Conval Case Study: From Out of a Bind to Prepping for Growth
Conval Inc., is a global leader in high-performance valves for the world’s most demanding applications. For Conval, high temperature means a ball valve that can withstand 1200 degrees F. High pressure means handling 2,000 psi pressure with ease. Rigorous standards are in place for the quality, durability, and delivery time of Conval valves because facilities like power plants depend on them for steam, hot water, and chemical applications.
In 2023, Jared Pickering, Materials Manager for Conval Inc., was struggling to get a longtime foundry supplier back on track with quality and lead times. Over the previous 18 months or more, the foundry, after more than a decade of dependable service, was missing delivery dates and when they did ship products, the shrinkage porosity and cracking made many of the parts unusable. This was frustrating for Pickering, but worse, it was taking a toll on the business.
Conval valves are high quality, extremely serviceable (they can be repaired in the field) and are manufactured from raw materials at the company’s headquarters in Connecticut. These qualities give Conval a competitive edge over larger companies that sell mass-produced valves at lower quality and lower price points. In fact, many Conval severe service valves are shipped to low-cost production nations such as China. The carefully crafted Conval valves start with parts cast in foundries, which are then sent to Conval for machining, nickel-plating, and pressing with other parts before they are put into assembly. If Pickering doesn’t have a reliable supply of quality castings, the entire production line comes to a halt.
“When a customer reaches out looking for 5 valves in 6 to 8 weeks, and we cannot guarantee delivery in that timeframe, then we lose the order,” Pickering said. “We estimate $225,000 worth of orders were lost over the 18 months where we had these supply issues.”
Conval production facility in Connecticut.
The time came when Pickering was up against an order deadline and needed to enlist a foundry that had worked with Conval before, was on the approved vendor list, and understood the quality required. He called Stainless Foundry & Engineering (SF&E) for help.
“The part size, geometry, volume and alloys all fit right into our wheelhouse,” said Anthony Geiger, Senior Foundry Engineer, Investment Division, for Stainless Foundry & Engineering. “We were up to the task of taking on a rush order for Conval. We got to work immediately.”
In June, Pickering pulled one set of tooling from the existing supplier and sent it to SF&E. SF&E was producing and shipping castings by late August/early September.
Cast parts at SF&E, ready to ship to Conval for finishing.
“The transition of receiving the tooling was easy. Conval was very communicative about when to expect it,” Geiger said. “When the tooling was received, we opened it to verify how it operated, documented product markings, where the previous supplier was gating, and then verified with the customer that the quality issues were production-related, not pattern-related, before releasing the job to the floor.”
SF&E also simulated a pour through MAGMASOFT® before releasing the tooling to sampling so they could ensure all quality issues Pickering experienced with the previous foundry would be resolved. Communication was crucial for the fast turnaround, but the SF&E team impressed Pickering with standard processes of weekly status updates, timeline expectations, and same-day response times to emails and phone inquiries.
The next set of tooling was moved to SF&E in August, where castings were produced again in an expedited manner, and sent to Conval in time to meet more of their customer delivery commitments.
“Stainless Foundry & Engineering got us out of a bind,” Pickering said. “The orders were small volumes but involved our largest production line.”
Machined parts at Conval.
Since the first rush orders, all patterns from the former foundry supplier have been moved over to SF&E. To further make up for lost time, Conval will start a stocking program so they can ship complete valves from inventory when future orders come in.
“As we grow the business, having castings readily available will help us ship more product, especially as we plan to add more sizes in the future,” Pickering said. “The more we ship the more we can order, the more we can place in stocking.”
Completed Top Entry Ball Valve
A real partnership and trust were developed in the process of working together on the ball valve castings, according to Mitch McCaffery, Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Stainless Foundry & Engineering. With respective growth goals aligned, both companies are ready to scale together.
“In the grand scheme of things, our direction for the growing the business is in pump and valve and Conval is a perfect fit,” McCaffery said. “Our businesses have aligned well in the beginning of the relationship, and we look forward to continuously adding value to ensure they do not lose any more orders.”
The entire SF&E team is on board.
“Our shop floor employees like to know the things we are doing in the front end to win business and keep improving SF&E,” Geiger said. “Conval is a familiar name, especially to some of our tenured employees, and they take pride in knowing their work makes a difference worldwide.”
SF&E is committed to meeting customer requirements, even in a bind. If you are interested in learning more about how we take on new challenges, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.