Q&A with Bill Sandler, President of Valve Manufacturers Association
By Jim Schneider
Phc: Can you give an overview of VMA and its mission?
Sandler: Founded in 1938, the Washington, DC-based Valve Manufacturers Association of America exclusively represents nearly 100 North American manufacturers of valves, actuators and controls, which account for about 80 percent of total industrial valve shipments out of U.S. and Canadian facilities, as well as suppliers to the industry and distributors/channel partners. Our member companies are an important part of the nation’s economic engine, supplying approximately 35 percent of worldwide valve demand.
As a multibillion industry, the valve and actuator business greatly contributes to the success of other key industries that rely on its products to keep their products working. Products manufactured by members are used in numerous industries, including: chemical processing; petroleum refining; oil and gas exploration, distribution and transmission; power generation; nuclear power; water/wastewater; commercial construction; and pulp and paper.
Our mission is to globally promote the interests of member companies with customers, suppliers and government, and to facilitate their development and growth so the industry can continue to grow and thrive.
Phc: What types of companies or groups make up your membership?
Sandler: Industrial valve, actuator and control manufacturers, suppliers and distributors ranging in size from $1 million to over $1 billion in annual sales.
PE: What do members get from belonging to VMA?
Sandler: VMA is the voice for the industry. We provide a forum for discussion and learning to help our member companies remain competitive. VMA’s many benefits include networking opportunities, numerous educational and training programs, our award-winning VALVE magazine and weekly, monthly and quarterly communications about the industry, end-users, trends, etc.
We also compile and share economic data about the industry on a monthly and quarterly basis. Another benefit is that we represent our members at major trade shows throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as worldwide.
Phc: What kinds of programs and activities are VMA involved in? Can you summarize some of your main programs?
Sandler: We offer a variety of programs for our members, including VMA’s Annual Meeting– one of the largest single gatherings of valve and actuator industry leaders in North America. As well as our Market Outlook Workshop, Manufacturers Workshop and Tour, Technical Seminar, Finance Leaders Seminar and Valve Industry Leadership Forum.
VMA also has an in-depth valve basics education program—we call it “Valve Ed”—designed to educate and train newcomers to the valve industry, whether they are end users, member company employees or soon-to-graduate mechanical engineering students. The program contains creative components such as the Valve Petting Zoo, Basics in a Box and offers other innovative ways to promote valve literacy and career interest.
As part of our communications offerings, we publish VALVE magazine quarterly and have a website, www.VALVEmagazine.com, which provides additional editorial content. We also have a bi-weekly e-newsletter, VALVE eNews, to keep the industry up to date on the latest news and provide previews of upcoming editorial and association activities. Our members also receive a weekly e-newsletter called Quick Read. And, of course, our official associate website, www.VMA.org, offers a lot of great information about the industry, member lists and a product finder.
Phc: How has the market been for the valve industry in the past couple of years?
Sandler: The industrial valve market has been on an upward trend since 2010, again reaching the high levels witnessed in 2008. We have also seen growth both domestically as well as internationally as our members adapt to and benefit from globalization. U.S. and Canadian valve manufacturers continue to be known for their outstanding engineering. However, two challenges threaten the competitiveness of the U.S. and Canadian valve industry in the years ahead: the graying of the industry and the shortage of U.S. and Canadian students going into STEM (scientific- technical-engineering-manufacturing) fields. That’s why we have placed more emphasis on training and education so that we can help our industry retain its competitive advantage.
Phc: What kind of forecast do you have for the industry going forward?
Sandler: Shipments for the U.S. industrial valve industry will grow 3 percent in 2013, increasing to nearly $4.3 billion, according to our annual market forecast. The increase marks the fourth consecutive year of growth following the recession, and exceeds the industry’s previous 10-year peak in 2008. I’m optimistic about the outlook for our industry. We have rebounded from the downturn, which is a good sign for us and the overall economy. If the end users of our products are ordering from us, then they too are producing.
Phc: Any major code changes or technological developments that look to impact the industry in the next 3 to 5 years?
Sandler: The biggest regulation issue facing manufacturers today is the increasing scrutiny on fugitive emissions. Many refineries and chemical plants have been forced to accept consent decrees issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The consent decree is a mutual agreement between the offending company and the EPA on a recommended course of action that will mitigate future leakage issues. These decrees usually include a much higher level of valve testing to ensure that valves will meet current and proposed fugitive emissions requirement. The American Petroleum Institute is developing a new fugitive emissions testing standard, API 624, which will address this issue. This standard will establish a maximum acceptable leakage rate of 100 ppm.
Phc: VMA celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Can you tell us a little about how you are marking the occasion? What does this milestone mean for the association?
Sandler: As VMA starts its 75th year, I’m proud of VMA’s important role in strengthening an industry that is the backbone for so many others and that stands out for its level of excellence. We are marking this milestone in several ways, starting with capturing and telling our important story. We are an industry that dates back centuries, but have played our most significant role in the past 150 years prompted by the industrial era.
As part of our celebration, we are planning a gala during our Annual Meeting in October and inviting back many of our retired past chairmen and recipients of our prestigious Person-of-the-Year Award. We have developed a 75th Anniversary logo, a special section of our website to capture our history, a video tribute that features members talking about VMA and its relevance to the industry, as well as a commemorative program.
VMA is also celebrating its 75th anniversary by helping keep a flagship industry growing and competitive. Today, membership in VMA is recognized as a “seal of approval” since members must be voted in based on a number of criteria that assures they follow certain quality procedures, and are that their engineering know-how originates from their operations in the U.S. and Canada. In this way, the U.S. and Canadian valve manufacturers have been able to distinguish themselves for excellence in engineering and products. VMA continues to steer and position the industry as it faces the challenges of a changing landscape—globally and locally. I have been fortunate to be part of this history, having been with the association for over 36 years, and can say that we have one of the most exceptional member bases of any trade association.