Mr. Bolle (far right) recommends an investment in training and knowledge transfer in order to bring a younger generation into the valve industry.

The big challenge for the future of the valve industry: knowledge transfer

An industry expert shares his thoughts on the big challenge facing the valve community in upcoming years. By investing in training and knowledge transfer, valve manufacturers can help to transmit a passion for industrial valves.
^ Mr. Bolle (far right) recommends an investment in training and knowledge transfer in order to bring a younger generation into the valve industry.

Article by Michel François Bolle, Commercial Director - Valves Division at IPI Group

It seems like ages ago when I, as a young engineer, went to visit Mr. “W.B”. He was the so-called “Valve-Pope” in a large Swiss EPC company. His colleagues called Mr. “W.B” a living valve legend, and he was definitely the person I learned most from during my early years in the valve industry. He was able to recite any valve specification (general or project related), and he managed to detect valve drawings or valves that contain errors in a fraction of seconds. At this time, in his company, there was not one single valve order placed to a valve manufacturer that did not stop for a “coffee break” on his desk for technical acceptance or refusal. I can’t remember one single technical meeting where he has not been present.

I remember working with him until late night hours on technical details of offers, and there was absolutely nothing his eagle eyes wouldn’t see. Of course, Mr. “W.B” was a gentleman passionate by his work in the valve business, and always willing to share his experience.

Valve manufacturers must understand the difference between an added-value training session and a simple sales show.

It was also the time when life as a valve salesman was quite easy. With a request for a quotation, you received a perfectly accurate valve list and the updated project technical specification. You always had a technical contact, that was able to answer with lightning speed any question you had.

Life in the valve industry has changed since then. I would even affirm, the valve industry had undergone a massive revolution. Some of the major companies buying valves today do not have a so-called “ValvePope” anymore. The older and experienced people have been replaced by young kids coming straight from the university, having hardly ever worked more than 2-3 years in a certain field. And after a short period they jump on to the next job opportunity.

Unfortunately, this short lapse of time is not enough to gain experience and expertise in a field as complicated and challenging as industrial valves.

Changing dynamics

As I said, the valve industry went to a massive revolution, and honestly not for the good. If today I speak with valve end users, they start to have more and more problems with valves. To mention just a few: failures because valves have been wrongly specified; failures because valves do not fulfil the needed function; failures because of poor quality materials chosen to save money at the project stage; failures because of wrong selection of materials; failures because of incorrect installation of valves; and wrong, incomplete, or missing recommended valve maintenance.

The outcome of all of this is always the same: basically simple but very costly; liquidated damages cost, emergency shut down of installations or simply tremendous additional operating costs due to leaking valves (for example drain valve in Power Stations).


Knowing this situation, in my opinion, there is a huge opportunity for valve manufactures to contribute to a better and more reliable future in the valve industry and market. Valve manufacturers should take the initiative and also the responsibility to offer highly effective and added-value valve training courses to their own staff, customers and anyone interested to learn more about the valve business. Transmitting the expertise to understand better every aspect of valve selection, design, function, use, testing installation, and maintenance can only contribute to much fewer problems for end-users

Valve training is a real challenge for the future. Valve manufacturers must understand the difference between an added-value training session and a simple sales show. The sales show principle definitely has to fall out of favor, as it takes away the credibility of the offered training. I’ve been doing valve training sessions for the past 25 years, working for different companies, and honestly many times on my presentation I showed valves and examples from competitors. Where is the problem to show an example from a competitor? There is no problem at all. I can confirm this without any doubts. It is just adding value and credibility to your training session.

A good valve training must be both theoretical but also very practical. Have you ever thought about letting the participants of your valve training dismount and -remount a small size ball valve? Believe me, they will love it, and gain enormous additional knowledge.

In addition to this, valve training must be a well prepared overall concept! There must be a follow up of the valve training such as
  1. A website with a collection of useful technical information
  2. Maybe a “Ask an Expert” possibility through email, a chat or a mobile application
  3. A follow-up training a few months later, where people can discuss and exchange their experiences made, and problems encountered since the initial training.
Last but not least, as we know our market is suffering from the fact that many people do not stay for a long time in our business. Valve training offers the unique opportunity to transmit the passion for industrial valves, and when you are able to transmit this passion during your training sessions, it will have a real and positive impact on the future of our industry.


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