Industrial Valves

SIC 3491

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing industrial valves. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing fluid power valves are classified in SIC 3492: Fluid Power Valves and Hose Fittings, those manufacturing plumbing fixture fittings and trim are classified in SIC 3432: Plumbing Fixture Fittings and Trim, and those manufacturing plumbing and heating valves are classified in SIC 3494: Valves and Pipe Fittings, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Industry Snapshot

A valve is a device designed to regulate the flow of a gas, liquid, slurry, or dry material through a pipeline or a chute. Valves regulate the rate, volume, pressure, and direction of the flow. The Valve Manufacturers Association of America (VMAA) observed that valves are basic yet indispensable items in our society and are required in "virtually all manufacturing processes and every energy production and supply system." Today's valves are made from a variety of materials and range in complexity from simple to highly sophisticated. They range in size from a fraction of an inch to more than 30 feet in diameter, and they can handle pressures ranging from a vacuum to more than 20,000 pounds per square inch, as well as temperatures ranging from cryogenic extremes to more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Compared to other manufacturing industries, the industrial valves segment is both labor and capital intensive. High-tech equipment is used to research, design, manufacture, and test products. Comparative ratios of employees, production workers, wages, and hours worked per establishment traditionally have been much higher than in other manufacturing industries. Cost, shipments, and investment per establishment also have been higher than the manufacturing average. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the industrial valve manufacturing industry was worth around $9.3 billion in 2009. Industrial valve manufacturers expected growth to slow as a result of lower raw materials costs that would lower the average unit price per valve.

Organization and Structure

Valves are made from metals, including brass, bronze, iron, steel, and alloys, as well as from plastics. Some valve companies have operated their own foundries to make the castings from which the valves were fashioned, while other companies outsourced parts manufacturing offshore.

According to the VMAA, shipments of industrial valves are divided among six product groups: gate, globe, and check valves; ball valves; industrial butterfly valves; plug valves; automated valves; and pressure relief valves. The VMAA also lists 15 categories of end-users for industrial valves, including chemical industry; water and sewage industry; petroleum production; power generation; pulp and paper industry; oil and gas transmission; commercial construction; gas distribution; food and beverage industry; iron and steel industry; co-generation; marine industry; mining; textiles; and other.

At the end of the twentieth century, there was a trend toward integrated supply programs in the industry. These allowed for closer relationships between valve producers, distributors, and customers, resulting in more accurate usage forecasts for the valve industry.

Background and Development

The invention of the valve, like the invention of the wheel, is obscured by antiquity. It is known that the ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures used primitive valves to divert the flow of water for agricultural use and public consumption. The ancient Romans refined the concept and developed plug valves and check valves for their plumbing systems. Further developments in valve technology did not occur until the Renaissance, when Leonardo da Vinci designed canals, irrigation projects, and hydraulic systems that incorporated valves.

Valves took a step toward modern design with the introduction of Thomas Newcomen's industrial steam engine in 1705. The development of steam engines and valves paralleled and complemented one another as steam engines required sophisticated valves that could withstand high pressures and high temperatures. However, the large-scale production of valves did not occur until the proliferation of municipal water systems began with New York City's Croton Waterworks project in 1842.

As the Industrial Revolution continued and the scope of industry expanded, so did the development of the modern industrial valve. The quarter-turn plug valve was developed in the 1920s, and the diaphragm valve was developed during the 1940s.Subsequently, the use of synthetic materials as valve linings has greatly increased the performance of valves. The ability to control valves automatically is another development of the last half of the twentieth century.

Data from Thinking Cap Solutions Inc. showed that valve prices increased in the late 1990s despite adequate supplies of valves on the market, reduced demand due to the Asian financial crisis, strong competition among valve producers, and low costs of raw materials. In February 1999, for example, valve prices were up 7.6 percent over 1996 prices. Meanwhile, direct manufacturing costs were lower due to low metals and plastics prices.

Although the value of industry shipments grew from $9.2 billion in 1999 to $9.4 billion in 2000, it remained lower than its 1998 level of $9.9 billion. The total number of employees declined from 56,237 in 1998 to 52,707 during the same period.

The U.S. valve industry was segmented, with several large companies making a wide variety of valve products but with the majority of industry players small and medium-sized companies focusing on a particular market niche. In the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the combined industrial valve, fluid power and hose fitting, and other metal valve and pipe fitting industries employed a total of 87,622 individuals, down from 95,865 in 2002. Payroll for the industry in 2005 was $3.95 billion. The industry also reported shrinking demand for traditional cast iron valves and fittings but increasing demand for high-technology products, especially automated valves.

In the middle of the first decade of the 2000s the United States was the largest market for and largest manufacturer of industrial valves, producing 40 percent of the world's valves, according to the Freedonia Group. However, industry shipment values for industrial valve manufacturing declined from $10.7 billion in 2008 to $9.3 billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and employment in the metal valve segment of the industry fell from 101,394 to 90,094 in the same period.

Current Conditions

According to Dun & Bradstreet, there were an estimated 712 establishments engaged in manufacturing in industrial valves in 2010. Together these firms generated approximately $8.9 billion in revenues and employed 33,020 people. States with the highest concentration of workers in the industry were Texas, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Industry leaders in terms of revenues included Texas, with about 29 percent of the industry's total revenues, New Jersey with 22 percent, and Georgia with 15 percent.

According to the VMAA, in 2010 the water and wastewater industry continued to be the largest consumer of industrial valves in the United States, accounting for 17.6 percent of the total produced. Other major end-user industries were chemical (16.7 percent), petroleum production (12.4 percent), petroleum refining (11.7 percent), and power generation (11.1 percent). Other significant end-user industries included pulp and paper (6.4 percent), oil and gas transmission (5.9 percent), and commercial construction (4.5 percent).

Meanwhile, industrial valve demand in the United States was projected to increase less than 1 percent annually to reach $15.2 billion in 2013. As raw material prices declined, unit prices of industrial valves would follow suit and remain flat or even drop in price. Demand would be fueled by construction spending, but standard valves would perform better than automatic valves. Imports of industrial valves were expected to rise, with Western Europe and Japan supplying high-end valves and developing countries providing more low-end values. U.S. valve manufacturers would continue to export a smaller portion of valves, mostly to Canada and Mexico.

Industry Leaders

One of the industry leaders in the early 2010s was Emerson Electric Co., in St. Louis, Missouri. A diversified company with more than 60 divisions, several of which produced a variety of valves, the company reported 2010 revenues of $21 billion with 127,700 employees.

CIRCOR International was spun off from Watts Industries Inc. and was located in Burlington, Massachusetts. The company began in the late 1800s as Watts Regulator and produced valves for water heaters and boilers. By the 1970s, Watts had become one of the world's most diversified valve makers, supplying the market with state-of-the-art quarter-turn valves and actuators. The company reported revenues of $685.9 million in 2010 with 2,950 employees.

Research and Technology

In the early 2010s there was an ongoing trend in the valve industry to produce technologically advanced automated valves that can be activated by pneumatic, solenoid, electric, hydraulic, or digital mechanisms. These valves can be used in remote or hazardous environments, such as in oil pipelines in the Arctic or in nuclear power plants. Such specialty products provide a growing market segment for valve producers, but costs are incurred in the form of materials research, product design and testing, and more sophisticated production methods.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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