What's the big deal about the quality of your fittings?
The quality of your ﬁttings isn’t something you’ll be thinking about when you’re ﬁxing a break- down: Your concern is just to get the job done, get the ﬂow back up and going again. It’s only when it comes to maintenance that you can aﬀord to consider quality.
Depending on what your pipeline is transporting, the quality of your ﬁttings is a big deal. This isn’t just about whether you buy Chinese- or European-manufactured parts. It’s also about whether or not you have the skills to assess the quality of what you deploy.
This article explains why quality is important, tells you how you can assess the quality of your components, and explains how to make sure you’re consistently getting the best from your supplier.
A mark of quality in ﬁttings is in how often the manufacturers test the products. You might say, ‘Oh they’re all tested’, and you’d be right! But what is the testing program, in reality?
If you have a Chinese-manufactured ﬁtting in your left hand, and a European-manufactured ﬁtting in your right hand, they will initially look the same. The diﬀerence you feel at this point is that the European-manufactured ﬁtting cost you signiﬁcantly more.
The truth is, you can’t beat the prices on Chinese-manufactured ﬁttings. That’s just a fact.
But if you were to look closely, you’d notice that the European ﬁtting has a lot more reinforcing than the Chinese-manufactured ﬁtting. You can spot it by noticing that the Chinese-manufactured ﬁttings have very shallow reinforcing; it’s more like a pimple-eﬀect on the surface.
The reinforcing matters; in some industries, particularly where your pipeline is carrying dangerous or hazardous substances, it’s critical.
The thing you can’t see is the testing.
It only takes one failure to put you out of business
Stay with me a moment, I’ll tell you a story.
One day I went to visit a customer of ours. While I was there, he took me through his warehouse and showed me the stock of his Chinese-manufactured products.
It looked ok. In fact, the product was probably suﬃcient for irrigation, and even some mining.
Picking one up, I asked him, ‘What happens now, if you use this to transport sulphuric acid, and it fails?’
He looked at me, unconcerned. ‘We wouldn’t do that very often.’
Putting the part down, I replied: ‘You only need it to happen once.’ The implication is that if you know that you can prevent splits in situations of hazardous substances, and you don’t, then the legal issues afterwards could be enough to shut your business down.
We have had Chinese ﬁttings split—I’ve seen them personally. This is where the testing programs of the manufacturers become so critical.
Assess quality based on testing and recall
Your supplier will be able to explain to you how their manufacturers test—and, worst-case, recall
—their products. But here’s a quick (and very general) overview.
Chinese manufacturers will do some initial testing on their products. Their production is powered by volume. They don’t do regular batch testing, because it would slow down their manufacturing rate, and lift the price of the product. You have no guarantee about how each batch performs.
European manufacturers test every batch. Their production volume is slower, and the product prices are higher, and you do have a guarantee about how each batch performs.
Here at Advanced Piping Solutions, we’ve had European manufacturers recall product that we had already received. In some cases, they have been so pedantic about the recall that they wouldn’t provide refunds until we gave them evidence that the products had been destroyed.
The fact that we have never received a recall from a Chinese manufacturer does mean that their product is better. It means that their testing is worse.
Work with your supplier to better understand the quality of your ﬁttings
Your supplier ought to be able to give you many more stories and examples of the diﬀerences in quality, and should be able to teach you how to spot the quality yourself.
Ultimately, the quality of your ﬁttings contributes to the safety and longevity of your pipeline.
Is that something you want to risk?
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The eﬀectiveness and safety of your pipeline relies not just on your maintenance program, but on the ﬁttings that you use to maintain it. Make sure that you are ahead of everyone else by staying educated about how your program may be impacted by the parts you use, with our regular newsletter: Join our mailing list today.
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