When a wide range of options are available for a service, it can become difficult to
determine which facility will offer the highest quality products and customer care.
The abundance of actuation shops that have services readily available, in most areas,
makes it challenging to choose a partner that can support an end user’s needs now
and in the future. Before sending actuators and valves to just any facility, consider
these 4 key questions.
1. What Industry Experience Does the Company You Are Evaluating Have Working with Actuation and Valves?
It seems to be a common trend in the oil and gas industry that knowledge is transferred from the good ol’ boys down to the rookies. As there is no replacement for hands-on experience and knowledge when it comes to oil and gas, it is important for an actuation integrator to have a good team of experts willing to provide detailed information about a projects’ requirements. What does that mean? As a customer, get ready to be asked questions. If a distributor’s request does not align with the recommended specifications it is essential that an expert be present to outline potential issues and mitigate the risk. An example is working with a company that has a consultative approach like Blaine Bertrand of DONSOL, he gives
consultations frequently when specifications per the valve and actuator do not align with the customer’s request.
“It is about the safety and integrity of the end product we are providing to our customer, and we want to ensure a quality outcome,” Blaine commented. “That may even mean making recommendations other than the customer’s original request for specifications.”
If the integration partner is asking the end-user questions, it is important to note that it may be because of their previous experience in the industry. If their questions are knowledgeable and the conversation is positive, it is likely they will be a trusted partner now and on future projects.
2. What Is Their Availability and Customer Support?
As the oil and gas industry does not sleep, there are often situations that arise where emergency assistance is needed. When a plant or facility is in crisis mode, a reliable partner is crucial to fast and efficient solutions. It is therefore important to first consider their hours and if they are reachable by more than one point of contact. They may have an office phone and email, but is there an emergency number or after-hours point of contact? Some key circumstances where you may need to reach an actuation shop after hours are:
A new valve actuator is required
There is an emergency shut down due to a critical application failure
Need integration of valve and actuator quickly
A specific control failure on an existing component occurs and a replacement is needed
Another aspect to consider is, even if the actuation shop is available to quickly assist with a quotation or solution, will they meet the needs of the application and the distributor? It is important to ask questions to determine if all of the expectations have been reviewed and
understood. Below are some of the top customer support questions to ask an actuation
Are requirements being met: Has the actuation integrator considered all specifications required as per the end user’s applications for their actuation package?
Testing per specifications: Has the actuation integrator reviewed and met all testing specifications required by the end-user? For example, has Hydro testing taken place (if required), and has the standard testing of the actuation package per the spec sheet and quotation from the integrator been completed?
Documentation to support offer and application: Does your actuation integrator have supporting documentation for all the sizing, controls, as well additional offerings?
After considering all of the questions listed above, lead time efficiencies should be considered. Once it has been made clear that the actuation partner has expert know how, and can provide technical support, the distributor or manufacturer must assess how quickly
the partner can execute a quality project within a given timeline.
3. How to Determine If An Actuation Integrator’s Lead Times Will Meet Your Needs?
Expectations for lead times will vary depending on the type of project, its size, as well as the preferred timeline. With that in mind, there are key factors that can be used to shorten lead times at any actuation company. Knowing what these factors are, and what is expected from both the actuation shop as well as the distributor can help to achieve shorter lead times.
Some factors to consider include:
How quickly can the manufacture, or supplier turn around a quote to get the project in the line-up?
Does the actuation integrator offer rush options or a guarantee of a timeline?
Is the actuation company a one-stop shop? Meaning, can the actuation integrator handle the entirety of the project; from initial quotation to final assembly (Valve/Adaption/Controls/Actuator/Assembly/testing)
Can the integrator machine any materials necessary in house for the job? Fabricate Adaption in house? Bore and Thread, Bore and Key in house to meet the actuation assembly needs? Does the machine shop have integration or customization?
What is the location of the warehouse in relation to where the product needs to be delivered?
For example, Sam Davis, Managing Partner at DONSOL, said:
“Our lead times are exceptional, because we have a fully functional machine shop in-house with more than two decades of experience. This means we are not waiting on things to come in. We are machining with the job.”
4. Do Integrators Consider Specifications or AML (Approved Manufacture’s List) when Completing a Project?
Trusting an actuation company with the end user’s information, so they can provide the best recommendations at a less expensive cost, is probably the most important consideration when selecting an actuation shop.
“When starting DONSOL, I decided to not work with the end users to build trust among my customers. It is my goal to provide distributors, and manufacturers the support and partnership that they need to fulfill their clients’ needs in a timely manner with a quality product,” stated Sam Davis.
“When I provide a quote to our customer, I like to give them options at different price points to accomplish the same end goal unless they have specified manufacturers. If they let me know the specifics of the AML, I use that as a guideline to make recommendations,” continued Blaine Bertrand. The majority of the market tends to make decisions based off of the specifications that were previously used. This can, however, lead to issues, as the previous requirements may no longer be suitable for actuator and valve in question. Each valve and actuator are marked with specifications that should be abided by for use. Similar to tire pressure in a bike, where there is a recommended or specific PSI labeled on the side wall, a valve or actuator will also have a spec. If the recommended specifications are not followed, it can cause unnecessary stress on the tire (or valve), and it will not function correctly, or at all. If the pressure is too low, it can wear out in places it should not. If it has too much pressure the force will cause the tire to ride unsmooth or burst. Some causes of unnecessary stress on a valve or actuator can lead to the following:
Stretching of bolting
Warping of plates
Broken yoke tubes
Twisted off valve stems
Bent valve internals
Blowing out the bottom of the valve (Cracked valve body)
Over torqued and stuck gates
Bent mechanical stops
Loss of production and the chance of injury or accident.
A valuable partner in the oil and gas industry can save both the distributor and end-user time and money. By asking these questions and ensuring that the actuation partner can meet all of the expectations associated with these questions, both the distributor and integrator will experience a more efficient and effective process. Consider the above information when choosing a partner to meet industry needs.
Availability and Customer Support
Actuator and Valve Specifications
The distributor/manufacturer and partner should collaborate to achieve mutual
goals and provide the best end product to the customer.