Jim Olsztynski 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Valve World Americas Draws 1,100+ Visitors More than 1,100 visitors streamed into a Marriott Hotel at The Woodlands in Houston June 21-22 for the first-ever Valve World Americas 2011, a conference and expo slated for every two years that attracted a sellout of 93 exhibitors. Although a fraction of the size of the biennial Valve World Expo held in Dusseldorf, Germany, every exhibitor this reporter engaged seemed pleased with the turnout and, especially, the quality of the show visitors, who came from throughout the Americas. The conference portion of the event featured numerous technical presentations. One especially interesting program was a panel discussion about solutions to the counterfeit valves problem. A detailed review appears on page 12. The success of Valve World Conference and Expo Americas 2011 has prompted Messe Düsseldorf North America and Valve World to expand the show and conference to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston in 2013. June 25-26 are the dates, and I heard through the grapevine that exhibit space is going fast. For information on exhibiting at Valve World Expo Americas 2013, contact Messe Düsseldorf North America in Chicago at 312-781-5180; Fax: 312-781-5188; e-mail: email@example.com. For information about attending the Valve World Conference Americas 2013, contact KCI Publishing, Christian Borrmann at +31 575 585-276; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Chinese Court Rules Against Counterfeit Valves In a rare case against counterfeit products, a Chinese court last May handed down criminal sentences and monetary fines of unprecedented severity against two companies and their managers for counterfeiting Hopkinsons valves, which are manufactured and sold worldwide by UK-based The Weir Group PLC. The two Chinese companies, Yangzhou Yikai Machinery and Engineering Co. Ltd. And Shanghai Saimeng Mechatronic Engineering Co. Ltd., had been making and selling counterfeit Hopkinsonsbranded valves since 2006.The defective products quickly failed in service at Chinese power stations, causing serious injuries and damage. In 2009, the companies’ managers were arrested by China’s Public Security Bureau following in-depth investigations. The case went to criminal trial in the Yangzhou Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu, China last December, and the prosecution proved that these valve products were counterfeit, failed to comply with compulsory national standards and were of poor quality.In addition, the defendants misrepresented their manufacturing location by telling customers that they were imported from the UK. The total sales generated from this illegal business operation exceeded RMB 11 million (approximately $1.7 million). The first company, Yangzhou Yikai Machinery and Engineering Co. Ltd., was found guilty of making and selling substandard goods and engaging in illegal business, and has been ordered to pay a fine of approximately $1 million. Yikai’s manager was found guilty of the same crimes, sentenced to 15 years and 6 months imprisonment, and ordered to pay approximately $2 million. The second company, Shanghai Saimeng Mechatronic Engineering Co. Ltd., has been found guilty of similar crimes and ordered to pay a fine of approximately $77,000. Saimeng’s manager was found guilty of the crimes of manufacturing and selling substandard goods, engaging in illegal business and counterfeiting trademarks. He has been sentenced to 16 years imprisonment and ordered to pay $2.08 million. While this is encouraging news, this reporter can’t help but wonder if the same verdict would’ve been reached had the valves caused injuries and damage at a non-Chinese installation. Counterfeiting Thrives On Deals Too Good To Be True Counterfeit products are a global phenomenon, mostly targeting brand name consumer goods but not exclusively. China is the main offender, accounting for around two-thirds of U.S. Customs seizures. Some estimates peg counterfeiting to account for as much as 15-20% of China’s economy. Yet it’s not just Gucci handbags and harmless plumbing products whose designs and identities get pirated.A panel discussion at Valve World Americas 2011 addressed the more worrisome issue of counterfeit valves, which have been found in nuclear plants, refineries and other high-hazard applications where they have caused death and destruction. Newmans’ Vice President of Operations Ginger Restovic was one of the panelists, and she pointed to data indicating that valves are #3 on the list of knockoff products coming into the U.S., behind steel and fasteners. Number 4 is pipe, with pipe fittings ranked #8, so this is a serious matter for the PVF industry. Counterfeit valves have been around for a long time, and the emphasis of this program was to finally identify solutions. (A followup blog has been established at www.valveworld-counterfeitvalves. blogspot.com, password = counterfeit1.) Much of the discussion concerned loopholes in the customary safeguards. A common refrain was to have a qualified vendor program to assure you know who you’re dealing with. While that’s a good first step, it was pointed out that even reputable suppliers often don’t qualify sub-suppliers, and if they do, who knows if the sub-suppliers’ suppliers are legit. Valve reconditioners came in for some bashing, although others pointed out that there are some reputable dealers among them and rebuilt valves are suitable for certain applications. Documentation is important, but it’s even easier to produce a fake MTR than the product itself. Several panelists suggested high-tech solutions via smart tags, bar codes and GPS systems to trace products from source to installation.The day seems to be coming when industrial valves will have RFID chips imbedded in them. Cost of the chips is negligible compared to the price of industrial valves, and it’s unclear why valve makers haven’t already done this. A manufacturer in the audience told of his company’s system in which a buyer or end user can key in a valve’s serial number on the company website to verify its legitimacy. That ought to do it, everyone agreed. These workable solutions left me departing from the two-hour program with this thought in mind: Industrial supply chains have the means to eliminate counterfeiting or at least greatly reduce its prevalence. So why hasn’t it happened? Here’s the central problem as I see it. I doubt there are many distributors that intentionally buy and sell fake PVF. It’s just that 100% of them are constantly on the lookout for a good deal when it comes to product procurement. Blinded by market pressures, too many lose sight of the boundary between a good deal and a deal that’s too good to be true. Some may consciously or subconsciously choose not to see any evil. Evidence of this comes to me several times a week in the form of email solicitations in broken English from Chinese firms offering to sell or make PVF products for me in the mistaken belief that our magazine is a supply house. A recent verbatim sample: “Good day! Glad to hear that you’re on the market of industrial valves. We are produce and exporting the valves with high quality and competitive price. FREE SAMPLES will be sent if you are need to test. So, Contact me, let’s talk more details.” I’m told that those of you in the business get bombarded with these kinds of solicitations every day. It’s unfathomable to me that any reputable distributor would establish a vendor relationship in this manner. Yet apparently enough take the bait to keep the emails coming, just as there are enough people falling for those Nigerian VIPs willing to share ill-gotten gains with anyone who gives them access to a bank account. How can you tell if a deal is too good to be true? Lots of red flags exist — product appearance, obscure supplier, fishy documentation, Internet sale, etc. Mostly, though, it boils down to common sense drawn from business experience. People above you in the supply chain need to make money, too. Could they possibly do so at the selling price they offer?
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