The first VMA Valve Industry Knowledge Forum, April 11-13 in Savannah, GA, provided a potpourri of topics for valve industry professionals from all disciplines. In addition to 20-plus excellent presentations, from onboarding new employees to the evolution of control valve diagnostics, lively conversations and networking opportunities inspired new collaborations among attendees. Participants could also mix and match tracks (choosing from Human Resources, Technical and Manufacturing), so engineers who would normally not have an opportunity to attend HR events could learn about successful training programs and top employment cases, while HR professionals had the chance to learn about robotics and understand how that could affect their workforce.
In Part 1, we focus on the Technical and Manufacturing tracks; the second part of this article will cover Human Resources presentations.
There are nearly 315 chemical projects worth $188 billion being planned in the U.S., and 62% of those projects are foreign investment or include a foreign partner. Swift predicted that as the manufacturing sector strengthens, specialty chemicals would also have a good future.
He also predicted that, with global integration and renewed competitiveness, U.S. exports will gain. He also anticipated that, with the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA), business investment could surge in 2019. Additionally, low feedstock prices thanks to U.S. shale gas will foster new greenfield investment, generating new business, jobs and tax revenues resulting in this $271 billion per year industry having higher growth than would otherwise occur.
In his address, Brad Livingston, the survivor of a horrific workplace accident, provided Manufacturing track attendees with a dramatic example of what can happen if you take shortcuts with workplace safety. But the importance of being passionate about safety was not limited to this presentation.
Exposure to the acid in the hydrocarbon is life-threatening, so UOP has a rigid process to approve valves. This is a very small niche of supply, and for each type of pipe class in their list, a very limited type and brand of valve is approved. Fucich reviewed the pros and cons of each type of valve, and discussed the standards associated with them, noting that UOP will not even consider ball valves for use in HF Alkylation. He stressed the importance of paying attention to the exact location in which they would be used.
The stated objective is to drive a structural reduction in project costs and schedule improvement with a focus on industry‐wide, non‐competitive collaboration and standardization. The vision for the industry is to standardize specifications for procurement for equipment and packages, facilitating improved standardization of major projects across the globe.
However, in a later presentation, Ron Manson of Cameron, A Schlumberger Company, warned attendees that the standard as it is being developed has the potential to make it more expensive and complicated to specify equipment. Additionally, parts of the standard contravene national or local regulations or codes. One example is that the fire testing requirements do not match those the Coast Guard requires on platforms, and require a graphite sealing barrier, which can create more problems and complicate the design. “You need to be aware of what IOGP is doing,” said Manson. “It is going to change your business, whether you like it or not.”
This is one area that spurred lively debate in the panel discussion at the end of the sessions.
There is still much to be explored, including using AM to innovate and optimize valve designs. Robotics was another fascinating area explored in the Manufacturing track and may be the solution for what many managers are facing: a serious shortage of skilled workers.
The panel discussion at the end of Manufacturing’s first day was great fun, with everyone imagining what it would be like to operate in a world where all of the current possibilities were utilized, as well as speculating about what could be done in the future.
In part 2 of this article, we’ll offer highlights from the Human Resources track.