The good news in the valves industry is business is strong.

“Powell’s business has been very strong in 2018,” Powell Valves Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing North America and International Tim Fries says. “We introduced new products that now give our channel partners a complete package. We also have expanded our product line. Furthermore, capital projects purchasing has been strong.”

Bonomi North America also reports robust activity through the halfway point of 2018. “Our business for the first six months of this year has been through the roof,” Bonomi North America Marketing Division’s Rick Wentzell tells Supply House Times. “In fact, it’s been that way for the last nine or 10 months. There are many factors that contributed toward this huge increase in orders. The first and foremost is the economy and specifically the oil and gas industries with an expected annual compounded growth rate of almost 7%. This affects many supporting industries as well, such as commercial construction, chemical and power.”

But there is cause for caution in the industry based on a number of factors, including regulation, the tariff situation and continued price volatility.

Milwaukee Valve Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tom LaGuardia says lead-free regulations continue to require attention. He notes Milwaukee Valve has added valves and sizes beyond the requirements of US Senate Bill S.3874 (the lead-free law). Milwaukee Valve is also working toward completing the testing and requirements for the more stringent
NSF 61-8, including lead-free coverage up to 4 inches on brass or bronze ball, gate, globe and check valves and its Slo-Close butterball valves.

LaGuardia notes Milwaukee Valve’s iron butterfly valves with aluminum-bronze disks are certified lead-free to 24 inches and it recently added certification for iron-gate and iron-check valves from 2 inches to 12 inches.

“Certifying these additional products provides us with comprehensive coverage of lead-free applications, although we will continue to add products and broaden our UltraPure lines according to market demands and opportunities,” he says.

Powell’s Fries says the current tariff climate is something to most definitely keep an eye on going forward. “Prior to this notice I would have been quite optimistic about the current market conditions,” he says. “The recently announced tariffs that have affected check valves and the potential for more tariffs in the third quarter are causing me to temper some optimism.”

Milwaukee Valve’s LaGuardia, who says the tariffs are an equal concern for all competing valve manufacturers, adds fluctuations in the cost of raw materials continues to pose a challenge. “The prices of copper and aluminum are extremely volatile,” he says. “The problem is we own those fluctuations immediately. They don’t trickle down to us. Again, we can’t forecast these fluctuations. And since we can’t control them, we work with them and work around them.”

Bonomi’s Wentzell throws the valve import climate into the ring of concern. “As a true valve manufacturer with onsite engineering we see an influx of importers pretending to be manufacturers and offering low-end products for high-end service applications, which affects the valve industry’s liability and its reputation,” he says. “More and more we hear about misapplications and lawsuits concerning such valve products. The bulk of these valves originate in Asia and generally are not protected liability-wise by the manufacturer, which ends up putting that burden on the importer, the distributor and the end user.”

Despite these varied headwinds, valve manufacturers continue to charge forward. Milwaukee Valve continues to upgrade its UltraPress line which “now has the most complete offering of valves for use in press-connection systems,” LaGuardia points out.

In addition to new product introductions, Powell has increased the size of its sales staff, while Bonomi also is in a hiring mode, particularly in its industrial applications sector. Bonomi also introduced a “mini” style electric actuator, which Wentzell says has dramatically taken off in sales, and will be entering the HVAC controls industry for the first time in 2019.