A lack of application understanding and an increase in off-the-shelf selling means that too many valves are still not being correctly specified – according to a leading designer of future-proof smart advanced networks.
Frustrated that valves remain largely off the list of ‘critical equipment’, Craig Stanners of Designed Network Solutions (DNS) claims that there are a growing number of irritated end-users who find it difficult to create a problem-solving dialogue with their suppliers.
“If for example” says Stanners, “you have a recurring problem with a faulty valve, many suppliers will gladly provide you with a replacement. It’s good business; you’re a returning customer! But if that valve has failed in 5 years of less, when it should have comfortably served a 25 to 30-year lifetime, something is wrong and questions need to be asked. Even when supposedly installing the best valve, the most expensive valve, you are always likely to run into problems unless there is a complete understanding of the network requirements”.
He added: “DNS is, admittedly, much more than a valve supplier, but if I get a call asking for an 80mm Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV), I’ll want to know what type of application it is for - drinking water, wastewater, hot/cold? What exactly are the flow rates, pressure? Where and what is the source of the supply? What are the pipe diameter sizes? - and much, much more. At the moment, whether it be the water industry or network supply in manufacturing, processing or the management of buildings, not enough questions are asked”.
‘Procurement teams do not know what they are buying’
He continued: “A huge number of procurement teams across all industries do not know what they are buying, other than it is the cheapest, so, it is all the more important to fully understand what your supplier can offer and get their confidence. Together you can then create a control philosophy and learn how to adapt and protect assets so that you get reliability over that 30-year timeframe and not just a failure after five.
Stanners says that fair prices are paid for what are recognised products, but what the customer wants – a solution – is something that some valve suppliers either cannot or will not provide. He also states that the void in expertise is partly due to the very set methods of classroom teaching that award students ‘qualifications’ after a very short space of time and with no practical hands on knowledge.
“Today’s so-called ‘training’ leaves a lot to be desired”, believes Stanners. “Of course, software has its role to play - and yes, we all look to Google and YouTube for information, but working on the tools, getting your hands dirty and picking up practical tricks of the trade that allow you to think outside the classroom box will always give you the edge over those glued to their desks and their pcs. An improved understanding of networks will often show pumps having to work harder and harder, pushing unwanted air into the system and using up energy that significantly increases one’s carbon footprint, which also increase leakage and burst events. With the right knowledge, this can be addressed. So, ask much more of your valve supplier – and demand long-term solutions – not just another off-the-shelf product”.