BVITAUL FOIRLDOIDNG I BUNSINGESS INACHNINA AML
BY PATRICK A. TOENSMEIER
China’s low-cost manufacturing
has made it the main source of
commodity valves for most North
American end users, service companies and manufacturers. But cost
doesn’t guarantee performance. The
quality standards and process capabilities of foundries in China are far
from uniform. Companies sourcing
valves—primarily gate, globe, ball
and check valves—say it’s essential
to develop Acceptable Manufacturers Lists (AMLs) of approved vendors to assure the equipment produced meets specifications.
The trend to outsourcing commodity valves from low-labor-cost
regions is not likely to change anytime soon. The main reason for this,
of course, is economic. Foundries
that cast valves in low-labor-cost
countries deliver them for substantially less than if they were fabricated in the United States or Canada.
Experts say that valves manufactured in China cost 25-40% less
than in the U.S. And when valves
made in China are shipped to
Europe and paid for in euros, the
savings are even greater, owing to
the strength of the currency.
At the same time, end users
expect no trade-offs in quality or
performance from low-priced
valves. As suppliers note, customers
want performance and value in the
same package. The only way to
achieve this is by sourcing valves
from countries like China.
Dimensional verification of
all key valve components is
part of the API RP591
PHOTO COURTESY GREG JOHNSON, UNI TED VALVE
Much to Consider
On the surface, compiling an AML
appears to be straightforward. The
easiest way for any company to
begin is by drawing up requirements
that manufacturers will need to
meet to be included on the list.
In reality, however, sources say developing an AML is a long and costly process
that relies as much on knowing what to look for in a manufacturer and on personal
relationships as it does on reaching supply agreements based on operational capabilities.
“A buyer must research a company’s history, learn what its customer base is,
what specifications these customers have, and if your specs are going to be new to
them,” says Randy Cowart, President, Chairman and CEO of The Wm. Powell Company, a valve manufacturer in Cincinnati, OH.
The company has been sourcing commodity valves offshore for years, in Eastern
Europe as well as Asia. Cowart’s estimate for how long the process takes in China is
“two years at least,” a timeframe echoed by others.