Controlling the process
Tomoe Valves Ltd was first established in Japan over 60 years ago, and since then has worked hard to develop its position, becoming a global leader in the production of high quality and technically advanced ranges of butterfly valves, actuators and control systems.
“Over the past 12 months the market has remained fairly levelled,” begins Nick Robertson, technical sales director. “There are certain regions which have shown good growth but this has been offset by reduced sales in other regions. As always the oil and gas business goes through cycles and we just need to adapt to the changes and keep our focus on the right areas,” he adds.
The company has four manufacturing sites in the UK, Japan, China and Indonesia, all of which are owned and operated by Tomoe personnel, ensuring that the levels of quality and customer service are consistently maintained. Working across multiple time zones, it has established a network of agents worldwide that support its business, as Nick explains: “Our agents provide us and our clients with local support. We will always need a local company to guarantee that the client gets a response quickly and we look to ensure that our local agents are seen as an extension of Tomoe. This gives the customer the confidence that the answers they receive are always accurate.”
Tomoe is currently working closely with a Dutch client on a set of projects for which the valves are destined to be used on an FPSO in Brazil. Elaborating on the contracts, Nick says: “We have quickly built up a strong relationship with this client. This has proven to be a huge benefit as any changes to specification or delivery date is quickly and clearly communicated, which in turn ensures that any delivery and cost impact is either non-existent or kept to a minimum.
“We have also been working with a Belgian chemical company developing a valve for a specific application. We were approached by our local agent who set up a meeting with the client, which was experiencing a number of issues with their current ball valve equipment. The current design only lasts for a period of three months before the client has to repair them, which proves costly from both a repair aspect but also from the point of plant downtime. We sat with the client and discussed their various issues and also went to look at the plant to see how the valves were installed. That visit gave us a great insight on the application and enabled the production of a prototype for them to test. The testing will be performed over the next few months and if successful will lead to an order for seven valves and will also be rolled out across similar plants in Europe.”
The company’s flexible approach to design has proved to be one of its greatest attributes, ensuring it holds a strong position in the market. “We look to make our valve fit the application, not ask the customer to make their application fit our valve. Many customers we speak to tell us that their existing valves do not work in the way that they want them to. As those issues have occurred for many years they start to accept this as the norm. This is where Tomoe then steps in to show the customer that their issues can be solved. We show them that with clear communication and a good understanding of their requirements we can design a valve that will give them the performance they expect and need. This is also helped by our flexible and supportive supply chain. A good example of this is our supplier Gee Graphite, who works closely with us to enable us and them to quickly bring new products to market whilst ensuring they meet the stringent requirements of our customers,” explains Nick.
As a regular investor in its facilities and machinery the business replaced its main milling machine in 2013, which has assisted in an increase in production capacity and the product range, as well as proving significantly beneficial in terms of cost efficiency. “We originally planned that the milling machine would give us a cycle time saving of around 20 per cent. In fact it is giving us a saving of around 35 per cent and this enables us to be more competitive and flexible for our customers. The machine also impresses our customer during factory tours and it shows them that we are investing in the business to improve price, quality and delivery,” highlights Nick.
It is important for the business to recognise its strengths in order to remain competitive within the market. Throughout the history of the business, its flexibility in regard to design and attentive customer service has ensured complete satisfaction for its clients, further enhanced by the fact that its deliveries periods are half that of its competitors. As the business moves forward, it looks to 2015 and beyond with a very similar approach that has proved its success in the past. Drawing to a conclusion, Nick says: “The sector changes so much that we are constantly adapting our plans to suit the current market. This flexibility is a core strength of Tomoe, demonstrating our ability to adapt our way of working to suit our customers whenever they change.”
Tomoe Valves Ltd
Services: Manufacturer of butterfly valves and actuators