Understanding valve approvals

An introduction to understanding end user valve approvals - Part 1

Barrie Kirkman - 19 March 2015

After extensive experience of approving valve manufacturers for and on behalf of many global and local End Users how is it done?

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.

I do not have all the answers for all end users as there is no fixed format. However at least I can share some generic processes which hopefully may assist?

Demand versus supply

Demand: End users are seeking new acceptable valve manufacturers. This may be due to the need for change owing to poor performance of existing manufacturers or perhaps better commercial terms are required. A process is commenced to evaluate new manufacturers. Often, unknown to manufacturers, a “desk top evaluation exercise” is first undertaken by gathering market data from the internet. Internet information can be misleading as the web site does not reflect the actual manufacturer. It’s disappointing to see photographs of plants that are computer models. When you visit the manufacturer there is little resemblance to the web data.

Valve end user approvals pie graph

Also network contacts supply information. Which other end users are using the manufacturer? The manufacturer’s market image and reputation are evaluated. Are there any quality issues, delivery issues known or are they performing well? At a defined point the end user visits the manufacturer to commence their evaluation or audit. If the preparation has been good a full audit will be completed. On some occasions though the first findings do not meet expectations and the visit is politely cut short. This has recently happened to me. After a 2 day visit was scheduled we departed after 2 hours as it became very clear that the manufacturer was significantly falling short of quality and technical requirements. There was no casting surface requirement. Also high levels of casting porosity were seen. What was disappointing was that the manufacturer, although interested in the end user’s orders, showed no willingness to improve. The message was “take what you see.”

However after visiting many manufacturers end users often struggle to find acceptable manufacturers. They often walk away and do not return. Why is this?

Supply: Valve manufacturers seek end user approvals and for many it’s a much sought after goal. They actively approach the end user, enticing them to visit their plant and try to engage in discussions. As an end user you can be “blitzed” at trade shows from such approaches. I always encourage this as you never know which manufacturer will be next to break into the global arena?

Valve end user approvals pie graph

Manufacturers invest in and achieve appropriate certification such as ISO and API but for some reason they struggle to achieve end user approval. Audit close out meetings are kept short with minimal feedback from the end user with no approval. In some instances the end user issues many demanding corrective actions which leave the manufacturer bewildered as to how to respond? Many manufacturers are really trying their best but they are often left bemused when approvals are not forthcoming. Again why is this?

End user approval – market information

  • Aggressive end users:
    Having worked within the industry it becomes apparent which end users are really serious with approvals. They aggressively seek new manufacturers and commit signifi cant time to achieve this for both their operations and projects. I estimate 20% of the end users fi t into this category. Also they tend to honour their approval with the award of contracts and orders. These end users do have a positive effect on manufacturers as many seek their approval. Also by leading the market the end user can achieve new technical directives more easily and can be pace setters. Other end users follow suit as the way forward has been proven.
  • Following end users:
    The next group of end users is estimated at 30% who, though they claim to seek new manufacturers, are heavily infl uenced by the fi rst group mentioned above. If you take time to analyse historic data you will fi nd some interesting data. These end users tend not to push the market boundaries so much. Successful manufacturers from the aggressive group are more probable of success in the following group as they apply lessons learnt and sometimes have the market edge over their competitors. For example, having developed valves to meet fugitive emission standards for a particular aggressive end user has the advantage over a manufacturer who is just embarking on the activity. I see this constantly in the market. Many hours of discussions have occurred with those manufacturers who are hesitant to invest in fugitive emissions without approval or an order. This often results in the manufacturer being unsuccessful.
  • Historic end users:
    20% is estimated for those end users who maintain their historic manufacturers. Their primary expenditure is for their operations and they are, therefore, reliant on local supply chains, such as distributors, from whom they select manufacturers. This group tends to consider new manufactures as and when any new project arises.
  • Non-moving end users:
    Again 20% is estimated for those end users who rely on manufacturers they have used successfully for 5 years or more. They tend to keep to technically proven manufacturers that may not be as competitive with cheaper, less proven alternatives. Changing manufacturers is very rare.
  • No approvals end users:
    Here it is estimated at 10% for those end users who have no approved manufacturers. They tend to fl ow with whatever is available. Their spend profi le tends to be very local and of low value. The introduction of new manufacturers is easier.

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.

Barrie can be reached on: barriekirkman@ntlworld.com

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