It is said that “quality is the best business plan” and new testing procedures at Pentair Europe are testament to that. Error-free automated test benches, air pressure testing and the hand-testing of every single valve to leave the factory have all contributed to a virtually zero-defect record in the field.
We caught up with the Quality Assurance Team at the Pisa valve production facility to understand how testing has scaled new heights at Pentair.
Quality is more than systematic at Pentair
Like many manufacturers, Pentair has always placed great emphasis on quality. Its products conform to all the major EU certificates and its factories are ISO 9001: 2015 certified. However, there are quality standards … and there is a culture where quality is a habit.
To ensure the latter, Pentair took a policy decision some years back to test every single valve that leaves its factory. Naturally, to test 100% of production output takes more time, but it is the only fail-safe way that customers can be sure that when they receive a valve from Pentair it has been thoroughly function-tested before it leaves our hands.
100% of valves are tested
Marco Calatroni, Value Stream Manager explains the thinking. “We could just do spot checks and still be compliant with ISO 9001 processes. However, we took the policy decision in 2015 to individually test every valve. Our products operate in demanding and often extreme environments and, while they are very reliable, we do not want them effectively ‘tested in the field’. Failure is not an option. So, we chose to scale up our testing operation and test every one before shipping. It has been a big investment, but reliability is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”
“We took the decision in 2015 to individually test every valve. It has been a big investment, but reliability is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”
Marco Calatroni, Value Stream Manager, Pentair Europe
“We are effectively looking at two aspects during each valve test,” continues Marco. “Firstly, we are looking for leaks and secondly, we are checking the actual performance of the valve – for example its phasing, flow rate and other parameters. Any valve falling below tolerance gets rejected and sent back to production for analysis. That invaluable data also helps us with learning, predictability and is a part of our continuous improvement.”
This is no small undertaking considering that Pentair’s Pisa plant can be manufacturing around 1000 valves a day and the company has been continually investing to streamline this process.
One ‘game -changer’ has been air.
Air pressure testing is a game-changer
Historically all Pentair components were tested using pressurised water. Three years ago, Pentair started adopting cutting-edge processes by using air for these pressure tests. Today most Pentair valves are tested this way, and there have been significant benefits.
“Air pressure testing is more accurate, safer and cleaner”, explains Salvatore Licitra, Lean Manufacturing Manager. “Air is more sensitive than water so the pressure can be significantly lower. A low-pressure air test at say 2-2.5 bar is just as effective as a high-pressure water test at 10 bar. The sensitivity of air pressure gradually ‘amplifies’ any quality issues, so we can literally see any subtle drifts or changes in pressure, highlighting any anomalies and giving us more control over our testing than with water. With water pressure testing it is more ‘binary’ – either good or bad, without any of the additional feedback we get from air.”
“Air is also much cleaner for testing. Even with best endeavours, water testing could often leave some fluid trapped in the valve. That in turn could lead to contamination, bacteria, or it could even freeze during transportation, causing damage. Air pressure testing has eliminated these issues.
Therefore, we have now equipped all our test-benches with air testing equipment. That said water pressure testing here has not completely disappeared and, as a final quality check, we still spot check five percent of all the tested valves with a water pressure test.”
Streamlined, automated and error free testing
Salvatore sees air testing as a vital ingredient of the Pentair drive for 100% reliability and reputation for complete quality assurance. “It’s all a long way from the visual inspections of the past. Today our test benches are highly streamlined, automated and error free,” he says. “They are run in parallel, with multiple valves being tested at a time. While there is still ‘a human hand’ placing and removing the valves, the air pressure testing rigs are automated. Each will give a full diagnostic display of the pressure and function tests and produce a certification sticker for a successful test. Without that, the valve is rejected.”
“Our test benches are highly streamlined, automated and error free.”
Salvatore Licitra, Lean Manufacturing Manager, Pentair Europe
Failures are a thing of the past
Whether it is a ‘state-of-the art’ valve like the Fleck 5800 or a workhorse like the Fleck 5600, the rigorous testing policy is the same. 100% testing makes for a better-quality assurance guarantee for customers of Pentair Europe. It provides the ultimate confidence to installers and customers by knowing that every valve is subject to the same testing procedure. Since its new testing regime in 2015, rejects and failures in the field are virtually unheard of. No wonder European customers continue to insist on Pentair.
Read more about Pentair Machine Vision inspection here
Read more about the full Pentair Valve Range here
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