Since early 2014, Muktiadi Rahardjo (Adi) has been employed as Mechanical Engineer - Valves & Sealing at Shell Pernis in the Netherlands.
This world-scale refinery also counts integrated chemical plants, giving Adi responsibility for around two million valves in all.
Says Adi: "anything under the actuator is my responsibility. That includes on/off valves, control valves, check valves and also certain aspects related to safety relief valves."
Although he is the only valve and sealing specialist at Pernis, he does have ready access to a huge body of reference work that has been accumulated over the years.
He can also liaise with valve colleagues in Rijswijk, which is Shell's central office for projects and technology.
"These colleagues are a great help, especially when I have to try and work out what's gone wrong inside a 'live' valve which cannot simply be opened up," comments Adi.
Adi describes his day-to-day job at Pernis as very diverse, including tasks such as checking engineering details, discussing purchase specifications, arranging type testing of new valves, trouble-shooting, etc.
But whatever he is doing, Adi always asks himself and others: "Why are we doing this? What could we do better? Do we need to challenge our mind-set?"
He is critical for a very good reason.
"Once a valve has been installed then the engineering company, the distributor, the manufacturer and whoever else has been involved will forget all about it and turn to their next project."
"It’s engineers like me who are left with the on-going responsibility for that valve so it is important to make sure the job is done right first time."
This explains why Adi wants to encourage better communications all along the supply chain.
"For example, we as end users must check that companies on our Approved Manufacturers List still adhere to the same high standards as when they were first approved."
Manufacturers should ensure they properly understand any small but important changes the end user may have made to the valve requirements, continues Adi.
"Moreover, the valve maker also needs to pass along our exact needs for materials to his own sub-suppliers."
Adi says that many problems are caused by people who see valves as merely pieces of steel - essential but unsophisticated elements in piping systems.
This is a myth which he wants to dispel.
"There are dozens of valve standards, hundreds of potential manufacturers, thousands of sub-suppliers and an almost infinite number of potential applications. If all parties could become more synergised that would be a win-win situation for all," he says.
This is why Adi spends a lot of time patiently explaining to internal and external contacts the subtle yet important differences between valves.
"For example, everyone has heard of PTFE seals, but PTFE is not suited to some media so we sometimes do have to insist on an alternative."
"It’s the same with internal coatings: Stellite and tungsten carbide are often seen as interchangeable but there are applications where using an inappropriate coating can get you into trouble."
"Metallic bodies and components can also corrode in contact with specific media, which is why we cannot simply accept manufacturer’s requests to substitute alternative metals but always have to double check their suitability."
Summing up, Adi says there is really no such thing as a bad valve.
"To my mind, all the so-called ‘bad actors’ are in fact valves which have been wrongly specified or poorly manufactured and/or wrongly operated."
"This is why we need to talk more, to explain the small but important issues, and to ensure we all get the valves we need."