IN THE FLOW: How to choose the right valve supplier

The challenges, choices, and a checklist to help you make the right decision

As MD of HSP Valves, I’m well aware of the risks companies face looking for valve suppliers. In fact, we’ve built our business on helping our customers de-risk the process, make the right choices, and achieve success for their project. The reality is that valves, actuators, and control systems are generally seen as a commodity item – even though they are highly engineered and critical pieces of equipment – and this is challenging for end-users for three key reasons…

The challenges

Firstly, though valves are essential components in every refinery, tank farm, oil and gas installation, or FPSO, they tend to be one of the last things that get ordered. Not because they’re an after-thought, but because of the nature of the design process and the necessity to focus on longer lead-time items and complete the design and layout of the piping system first.

The second reason, which also builds on the first point, is that manufacturing engineered valves is a relatively complex process. A process that involves many different technical specifications, design standards, casting and forging of complex materials, machining, assembly, testing and inspection, and coatings – all before shipping to site for installation and commissioning. The main issue with this multi-stage process is that problems tend not to surface until quite late, which can lead to costly delays as specifications are corrected, designs tweaked, and the manufacturing phase starts again. This means getting the specifications right from the start is absolutely critical to success and saving time and expense further down the line.

And thirdly, navigating the hundreds of valve manufacturers and suppliers can be as onerous as it is confusing. “Choice overload”. “Overchoice”. “Choice paralysis”. “The choice paradox”. All these terms describe that feeling of “overwhelm” we all face when presented with a large number of options to choose from – especially when it feels like making the wrong decision is fraught with financial and project risk.

The choices

Add to this the fact that some valve manufacturers work only on large-scale projects, while others’ expertise lies only in certain types or sizes of valves. And this despite their natural instinct to say they can do everything – even if they don’t really have the experience or knowledge to back up their claim. A poor choice at this stage can only be identified late on and invariably will prove expensive to rectify.

Together, these challenges highlight how important it is to choose the right valve supplier for your project: a choice that becomes exponentially more important as the size and complexity of a project increases. So before you choose, it’s worth using the following five questions as a checklist to help you identify with a valve supplier to partner with:

Do they know the whole manufacturing ecosystem and supply chain intimately, and can you can trust them to help you navigate it?

It’s busy out there, with hundreds upon hundreds of valve suppliers and manufacturers, so finding your way around this saturated market to identify the partner and the best solutions for your needs can be as daunting as it is exhausting.There are plenty of valve suppliers who talk a good game, but on closer inspection many are what my colleague Richard Griffin, Sales Director at HSP, refers to as “post-box sellers”. In other words, they just act as a glorified messenger service between end-user and manufacturer (whose IP they’re using). They have no real understanding of the intricacies of the end-user’s requirements or the products they’re selling. So they have very little to contribute and next-to-no value to add for end-user or manufacturer.


Can they manage risk from one end of the supply chain to the other?

If you’re not managing risk then you’re not managing effectively. So ask your valve partner how they approach risk management. Do they have the knowledge and experience to predict what the risks are, and where and when in the supply chain they might appear? At HSP, we view risk as a continuum, with the potential to show up anywhere, at any time. This includes in the obvious places, such as in the specification, materials and manufacturing processes, but also in the often overlooked areas such as fasteners and coatings.


Do they understand your specific requirements, and can they ensure you accurately define and specify them up-front – no matter how complex your project?

In our experience, defining and specifying requirements is a team endeavour that involves a cornucopia of different brains with different expertise working together. That’s why we’ve invested in developing our in-house capability to create a team that includes, amongst other things, engineering and project managers, designers, metallurgists, document control and logistics specialists, because each has an important contribution to make during the process.It’s also what many past and present customers tell us they like about working with HSP: having a team of in-house specialists on hand means they receive a responsive, joined-up service, with no weak links or “skills gaps” compared to a contracted-out team.


Can they inspect, verify, and validate products and solutions along the way?

This is essential to ensure all products from the manufacturer comply with how they were originally specified by the end-user. It’s amazing how few valve suppliers can provide this level of quality assurance and project reassurance. So it’s worth asking about a valve supplier’s compliance processes. Any holes here will, no doubt, be amplified later on, resulting in more frustrating and costly project delays.


Are you confident in their abilities? And, just as important, do they have a proven track record in delivering X, Y or Z?

The whole point of using a valve supplier is to tap into the specialist market and product know-how and skills you don’t have in-house. Put another way, a valve supplier is there to de-risk the whole process for end-users by matching their needs with the right valve manufacturer or supplier. So look for testimonials, speak to current and past customers, and ask for relevant case studies. If they can’t provide these things, it’s worth asking why.

Ultimately, it’s about choosing a valve partner who you can trust to add value throughout the process. One that can bring together the very best combination of know-how, technologies, and processes to meet your project’s needs. And by making sure each of these streams flow together, it’s possible to create perfectly designed valve solutions, automation, and control systems first time, and to an agreed schedule.

As we move into a new era with many company’s supporting the transition to “new energy”, it’s imperative to choose a valve supplier who understands the challenges of this brave new world – one who’s perfectly positioned and “in the flow” to support you, today and tomorrow. I’d say that’s HSP.

Author: Derrick Mackenzie

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