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 February 2007
Feature

With over $1 billion in annual sales, Swagelok Company is a recognized global business leader. Founded in 1947, Swagelok of Solon, Ohio, designs, develops and manufactures high-quality, general-purpose and specialty fluid system products and services to meet the evolving needs of global industries such as chemical and petrochemical, oil and gas, analytical instrumentation, process instrumentation, pulp and paper, sanitary, power generation, shipbuilding, semiconductor and alternative fuels. Swagelok’s wide range of products includes:

• Filters
• Fittings
• Gauges
• Regulators
• Transducers
• Hoses
• Miniature modular systems
• Plastic products
• Quick connects
• Sample cylinders and accessories
• Sanitary products
• Tools and accessories
• Tubing and tube supports
• Valves and manifold valves
• Swagelok orbital welding system

The company’s products and services are delivered locally through a network of over 200 exclusive authorized sales and service centers. Located in 54 countries on six continents, these locally managed centers employ about 1,500 trained sales, service and support professionals.

Standards in Manufacturing: From R&D to Marketing

One Manufacturer’s Perspective

Much of the information in this article was presented by Swagelok’s Peter Ehlers at the 2006 Standards Engineering Society Annual Conference. We thought it was an excellent summary of the important role standards play in manufacturing, from product inception to marketing, and have expanded it to provide an example of one company’s strategic use of standardization.

Strategic use of standards helps ensure projects succesfully pass through the funnel process

The ability to deliver high quality, market-driven products is a hallmark of today’s leading customer-focused enterprises. Integral to the business strategies of many of these organizations are standards, which help to clarify the needs of the marketplace, drive and support the new product development process, and facilitate the ready acceptance of products and services throughout diverse target markets.

One leading global manufacturer that uses standards to define and develop products that are tightly aligned with the needs of the marketplace is Swagelok Company of Solon, Ohio. Swagelok, a manufacturer of fluid system products and solutions, is a highly customer-centric organization. Underlying the development of new products at Swagelok is what the company refers to as the “Voice of the Customer” process. Through customer interviews and surveys, cooperative design activities, detailed beta testing programs, and other initiatives that drive two-way interaction with customers, Swagelok is better able to manufacture advanced, high quality products that are on target with marketplace requirements.

Playing a critical role in achieving the overriding mission of Swagelok’s customer-driven process is its diverse standardization strategy. Swagelok utilizes a wide range of strategic standards throughout its new product development cycle.

Strategic Standardization: Ensuring the Delivery of Customer-Centric Products

Before a new Swagelok® product reaches the marketplace, it goes through a multi-step development cycle. At each phase of the new product life cycle — assessment, definition, development, validation, and launch — standards are the benchmarks that help ensure that the customer is being heard; that the company’s rigorous quality and testing requirements are being met; and that the regulatory requirements of Swagelok’s global markets are being addressed.

Among the many best-in-class standards the company relies on are myriad ASTM International material standards, as well as industry-accepted performance test methods; Instrument Society of America (ISA) standards to help determine flow-capacity ratings for its valve products; and ASME International standards, which help establish temperature, pressure, and nuclear ratings. In addition, Swagelok uses other specific international standards to help the company meet the requirements and regulations of key global markets.

More than just a standards user, Swagelok also plays a formative role in the standards writing process. Swagelok engineers actively participate in standards writing committees such as ASTM A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel and Related Alloys; B08 on Metallic and Inorganic Coatings; and G04 on Compatibility and Sensitivity of Materials in Oxygen Enriched Atmospheres.

“Participating in standards development supports the Voice of the Customer by providing us with insight into trends and indicators throughout our customer base, as well as our supplier network. On standards writing committees we work directly with our customers and suppliers to develop codes and standards that solve problems and benefit entire industries,” notes Dick Medvick, a Swagelok engineer who runs the company’s Strategic Standards Management Council.

Standards in Action: Fueling the Launch of New Hydrogen and Natural Gas Products

A closer look at the 2006 release of two new Swagelok products for the alternative fuels market demonstrates the company’s broad strategic use and application of standards. In this market, Swagelok provides products and services to support the design and production of natural gas vehicles, filling stations, and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The company recently released a new line of tube and adapter fittings, as well as seamless tubing, to satisfy higher working pressure requirements in the alternative fuels and oil and gas industries. Swagelok also introduced a new alternative fuel service ball valve, used to meet the demands of hydrogen and compressed natural gas applications. As both of these new products moved through the Swagelok new product development process, standards helped shorten time to market, lower internal project expenses, meet regulatory requirements, and support the delivery of customer-focused solutions.

Assessment: Standards Help Establish Critical Industry Requirements

In the first stage of the new product cycle, Swagelok works to build the best business case for the development of new solutions. Here the company tries to forecast resource requirements, such as the appropriate allocation of employees needed during the development process. Also during this stage, Swagelok uses its Voice of the Customer process and analysis to take the “pulse” of its customers and identify critical industry requirements.

An important prerequisite for Swagelok in introducing products for compressed natural gas applications is its ability to meet standards and regulatory requirements for CNG fuel system components. In the case of Swagelok’s newest line of hydrogen and natural gas solutions, CNG-related regulatory standards that helped the company understand needed requirements included Regulation No. 110 from the UN Economic Commission for Europe. ECE R110 specifies standards for the components used in vehicles with CNG-based propulsion systems. Companies serving the alternative fuels market in Europe and other regions must demonstrate compliance with ECE R110 standards. Similarly, in the Japanese market, CNG products must meet specific requirements in order to be approved for use in that country. In Japan, Swagelok products comply with high pressure gas and toxic gas regulations referred to as METI/ KHK standards.

“In the assessment stage, standards play a critical role in providing a view of trends throughout the global markets we serve, as well as critical knowledge of regulatory requirements,” notes Ehlers. “Not only do we then incorporate these requirements into our products, we also use standards as a tool for educating our sales force on particular markets and applications.”

Definition: Using Standards for More Accurate Planning

The definition stage is where Swagelok works to complete what the company calls its “design contract,” which defines project scope, deliverables and critical path timelines for its engineers and other team members. In this stage, the company works to gather information and plan for resources such as employees, equipment and materials. Another critical element that goes into the completion of the design contract is further understanding of industry and regulatory requirements pertaining to markets and specific product applications.

For Swagelok, standards deliver knowledge that results in more accurate resource planning and requirements definition, while also helping the company to create its design contract in a more thorough and timely manner. In the definition stage of its newly released medium tube fitting products, Swagelok leveraged a multitude of ASTM International standards to define and select needed materials. ASTM standards such as A 269, Specification for Seamless and Welded Austenitic Stainless Steel Tubing for General Service, and A 1016/A1016M, General Requirements for Ferritic Alloy Steel, Austenitic Alloy Steel, and Stainless Steel Tubes, played an important role in this stage of the project. In addition, Swagelok relied on ASME standards to help determine critical temperature and pressure rating requirements. Other standards used by Swagelok included ASME SA213 Seamless Ferritic and Austenitic Alloy-Steel Boiler Superheater and Heat-Exchanger Tubes, which is derived from ASTM standard A 213/A 213M of the same name. Swagelok is also an active user of ASME B31.3, which specifies code requirements for process piping design and construction.

“ASTM International standards play an important role in addressing environmental concerns with regard to the materials and coatings we use in our products,” notes Medvick. “They help us define and meet requirements for surface finish, cleanliness and corrosion.”

Development: Standards Help Ensure Product Performance and Quality

As new product concepts move into the development stage, Swagelok begins to create a product that satisfies customer and market requirements. By relying on the design contract created in the prior stage of the new product development cycle, Swagelok now has stable and well defined criteria for capital investment and resource allocation. Moreover, customer acceptance criteria for performance, quality and other key factors have been clearly identified.

In the development stage, standards provided Swagelok with a framework for ensuring that the defined performance and quality criteria are ultimately delivered to customers. In its engineering and material labs, Swagelok relies on industry-accepted ASTM test methods to perform critical qualification testing. The results of this testing also provide documentation to evaluate earlier material and design selections. To support the development of its new hydrogen and natural gas products, Swagelok relied on a wide range of ASTM test methods such as A 370, Test Methods and Definitions for Mechanical Testing of Steel Products; A751, Test Methods, Practices and Terminology for Chemical Analysis of Steel Products; and E18, Test Methods for Rockwell Hardness and Rockwell Superficial Hardness of Metallic Materials.

Validation: Standards Pave the Path to Final Production and Launch

Prior to production and launch to the marketplace, Swagelok products go through a rigorous validation stage. Standards are again important in measuring the performance of new Swagelok products. “In the validation stage, standards can provide a stringent set of performance criteria and standardized methods for evaluating such performance,” comments Ehlers.

Launch: Standards Provide a Strategic Marketing Tool

When Swagelok products are rolled out to the marketplace, the use of standards throughout the new product development process provides a benchmark for product acceptance and gives customers the required proof of performance to support their purchasing decisions. In addition, the use of standards in the initial product development cycle facilitates easier future product expansion, because most testing has already been completed.

Swagelok utilizes its ASTM F 1387 certification in support of its branding and marketing efforts for its tube fitting product line. ASTM standard F 1387, Specification for Performance of Piping and Tubing Mechanically Attached Fittings, establishes certain performance characteristics required for mechanically attached fittings for use in naval seaworthy piping and tubing systems. The U.S. Navy audits third-party testing of Swagelok tube fittings and uses the data gathered to approve these products as fire-hardened fittings for use on its surface ships based on ASTM F 1387 testing.

For Swagelok, standards are a powerful vehicle to help it market and sell its products throughout the global marketplace. In the rollout of its new products for the alternative fuels market, Swagelok prominently references a wide range of standards and third-party compliance certifications in its brochures, on its Web site, and in other promotional materials.

“The use of standards helps to enhance the Swagelok brand by underscoring the performance, quality and reliability of our products and solutions,” adds Pat Carlson, Swagelok’s strategic brand manager. “Standards are also important enabling tools that open the door for our products to new markets, industries and customers.”

For a customer-centric company like Swagelok, active involvement in standards is an important vehicle for ongoing success. “The standards process puts us in touch with our customers and suppliers, as well as other industry leading companies,” says Ehlers. “It drives the development of our customer-focused solutions while making us more competitive on a global scale.” //

 
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