In Defense Of U.S. PVF Manufacturers

Our family has had the highest regard for Supply House Times, its articles and its writers, but I am both surprised and offended by Joan Adams’ recent articles - “Domestic vs. Foreign PVF Manufacturers” (Supply House Times, September 2009, p. 14) and “What’s Killing U.S. Manufacturers” (Supply House Times, October 2009,  p. 20).

Ms. Adams starts by saying that most of her articles address the concerns of warehouse managers and PVF distributors, and maybe that is where her writing should stay. The PVF distributors have had misconceptions throughout the years about the manufacturing abilities of domestic manufacturers in the United States. We have all observed that some manufacturers have not kept up with state-of-the-art equipment and have treated their customers with poor service with an attitude, but they are no longer in business. That was in the past, but we are talking about now. Did Ms. Adams visit any PVF manufacturers in the past year? I know she didn’t visit or even call Weldbend. Ms. Adams states that manufacturers give excuses (bogeymen) for not doing well. These are not excuses but facts. Manufacturers are burdened with multiple layers of governmental regulations (cap and trade will be a disaster) that the third world countries do not have. The United States government does not subsidize American manufacturers for exports, which both Chinese and Indian governments recently have done.

“Buy American” is not just a slogan for Weldbend. We strive to supply a quality domestically-manufactured product. Customers are starting to realize they cannot buy on price alone when specifying a complicated product such as PVF material. Ms. Adams says that U.S. manufacturers make a bad habit of long runs of each product. In fact, long runs of commodity products reduce costs and help in the scheme of things. But she also seems to lose her way (after all, she says she is an expert in PVF) when she says that distributors are pushed on with this product.

In the chain of command, the distributor is the link between a manufacturer and the end user to carry material. In Europe, they are calledstockists* (*“someone who keeps a supply of specified goods for sale” - Webster’s Dictionary), which is maybe a more appropriate name than distributors.

Some distributors (stockists) depend on the manufacturers to take an order on Monday, ship it Monday or Tuesday and have it to the distributor (stockist) by Wednesday so he can deliver it that afternoon. This has the end users thinking the distributor (stockist) has all this material in stock. During the recent boom we had in 2008, and the boom to come again, the distributors (stockists) that made lots of money, and the distributors (stockists) that will make lots of money in the future, are the distributors (stockists) carrying lots of inventory and not relying on the manufacturer to have their inventory replaced just in time.

Ms. Adams also mentions the Chinese who claim that filling an order for a product is not a problem, and they can get it to you cheaply in two months. The Chinese are wonderful people and work hard, but for the most part, they still have not realized the importance of our product in the market. “QUALITY.”

We have heard about Chinese-manufactured toys for our children and grandchildren that contain lead paint, and because they didn’t think anyone would care as long as the product was cheap, they made it in the cheapest way they could.

In just the past month or so, 6,500 valves of Chinese origin have been judged defective and must be replaced in several petrochemical sites in France. These valves did not match their low temperature requirements, and 2,000 of these 6,500 valves are in one petrochemical plant alone in Gonfreville, France. So how much money did these petrochemical purchasing agents save by going to China? They got what they paid for - low-quality valves at a cheap price. If an American manufacturer did the same, they would be out of business the next day.

Another disturbing story is the drywall problem in Florida. It is bad enough that the drywall has been found defective, but at least three insurers have cancelled or refused to renew policies of homeowners replacing their drywall. We have already heard of an insurance company threatening to cancel an end user’s insurance because they felt the end user did not use “due diligence” when specifying and verifying pipe for a project that resulted in product failure and the death of workers. I think Ms. Adams should visit the manufacturers in this country and see what they are doing to improve their standing in the world market. This year alone, in a down economy, Weldbend has spent millions of dollars on new equipment, and we know others in our field that have done the same. She also should take a trip to different countries like China, not on a tour bus seeing how wonderful the Great Wall of China is, or how lovely the food is, but to actually see the dinginess and the conditions in some of the plants that she is talking about that are supplying PVF products to our country.

I have never been so upset about an article thatSupply House Timeshas printed as I am about this one. We are not making any excuses in our field. There are no “bogeymen.” Weldbend has a workforce second to none, and the best and most modern equipment I have seen in my travels throughout the world. My complaint is in comparing low-quality material that comes into the United States at ridiculously cheap prices with first-class quality material from our company and the handful of first-class manufacturers in the United States and around the world. This article makes me wonder ifSupply House Times’ people, freelance or not, have knowledgeable insight into our industry anymore.

James J. Coulas Jr.
Weldbend Corporation
Argo, IL

Just wanted to send a note regarding recent articles inSupply House Timesby Joan Adams on “What’s Killing U.S. Manufacturers.” The central crux of Ms. Adams’ argument seems to be that American manufacturers are prone to long lead times because they don’t want to take the time to change out tooling to make more breadth of product. “Shorter runs and lightning response time” will lead our manufacturers out of stale thinking, according to the author. That and erasing the belief that American workers are slow and incapable. Presumably, the Chinese, who are an ocean away, have a more enlightened view of manufacturing and are therefore better able to respond to the needs of the industry than our homegrown American manufacturers and that’s what’s killing U.S. manufacturing.

Untrue. Inaccurate. Irresponsible. Simplistic. Unprofessional. These are a few words that come to mind in assessing these articles (September and October issues).

Question: Who did Ms. Adams interview for this article?

Industrial Valco has been buying from domestic manufacturers for 60 years.  They are among the most efficient and highest quality manufacturers in the world.  Among them:

Bonney Forge:  Bonney’s forged steel fitting operation is among the finest in the world. They produce over 1,000 line items and can ship 90+% from stock.  Their product is approved everywhere and their service is outstanding.  Bonney is an industry leader.

Boltex Mfg:  Boltex has invested more in forging production and flange manufacturing than anyone in the world. Their product is on every approval list.  They also produce close to 1,000 line items and ship 90% from stock.  Boltex is an industry leader.

Tube Forgings of America, Mills Ironworks, and Westbrook Manufacturingare a few other U.S. manufacturers that offer tremendous service, rapid response time, thousands of line items and 90% shipment from stock. 

All of these manufacturers are industry leaders that have embraced what Ms. Adams argues for - shorter runs, rapid response times and streamlined operations pulling the best from American workers.

And I can buy every one of these products overseas at half the price. 

What Ms. Adams should focus her time and attention on is, how is it possible for foreign manufacturers to sell weld fittings, as an example, at a cost below what U.S. manufacturerspay for the pipe?

Just wanted you to know the journalistic quality of these articles is far below the standards that I know you have for your fine magazine. I’ve cc’d some of these manufacturers so they know how I feel about their product and how proud I am to represent them.

Rob Raban 
Industrial Valco
Rancho Dominguez, CA

Leaving A Legacy

I just finished reading Rick Johnson’s article “Start Fashioning Your Legacy” in the October 2009Supply House Times(p. 73). I recently moved into my fifties and have been thinking quite a bit about some of the points he raised in his article. Thanks for the insightful piece. It is refreshing to see some thoughtful writing in this magazine.

Kerry Wisner
Branch Manager
The Granite Group
Manchester, NH