Valve World Expo ’15: Flow control leaders examine industry challenges

By MIKE RHODES
Managing Editor

HOUSTON -- The Valve World Americas Expo & Conference 2015 opened Wednesday in downtown Houston and continues through Thursday, July 16. The Valve World event serves as the meeting point for the flow control industry and features a technologically in-depth conference program, product showcases on the expo floor and numerous networking opportunities.

The 2015 event once again welcomed thousands of attendees to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Over 150 exhibitors from the US, Asia, Canada, Europe, India and Mexico are providing attendees with a broad overview of the latest technologies, components and systems in the field of industrial flow control. 

The event traditionally attracts end users, consultants, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers to share experiences and discuss industry trends.

John Gill, manager of mechanical, piping and engineering practices for Bayer's business and technology services in Baytown, Texas (shown right), welcomed attendees on Wednesday and discussed some of the challenges facing his company and the industry as a whole. Company divestitures and mergers were a particular focus of his presentation, and he discussed the effects on the business and employees. 

“When you split a force, you lose expertise,” Mr. Gill said. “With realignment, employees inevitably move to one side or another, and responsibilities change to match the needs of the company.”

Mr. Gill also addressed some issues facing the entire industry: the retirement of the ‘older’ generation of employees, and the challenges of recruiting, training and retaining the ‘younger’ generation of engineers, operators and employees.

He suggested that companies must not let the vast industry experience of retiring employees just slip away. Capturing proprietary information and knowledge, reorganizing organizational structure and utilizing current expertise for mentoring and training programs were essential to maintaining successful operations while transitioning to the next generation.

“Relying on the knowledge of your vendors, suppliers and manufacturers is vital to easing this process,” Mr. Gill stressed.

Steve Probst, CEO of Sage Environmental and founder of several other companies, discussed his perception of the evolution of purchasing decisions. “In the 1970s, it was all about price; in the 80s the focus was on quality; and the 90s was a combination and price and quality,” Mr. Probst asserted. “The 2000s saw a shift toward service, with GE leading the way with their philosophy that they could potentially make more money by servicing rather than selling. I believe the next trend with be a focus on caring for the customer.”

Probst asked an attentive audience, “What are you doing to care for your customers, and how will you know that you are accomplishing that goal? Compare how much time you spend on branding, marketing and selling your own product or company to the time and money you spend in taking an interest in your customer and their goals.”

Mr. Probst encouraged the delegates to focus on their company’s culture as they interacted with each other during the conference, and how that culture affects all aspects of their business. “Daily behavior is your culture. If not, you have only a cultural intention. Daily behavior is who you are.”

Sessions for the remainder of the first day include an in-depth industry focus on performance and validation; valve technologies selection for cryogenic applications; and applying adapted tools for EPCs and end user non-process quality control (NPQG) engineers.

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