Bringing an end-user perspective to an EPC firm: An interview with Glen Beal, Piping Engineering Section Manager
After spending 30 years working as an end-user doing specifications and engineering focused work, Glen Beal took a change of direction and began working for EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) companies. With a vast amount of knowledge about the industry, Glen has taken the time to speak with Stainless Steel World Americas about his new role as Piping Engineering Section Manager. By Sarah Bradley
A solid background
Interestingly, Glen explains that he in fact stumbled into the piping industry: “My school was very engineering focused. Nearing graduation, engineering experts came in to speak to the students and the guy who talked about piping had the most character. There were 10 of us in the class who went on to work for DOW Chemical that semester because of that guy. I spent 30 years at DOW Chemical; 20 of those years working on piping specifications and engineering type work. I was able to work my way up the chain into SME (Subject Matter Expert) and leadership roles. Since leaving Dow Chemical I’ve been working for a couple EPC companies, I have found EPC work to be very different. Through the years I have worked with EPC firms on many projects as the client and end-user; I must say it’s very different. Thankfully, my current employer appreciates that I can bring that end-user perspective and experience to their project teams.”
From the outset it is clear that Glen knows a lot about the industry, having worked in both an end-user position and now working in an EPC business. As the latter position is newer to him, he finds that he has to regularly caution himself out of the default mode of an end-user. Working for an EPC company, Glen feels that he has “to be very flexible, especially when assigned to different projects running simultaneously with very different or unique perspectives of best practices. The dynamics change constantly; what may be conservative on one project may not be on another.”
In addition, in the current economic climate Glen feels that clients are making more aggressive decisions depending on cost. His projects involve mostly revamp work, no major new facilities; he sees that clients are just trying to expand or maintain their current facilities.
Mr. Glen Beal, Piping Engineering Section Manager
His current role
Irrespective of the issues the economy is facing, Glen describes why he loves his new position: “I am responsible for the piping specifications and material engineering needs of various projects. My job is to ensure staffing needs are met for the different projects, that they have enough resources; and also ensuring deliverables are received on time via standard work processes. As section manager I am responsible to ensure the companies procedures and practices are maintained and applied appropriately. I used to love the problem solving aspect of being a piping spec engineer, but now what I find most enjoyable is the people; helping people to reach a conclusion, to see individuals grow and to see the team satisfied with what they are producing. My team’s immediate concern is delivering the piping specs; but the reality is that we are part of the team building a whole facility. The piping specs can and do influence the whole project team; everything from vessels, pumps, supporting steel and stress analysis is impacted by the piping specifications that the team develops. I enjoy being able to sit down with everyone in my group and getting to know them personally and participate in their learning and growing; I enjoy building a team from a group of diverse skills, goals and personalities.”
Having moved from an end-user position to an EPC position, Glen outlines that the one thing that remains consistent is the types of valves and the valve needs that he works with. He works with manual valves; gate globe and check valves as well as quarter turns.
“The goal is to spec out the right valve for the application. To do this you have to have a full understanding of the variables related to the application and this has to be coupled with a strong understanding of valve types and characteristics. Ultimately everyone wants a device that will open and close/seal reliably.” He added, “the more complex the valve the more unique the application is going to be.”
Glen further explains that he has had to deal with cryogenic valves in the last few years and, more specifically, cryogenic valve testing. He explains that an EPC nor the client want to test every valve, but want and need to test a minimum amount in order to instil the confidence the client needs. Glen also explains the problems that he hears about are common; leakage of some type or wrong metallurgy.
Glen is pleased that in his organization there is a strong expertise base (across the different functions and the different disciplines) and a strong culture for teamwork to combat and resolve issues. “Keeping up with the current industry standards and practices, and knowing what the newest applications are is very important – and that’s a lot easier to do through teamwork.”
Working with CRAs
Still on the topic of products and challenges, Glen elaborates on his dealings with corrosion resistant alloys, such as nickel alloys and duplex stainless steels.
While these alloys are normally needed for chemical resistance and corrosion issues, they come at a high cost and unbearable deliveries. As an EPC firm, Glen explains that they need to receive realistic delivery time information with inquired, which can prove challenging with some manufacturers.
“It only takes a manufacturer one time at missing a project’s delivery requirements and that’s what the whole project team remembers and they never want to use that manufacturer or valve type again. No matter how much the spec engineer justifies the application; it is hard to change the mind of someone who has had that bad experience. Long delivery times are hard for a project team to deal with; but its far worse (for everyone) for a supplier or manufacturer to make false promises that were too aggressive to ever be realistic.”
A Thailand oil refinery
Approved manufacturers’ list
While working with an AML (Approved Manufacturers List) is common, in the EPC business more often than not, the end user brings his own AML, says Glen. “Still there are clients who rely on us for guidance and recommendations. On a recent project we recommended a ‘C ball’ type valve because it was a simpler seat design for the application. It was rewarding to be able to present the case for change to the client and have the client say: ‘that makes sense.’ It is good to be able to bring innovative solutions to the table.”
Glen explains that during his time at DOW a big part of his role was to work directly with manufacturer approvals and solving quality issues. In his new roles with the EPC firms he has had less day to day interaction with valve manufacturers; the quality department or the client has been at the front line for the basic supplier issues. He and his specification team provide the technical support and guidance to the procurement department, the quality department and the various engineering disciplines to ensure projects are using the right valve sources where specific design feature are critical.
Towards the end of the interview, Stainless Steel World Americas was keen to get Glen’s views on the future of the industry.
He highlights his desire to see relationships strengthened in this difficult time in the economy: “it has been challenging as these slow times continued, but I believe this is the time for the loyalties of the valve suppliers and manufacturers can shine; I hope that they will focus on establishing and strengthening relationships during these down times.”
Transfer of knowledge
Glen also gave his views on a topic that is prominent at the moment; the gap in the transfer of knowledge from experienced engineers to junior engineers: “As an industry we have to embrace the new engineers. Sometimes, they do things differently and it may seem really dramatic, but they have to be given a chance to prove themselves. After all, it’s often the use of non-conventional approaches that bring those new out of the box developments. The valve industry needs this; we cannot restrict ourselves to the traditional approaches and expect to keep up with the demands.”
An LNG storage tank