More than 200 people from across the valve industry participated virtually in the VMA Valve Forum and Valve Basics event, which included 4 days of presentations on technical, manufacturing, management and marketing, valves 101, and valve repair. They chose from among 28 different sessions, came together to participate in discussion forums on a variety of topics, asked varied and thoughtful questions of the presenters, networked with others during hundreds of group and private chats, and explored product offerings via video demos posted by the event’s supporters.
But even with dozens of diverse topics and multiple tracks, some overarching themes emerged.
- The virtual environment in which we are operating and how we communicate with customers and colleagues played a major role throughout the event. The consensus? There is no going back to “the way it was before.” Virtual communication and education are here to stay. Companies need to embrace virtual sales and company meetings, adopt new manufacturing technologies like robotics, and quickly get up to speed on Internet 4.0 and the IIoT.
- Supply chain disruptions due to COVID remain, as well as the impact from to trade issues. Increased digitization is a likely outcome.
- Communications among teams and the need to develop strategies for working with multiple generations came up in numerous sessions and discussions.
- With so many newcomers to the industry, entry-level training is a necessity to help gain an understanding of the many and varied types of products used in a wide range of often critical applications.
Keynote presenter Kent Greenes, a renowned expert on the subject of knowledge transfer, addressed a subject that has long been on the minds of those in our industry: How to retain critical knowledge as the older generation of workers continue to retire. While there are many ways to transfer knowledge, some methods are better suited to a particular generation. Be sure to offer a variety of methods that are suited to employees’ unique learning styles. Among the methods suggested by Greenes:
- Digital knowledge capture and transfer
- Connecting people through communities of practice
- Development of fast learning techniques
- Peer assists and peer reviews
- Group mentoring via discussion forums
The winter issue of VALVE Magazine (available late January 2021) will feature an in-depth article written by Kent Greenes on how to transfer knowledge in today’s workplace.
TECHNICAL AND MANUFACTURING
A variety of technical presentations and discussions helped attendees understand different issues related to choosing and using valves in various circumstances, with presenters and attendees acknowledging that understanding the application is a critical factor.
Also noted was the reality that customers have different interpretations of terminology, which can impact responses to proposals—be sure all involved are on the same page.
The subject of standards is always of interest to industry practitioners, and this year was no exception. With numerous new and changing standards on the horizon, industry experts with deep knowledge of the subject presented summaries of what is to come and answered numerous questions.
Technical and Manufacturing tracks both had sessions on Industry 4.0, and presenters stressed that adoption of all things digital is no longer a future goal—it is here now. Large-scale retirements have been pushing companies to adopt more virtual and robotics as new workers are more comfortable with technology, and some tasks can be replaced with robotics. In addition, gaming is making its way to the plant floor with items like augmented reality googles and glasses.
MANAGEMENT AND MARKETING
Discussions on how to manage sales teams in today’s environment, communicate effectively with both customers and employees, and the importance of stepping up digital marketing and branding were woven through the Management & Marketing track.
Here are a few of many takeaways from this track:
- Expect “virtual” to continue even after the pandemic passes – so jump in and embrace it now!
- Communicating effectively in the workplace has never been more important, especially with so many working remotely. Be careful when delivering bad news; if it can’t be done in person, then use video. Communicate with both concern and candor. And, with so much stress in everyone’s lives, do your best to create a happy workplace. Keep employees engaged with structured and standing virtual meetings.
- Sessions also covered internal marketing and employer branding. Including “live chats” on company websites is an excellent way to answer customer questions, and particularly relevant to the younger generations in the workforce who often expect answers instantly. Online/live chats allow for this, as well as help your company capture data on questions and monitor customer communications.
- To help boost your marketing efforts and reinforce your brand, make the most of your digital communications. For example: Train employees on how to use social media that supports your company’s messaging. Share company promotions, new hires, retirements and stories about positive community engagement, all of which lead to a high level of media interaction.
VALVE BASICS AND REPAIR
While the Valves 101 portion of the program (part of VMA’s Valve Basics course) has been conducted for more than a decade with in-person meetings and a hands-on portion allowing attendees to examine products as a way to reinforce the seminars, this was the first time the course was held virtually. The course instructors created videos to display various products being discussed. While each presenter used different equipment and set up in different locations (both home and office), they achieved a common goal, to create a virtual “valve petting zoo.” The ability to see various valves and learn about their applications was well received by those new to the industry, as well as seasoned industry professionals.
For more on the Valve Basics program, please visit VMA.org/ValveBasics, where information about next year’s program will be posted as it becomes available.
Valve Repair sessions included a technical discussion covering the overall valve repair process from initial TDI (tear down and inspection) to industry, customer and code requirements used throughout the repair process. In addition, an electric actuation overview that focused on quarter-turn applications was presented; it included critical installation/operation factors such as flange mounting, alignment, stem nuts, bearings, and proper lubrication.
The Valve Repair presentations were developed by the Valve Repair Council, which advocates the OEM approach to repair. For more information, please go to VMA.org/ValveRepairCouncil.
SUPPORTING OUR EFFORTS
Adding additional value to the Valve Forum and Valve Basics event were a group of supporting companies who provided video presentations of their companies and products. They are:
Badger Alloys is family-owned manufacturing group that includes an air-set foundry, dedicated pattern shop, complete machine shop, 3D and robotic technologies, and on-site engineering team.
ControlAir is a manufacturer of precision air pressure regulators, I/P transducers, E/P transducers, P/I transducers, valve positioners, air relays, volume boosters, air filter regulators and frictionless diaphragm air cylinders.
Design Automation Associates implements engineering automation to help clients improve product cycle time, cost and quality. DAA achieves this by configuring applications that automate manufacturers’ product design, testing, manufacturing and supply chain processes.
EGC Engineered Solutions has a long track record as a leader in the engineering and manufacturing of graphite composites for gaskets, seals, laminates and thin-film heaters used in fluid and thermal systems management.
Beck Electric Actuators (Harold Beck & Sons) manufactures electric actuators for industrial control valves. Beck valve actuators are designed for continuous modulating or direct AC control, and are suitable for difficult industrial environments
Ratterman Cryogenics is the largest distributor for cryogenic and industrial gas valves and automation in the United States.
Vanaire is a premier air pollution control and ventilation system manufacturer, and designer of top-tier air pollution control systems. The company’s ventilation equipment is made from corrosion-resistant materials.
VMA President Heather Rhoderick, CAE, concluded the event by thanking the dozens of member volunteers who made the event possible. She added: “We very much look forward to resuming live events as soon as we’re able to safely do so, though virtual programming will continue as well.”
As for the Valve Forum and Valve Basics events, Rhoderick noted, “We will have these programs in some format in 2021. Then, keep an eye open for our 2022 plans when we’ll be back with a refreshed program that is larger and stronger than ever.”
If you were unable to participate in this important event and still wish to do so, note that all presentations have been recorded as well as many of the online discussions. You can register to view these items through Dec. 4, 2020. Please go to VMA.org/ValveForum for the complete agenda and registration link.
VMA expresses its appreciation to the many committee members and others who supported the Valve Forum and Valve Basics programs by serving as and securing presenters, moderating chat and speaker Q&As, and providing video highlights throughout the event.
These members served as reporters during the event and contributed to this article:
- John Molloy, ASCO – Emerson Automation Solutions (Education & Training Chair)
- Rory Bennett, AUMA Actuators, Inc. (Manufacturing Committee)
- Paul Souza, AUMA Actuators, Inc. (Education & Training Chair)
- Jason Marquardt, Check-All (Manufacturing Committee)
- Tony Foster, Emerson (Communications Committee)
- Stephane Meunier, Eng PMP, Emerson Automation (Technical Committee Chair)
- Chris Jones, Midwest Valve Services (Valve Repair Council)
- Kyndle McMurry, Richards Industrials (Communications Committee)
- Jeff Kelley, Setpoint Integrated Solutions (Communication Committee Vice Chair)
- Nicolas Lourdel, Velan (Technical Committee Vice Chair)
For more information on VMA and its programs, please visit VMA.org.