30 November 2010
Valve World 2010, the day after, Friday, 3rd December
Winters in northern Europe can be very unpredictable. The classic image may be of snow on Christmas Day, but by the same token you could be walking around in a thin jacket.
Still, the winter magic came early this year, and snowflakes fell thick and plenty during the Valve World 2010 event. For me this was not a problem, as my home trip was but a short motorway journey.
Spare a thought, then for all those visitors whose own journeys were a little more arduous. I know some people arrived without their luggage, whilst others had concerns about getting home due to closed airports.
I sincerely hope you all made it back home safe and sound.
Like I said, my own journey was relatively uneventful.... until, that is, I opened my front door and was greeted by an icy blast. Yes, it appears the central heating unit broke down earlier in the week, and the house is now hovering about 4.2 degrees Celcius.
Hopefully a friendly technician will be here soon to sort things out. But here's an idea: at the next Valve World show, why don't we include some hands-on sessions on domestic gas management in addition to the industrial energy focus?
Valve World 2010, Day three, Thursday
Well, what a show it's been! I have seen people milling the expo aisles looking to talk to stand holders, groups in deep discussions during the conference presentations and plenty of debate at the learning lounge. And what I have witnessed left, right and centre are the countless warm handshakes.
Without doubt, one of the endearing features of the Valve World shows is how the whole flow control industry congregates together, almost like a family. Friends, colleagues and competitors get together and genuinely seek common ground, looking for solutions to the problems that can affect them all. Like I said, valve people enjoy meeting each other.
From my own experiences: last night I met an old acquaintance who left the valve industry to become a musician but has been tempted back; Today I talked to a wonderful man who years ago showed me around Prague; and just now I bumped into an engineer who I last saw when he showed me (literally) from top to bottom of an oil rig in the North Sea. So all in all I - and I'm quite sure plenty of others - have had a real blast here at the Valve World show.
And the talk often takes on a highly technical nature. I've met people who are passionate about developing valves for use in solar power plants, about reducing emissions in refineries, about using diagnostics in chemical processes, about promoting common standards, etc. All the editors here have been doing our very best to capture these thoughts and discussions in written interviews and video reports, which should be on-line or in print soon. Watch these space for details!
Valve World 2010, Day two, Wednesday
Today was another action packed day for this reporter. Like many of the Valve World team I was up before cock-crow, in order to ensure a smooth start to the day. In our case that meant setting up no fewer than three TV cameras to try and capture some of the action at the Conference.
And there was plenty of action to see! The morning was taken up with four parallel sessions, with no fewer than 38 individual paper presentations. These were grouped around topics such as maintenance, control valves, design actuation, diagnostics, etc.
After videoing some of the presenters we headed down to the expo floor, to try and gauge the mood amongst visitors. The general response we heard is that the show lives up to its reputation as a key meeting point for the flow control industry. I spoke to many people from around the globe who were looking for new products, interesting technology and additional suppliers.
In that respect, it is worth mentioning that several visitors reported that the market is already under some stress when it comes to obtaining certain valve types. They spoke of unexpectedly long delivery times and indicated an interest in finding new sources.
It was much harder trying to get to speak to the stand holders. Many stands were literally swamped with visitors so staff were often tied up. However, with a little patience it was possible to get some snap interviews done. Again, the general feeling was one of exhaustion but also satisfaction a having seen some much good traffic.
So, day two has been a long but most enjoyable day. And the fun is set to continue, as we move towards a highlight of the show, the Valve World Expo Gala Dinner. This is traditionally where the valve community lets its hair down, so I hope to have some interesting tidbits to report tomorrow.
Valve World 2010, day one, Tuesday
The Valve World Conference and Expo opened today, Tuesday, 30th November, and there was an immediate buzz about the entire event. Despite the snow, the crowds piled in to the exhibition hall whilst the Conference also attracted the largest crowd ever. In short, a great start for the new Valve World venue.
Opening the Conference, the Chairman Ralf-Harry Klaer from Bayer said he welcomed the move to Dusseldorf, which, he noted, was yet another beautiful host city for Valve World. He also added that he wanted to keep his speech as brief as possible, to allow maximum time for presentations and discussions.
Mr. Klaer went on to say that valves are a good indicator of the state of the industrial economy before looking at some of the challenges ahead. The key issue, he stated, will be to ensure the safety of plants for personnel and the environment. He then touched on the need for quality, which, he said, is not merely a question of region and not something to be obtained by simply following ISO 9000. "Quality of knowledge, ability and commitment to a really good product and sustainable partnerships are what it takes. You wil find all that in this conference as weel as manufacturers able to produce good valves at the expo.
Wishing the delegates a successful conference, he then handed the podium to the first key note speaker, Mr. Alain Justet (Technip) who gave an enthusiastic overview of a changing world from the position of the EPC.
Although sadly space is lacking here for a complete review of these presentations, some of Mr. Justet's slides were most compelling. Take the one showing project activity, for example, in which North America as well as the Middel East revealed strong project investments.
He also discussed Technip's procurement objectives, which essentially boil down the having safe and succesful suppliers, quality products and services, enhanced collaboration and communication, added value from the supply chain and innovative solutions and technologies.
The next speaker needed almost no introduction. Barrie Kirkman (BK Solutions) is a recognised authority in the valve community, as has participated at every single Valve World show since 1998.
Barrie's chosen topic was how the recession was affecting the total cost of ownership and, as ever, he pulled no punches. Various slides and photos were used to good effect to display some of the valves which Barrie has encountered.
Barrie said he understood why many end users felt obliged to save costs by looking at resources, standards and the supply chain, but he wondered whether this was perhaps at the cost of long term performance. But Barrie's presentation was not just philosophical; he presented some hard figures to show how the cost of just a few faulty valves can drive up the actual total cost of quite a large valve population.
He concluded by saying that whilst catastrophic failures were happily few and far between, there were all too many generic valve isues which still need to be addressed. Issues such as explosive decomposition of O-rings, seat damage, incorrect materials, graphite quality, casting quality etc etc.
David Dunbar, President of Valves and Controls, Tyco Flow control, was the morning's final key-note speaker, and he gave a balanced asessment of the valve industry up until 2025. As he himself noted, it is hard to predict what will happen in the next month, let alone the following year, so a fifteen year forecast will always have an element of uncertaincy. However, he did give the audience plenty to think about.
A key driver for change, he said, will be the onward march of globalisation. In response, he noted that TYCO has realigned its four key business areas to better meet market needs.
And, as he also made quite clear, there will always be some tensions between what industry is capable of offering, and what the customers are ready to accept. End users remain very cautious when implementing new technology, it seems.
Interestingly, Mr Dunbar does not see any one supplier becoming dominant. It appears that the top suppliers will inevitably grow in size, mirroring their client base. However, there will still be plenty of scope for other companies, such as those offering niche products, or manufacturers making commodity products for regional markets.
Like I said, there are a lot of discussions going on around the conference and expo halls. If you want to take part, then the show is still open for another two days. If not, then please check back for show updates on this blog.