Buyer Beware!

As new, low cost manufacturing opportunities open up around the globe, it is becoming increasingly apparent that some critical components are falling short of the required standards.

Is low cost/high specification possible?

Even allowing for the lower manufacturing costs in the emerging industrial regions, there is a growing price differential between established manufacturers and many of the new entrants to the market. In some cases product appears to be offered for less than the established market is paying for the raw materials…how is this possible?

Yes, the material may be of the type originally specified and on the surface may appear to meet the required specification with the expected finished appearance, but the deficiencies of sub-standard forged or spin/centrifugally cast metal may not be discovered until it is put into service.

With James Walker companies around the globe encountering a growing number of situations where competitors' product has failed in service, it seems fair to conclude that inferior or even sub-standard materials could be at the root of the problem.

Are industrial standards an effective quality guarantee?

As a licensed API manufacturer James Walker Moorflex carries the belief that delivering to international standard specifications laid down by industry bodies creates an environment where customers should be able to specify and purchase to a published standard, safe in the knowledge that the product they receive will be suitable for the application concerned.

However, a limited investigation — in which a range of standard ring type gaskets supplied and stamped to API Standard 6A were re-tested against the API Standard criteria — has yielded some astounding and frightening results;

10% of 'R' ring joints did not comply with the API standard

25% of 'RX' ring joints did not comply with the API standard

50% of 'BX' ring joints did not comply with the API standard

The reasons for failure ranged across dimension, hardness and surface finish - all variables supposedly within the testing capability of the API licensed companies manufacturing these products.

The high cost of failure

Over the last 18 months James Walker has been called in to help in three cases where catastrophic failures have occurred with ring type joints from other manufacturers.

In each case, the products had been supplied and identified as meeting the required international standard but were in truth well outside specification, with defects that proved serious enough to cause operational failure.

As a consequence of trying to save £5 or £10 on the cost of a ring type joint, the operators concerned lost millions of pounds in revenue, production capacity and rectification due to the failure of these sub-standard components.

Chose your suppliers carefully.

Critical sealing components can not be treated as a commodity purchase — they fulfil a critical operational role with major cost and safety implications should they fail in service.

With the levels of risk involved there is no margin for error.

Investing a little extra time and money in advance is infinitely preferable to paying the vast sums involved in lost production, clean-up and repair or possibly even loss of life when a sub-standard component fails in operation.

Use the industry reporting procedures

Don't forget that reporting procedures exist, with all international manufacturing and quality standards, to report instances of products failing to meet the required level.

In the long-term, taking this action when sub-standard products are encountered will ultimately reduce operating and maintenance costs, improve health and safety and protect the environment by helping to reduce operational failures.

19 July 2010

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