End user valve approvals and variations

Variations in end users' approaches - Part 2

Barrie Kirkman - 25 March 2015

Getting users’ approvals is a challenge as each user has different criteria that they work with in order to choose the best products for their needs.

About the author

Mr Barrie Kirkman
Barrie Kirkman, BSc CEng MIMechE, writes a regular column for Valve World, bringing his own personal views from inside the valve business.
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In my previous article we had a look at the Demand versus Supply of end user approvals and other related market information. This time we will go more into depth on the valve approval process.

There is no “international standard” for the approval process. Each end user varies their approach with:

  • Audit team members & skills
  • Using different assessment methods
  • Focusing on different areas

The result is no two audits are the same and often the manufacturer is faced with numerous corrective actions.

Variations in end user valve approaches

Audit Team members & skills

Audit teams can consist of any number of members up to 5. They will have various core skills and are often multi-disciplined. Some will concentrate on quality and systems whilst others cover design, manufacturing and testing. It really depends on the end user.

As you become familiar with the end user community and their methods of auditing you can accommodate their requirements but it is a steep learning curve. Knowledge of the auditor also enables the valve manufacturer to prepare. The use of local speaking auditors also adds to the team dynamics.

Compliance to ISO /API /DIN & end user specifications

All end users require valve manufacturers to be qualified to International Standards. ISO and API are the main standards with variations to suit geographical locations such as DIN and JIS standards.

Though many valve manufacturers have ISO Certification with appropriate quality manual and procedures what’s written down has no resemblance to the workshop activity. In these instances I am amazed that valve manufacturers obtain the necessary International Standard certifications. Where end users witness these they often keep their visit brief.

When an end user visits a valve manufacturer their interpretation and expectations of these standards varies considerably, especially where they have added their own requirements in their specifications.

 

It is important that the valve manufacturer assesses and understands the end user requirements and responds appropriately. Their processes should clearly identify how they add and manage such requirements through all aspects of manufacture. Also “change orders” fall into a similar category. Normally the end user has their check list to quiz the valve manufacturer. Unfortunately on many occasions this has not been done which results in an immediate negative response from the end user. The common excuse is that the specifications are too many to review. Also some manufacturers submit a low valve price to entice the end user to visit, and then the impact of the specifications is discussed. This often sets up an internal discussion between end user’s “procurement” and “engineering”!

How many of us can identify with that scenario?

The valve manufacturer must become skilled in this area and seek to have meaningful discussions. Their engineering department should operate a clear document control of the various specifications identifying the end user requirements.

 

End user additional requirements

Much effort and time is put into the writing of the ISO / API standards with committee meetings and discussions. The committees (or work groups members) consist of industry experts from end users, distributors and manufacturers. The standards content “is an agreed position on a particular subject” which is voted on by its members.

Some end users accept and use these standards without any “additions” or “modifications” thus enabling the best valve cost to be obtained.

Variations in end user approaches pyramid

Other end users “add their own requirements to the standard” which often impacts on the valve cost and delivery. Reflecting over the past 30 years most end users have reviewed their internal valve specifications with the aim of using the International Standard with minimal “additional requirements”. Economic downturns often give time for such reviews. Targets are set by management with reduction targets in valve costs of 10% or 20% etc. Often buzz words such as “Fitness for purpose” are used. I have been through many such reviews as an End User as well as independently benchmarking specifications. This is a very interesting area as I often see different solutions to solve a particular issue. Costs though can be very different. Such reviews I believe are healthy and should be encouraged.

Any end user’s experience that affects HSE, the environment, operations or maintenance performance should be duly assessed and the cost impact evaluated. When necessary, additional requirements to the standard should be added. Safety has to be paramount.

 

Typical examples that are often revised are impact tests, NDE, hydrotesting or fugitive emissions. Sometimes valve designs are restricted.

During this review “preferential engineering” often becomes apparent which should be challenged in an appropriate manner. These tend to get added over the years to the specifications without any check and balance. Engineers leave and new engineers arrive and they too add new requirements. This all accumulates. End users should have a process of controlling such specification modifications and periodically review them. There are many opinions about the additional requirements, some saying these should be added to the international standard, whilst others say, let’s keep the standard as it is and if an end user requires them then let them add the requirements and face any cost impacts. The further the extra requirements move away from the standard valve so the cost rises. End users do tend to accept higher prices though, through negotiation, also try to reduce costs. Five or ten percent additional costs are common….though I have seen much more in the market!

Question for manufacturers

If you are a manufacturer who has had many visits from end users and have not been approved, are you genuine in your attempt to improve? Once you have reached the “required level” this will offer easier opportunities with end users. This takes time, requires investment & often needs changes in working practices. All this will be explained in forthcoming articles.

Thank you for your time. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. They are most welcome.


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