.”
The emissions testing workshop was very well received; so much so, in fact, that the meeting had to be moved to a larger room to accommodate the many delegates who were concerned about common testing issues and the future of emissions testing. One of the speakers, Jim Nelson, senior engineer at United Valve, pointed out there has been a substantial shift in valve design. “The old school thinking was the deeper and longer the stuffing box, the better the seal. But that is no longer the case. And when you’re doing repairs to those older valves, it is a big challenge to repair them for current standards,” he pointed out. “Now having five rings of packing is considered optimal and lubrication-infused (PTFE) packing is starting to factor in. Installation procedure and torques are extremely important and dimensions and tolerances are becoming keys to success.”In the morning sessions Thursday, variables in valve design, casting specifications and emissions testing were covered in three separate workshops. During the casting specifications workshop, attendees followed the sand casting process from beginning to end before a discussion was held on the pros and cons of casting vs. forging and the various applications in which they can best be used.
In an afternoon session on special service applications, Ross Waters of CG Industrial Specialists (CGIS) stressed the importance of ensuring that service and commissioning is done properly when you are providing severe service valves. “Be part of the delivery,” he said. “Make sure that what you’re doing is helping the end user at his site. Never assume specialty valves will be installed and commissioned properly.” He gave the example of one facility where check valves were actually installed upside down, and another where they were placed in line in the wrong direction. “Use the expertise available,” he urged. “And tie responsibility to one supplier.”
Most of the more than 40 VMA members exhibiting at the Expo were pleased with the results. One member said their booth was “crazy busy” while another indicated that he had been so busy during the show, he never had a chance to walk the show floor. A few commented there were too many vendors compared to end users visiting the show, but one member countered that with: "All it takes is one conversation with a decision-maker to make the entire event worthwhile."
Because of the event’s success, show management reports the exhibit floor will be further expanded at the next Valve World Americas Expo & Conference, to be held June 20 to 21, 2017, at the same location.