A CONVERSATION WITH…
Rob Bartlett THE BVAA DIRECTOR DISCUSSES THE EUROPEAN MARKET, MANUFACTURING AND EDUCATION BY PETER CLEAVELAND
Bill Sandler, president of the Valve Manufacturers Association (VMA) and Rob Bartlett, managing director
of the British Valve & Actuator Association (BVAA) recently
met up at the ACHEMA trade show in Frankfurt am Main,
Germany. While there, they compared notes on the markets
in the U.S. and in Europe, and what each region of the world
is doing in regard to education and training. With VMA’s
education initiative just underway, the U.S. can look to the
United Kingdom for support on the importance of creating
new learning avenues and examples of how those avenues can
Bartlett says the European valve industry looks positive. “In
recent months BVAA members report high activity levels with
a generally buoyant market, bucking the trend experienced in
many other industries,” Bartlett says. He adds that the immediate and long-term outlooks look even better.
“Certainly for the UK the future looks very bright,” he
says, explaining that: “A great deal of contraction and consolidation took place in the industry during the last recession. Our
members—particularly the manufacturers—have already initiated ‘lean’ techniques, invested heavily in state-of-the-art
plant and equipment and are also investing in the continued
professional development of their staff,” he says.
Yet the overall economic outlook in Europe is still not rosy,
he cautions, just as the global market itself remains grim.
Bartlett says he feels that, to a large extent “through some
irresponsible reporting in the press, we [the world’s countries]
have ‘talked ourselves into’ this global recession.” He also
thinks getting out of this situation will not be a simple matter.
VMA’S EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVE
Sandler also shared information with his UK counterpart about
what is happening with VMA’s new educational initiative, which
formally kicks off in Houston on Oct. 29 with the Valve Basics Seminar & Exhibition. The event features the new Valves and Actuators
101 educational programs. In addition, Sandler reports, the Chem
Show, which will be in New York in November, has asked VMA to
present a condensed version of the same program, and a number of
end-users and related associations have expressed interest in having VMA develop customized programs.
VMA has also published the first of several compilations of
articles from Valve Magazine, beginning with its Back to Basics
series, and Sandler says these have proven quite popular. Late this
year, he added, VMA will bring out stand-alone training CDs containing PowerPoint presentations, then print manuals and online
For more information on VMA’s training activities, go to VMA.org >
Valve Education, and to Events > Valve Basics Seminar. To learn
about BVAA’s educational offerings, visit BVAA.org.uk.
One step that needs to happen is: “We must get Western
economies working towards a larger manufacturing fraction
within their GDPs,” Bartlett says. While “tourism and finance
are fine, they must come as an add-on to wealth [that creates]
manufacturing,” not as a replacement, he says. The UK government has finally realized this, “but it will take many years
to restore manufacturing to its former glory,” he adds.
One of the most important steps in restoring manufacturing
as a priority will be to create new ways to train skilled workers and planners. Currently, school counselors and educators
are reluctant to suggest careers in industry, and few schools
provide specialized training in that area. For example, some
colleges and universities are unwilling to make the continuing investment in staff and facilities needed for high-quality
engineering education, Bartlett says, which leaves many
local regions short of suitably trained and qualified young
engineers. As a result, he said, engineering companies have
left those areas or closed down operations, and students have
become less aware of engineering as a career option.
While some companies provide in-house training, what’s
needed is a source of training for all, which both VMA and
BVAA are addressing. VMA has launched “Valve Ed,” an
educational program stressing valve and actuator fundamentals (see sidebar). In the UK, BVAA has created a wide
selection of courses. About half of attendees come from
within member companies and the other half from their
“We focus on introductory courses,” Bartlett explains.
Attendees vary from administrative staff, who need just an
appreciation, to highly qualified engineers who are entering
the valve industry for the first time.
Interest in training also seems to be increasing. “We have
just held one of our bi-annual training weeks at our headquarters, and had a record attendance,” Barlett says.
One area that needs attention, Bartlett added, is the lack of
formal qualification criteria in the valve industry. “I am surprised that in an industry as long-lived and quality-conscious
as ours, we do not yet have formal qualifications in ‘Valve
Engineering’ (and by that I include both design and repair). I
personally feel this is something worthy of international co-operation,” he says.
Going forward, Bartlett and Sandler agree a good step will
be cooperative agreements between the U.S., Europe and other
countries. Plans are in motion for VMA to share space with
BVAA at the 2010 Valve World show in Germany. VM
PETER CLEAVELAND is a contributing editor to Valve Magazine. Reach him at