September 10, 2016
Summit Valve & Controls has a motto: “At Summit We Care.” It’s a mantra that has paid off for the Edmontonheadquartered industrial equipment provider, which has grown beyond its water/wastewater beginnings into a name brand within Western Canada’s competitive oil and gas industry.
PROCESSWest recently sat down with Charlie Johnson, director of industrial automation products with Summit, to discuss everything from how company’s beginnings to why it loves operating in Western Canada.
Here’s what he had to say:
Describe your corporate mission
“At Summit We Care – this has been our motto from day one. We care for our employee’s well-being and treat them with respect. We carefully select and partner with outstanding suppliers, and Summit provides its customers with high quality products and excellent service.”
Describe the beginnings of Summit
“Summit was founded in 1992 with a focus on the municipal water and wastewater treatment market. Bray was our initial product line, and to this day remains an integral supplier to Summit. “In 2000 Summit/Wey won the Suncor Millennium Oilsands Project, which was a pivotal moment ushering in the next 16 years of oilsands business and high-performance slurry valve solutions. In 2004, we developed and patented the SlurryFlo Control Valve that is currently being sold worldwide. In 2010, Summit opened branch locations in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Now across Western Canada, we are a growing team 50 strong.”
Have any extraordinary challenges or opportunities contributed to growth?
“Summit Valve opened its doors with five product lines in 1992. As a distributor, our goal is to provide a top-quality sales and support experience with the right products, the right solutions and the right people. Over time, we continued to acquire new technologies to offer our customers and now work with 23 excellent vendors across Western Canada.”
What stands out as company highlights?
“In the early 2000s, an oilsands mining company was using knife-gate valves to modulate abrasive slurry. These heavy-duty valves worked with some success. However, their service life was short. After three weeks in service, the valves had to be replaced due to excessive wear. The continuous cycle resulted in frequent expenditures in labour and product, yet the most significant issue was decreased oil production. Pipe line shutdowns were costing the company millions in lost annual revenue.
“The team at Summit took on the challenge. Our engineers reviewed the process data, the current valves in service and the client’s requirements. The replacement design had to fit within the same face-to-face dimensions. Therefore maintaining the basic knife-gate valve layout was critical. The final prototype introduced a design that was a radical departure from all other line-of-site valves. “The traditional convex gate shape was inverted to be concave, with a much narrower profile. The gate worked in concert with a second flow restriction element, called the seat plate. The plate was a fixed restriction that sat in the flow path (at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions), directing flow toward the middle of the pipe. The concave gate located at the 12 o’clock position completed the circle, resulting is a centered orifice with variable control.
The design protected the pressure containing valve body and the integrity of the downstream piping. The resulting service life for this application increased from three weeks to two years.”
What are your major markets?
“Oilsands, municipal water and wastewater treatment, oil and gas, mining, pipeline, chemical processing, refining, power generation, food and beverage and pulp and paper. Our product categories within these markets include on/off isolation valves, control valves, valve automation, instrumentation, aeration systems, expansion joints, fluid mixing systems, orifice plates and steam and condensate equipment.”
What are your current Western Canadian growth or ‘hot’ markets?
“As the price of oil has dropped significantly, many oil sands projects have been cancelled or postponed. However, many customers are now looking to reduce costs wherever possible, and working with Summit to apply leading-edge solutions to minimize wear, increase reliability and maximize production. Currently, the water/ wastewater industry is going through a growth cycle and Summit is ready to help. During the last 18 months, we formed an instrumentation division to capitalize on our fluid knowledge and expand into this exciting marketplace.”
Will these markets endure, or do you look to other markets to offer future opportunities?
“The oil and gas sector is cyclical. To lessen the effect on our companies during a downturn, we have diversified into other markets and geographies. We are confident that when the oil and gas market improves, we will be there with our team ready to assist our customers.”
How will evolving technology play a part in market evolution?
“At Summit, we are always looking for ways to improve. This is not limited to our partners, but just as important our internal processes and technologies. We have begun to round out our product portfolio offering by including quality instrumentation lines across Western Canada. Being able to offer more complimentary solutions to our customers is a huge benefit and time saver. Last year, we began an internal process that will see Summit transform and evolve significantly over the next five years.”
Are new technologies in your markets now offering new sales opportunities? “Typically, the market place is slow to adopt newer technologies, as they are perceived as unproven and the benefits are not well understood. We have begun to include instrumentation on valves that provide valve position location, as well as several measurable parameters that permit predictive and preventative maintenance. We believe this is the future in helping our customers improve their productivity and product quality.”
What gives your company a competitive edge?
“Summit is a company where the first priority of ownership is not the bottom line. We are focused on doing the right thing by our employees, our customers, and our vendors. This isn’t a traditional approach to business, however it has paid off exponentially.”
How does your company excel?
“We excel in our interactions with our customers. It seems that we can always find a solution to the toughest of problems. We have six values that outline how we do things at Summit:
1. Do the right thing; ethically, morally, and legally;
2. We provide our team with the tools, knowledge, and environment to take exceptional care of our customers;
3. Honesty within our team, with our customers and our suppliers;
4. Each employee is valued and respected;
5. We believe in a healthy and happy community; and
6. We have fun while we get the job done.
What would you describe as the ‘heart and soul’ of your company?
“The heart and soul of our company is our people. We have the right people in the right places offering the right solutions.”
What makes customers return to your company?
“Since inception, we have hired excellent team members. At “Summit We Care,” it is truly a mindset that sets us apart from the other distributors. We offer value added solutions to all our customers. Those solutions may or may not be a part of our portfolio. That Summit experience is what keeps our customers coming back. Customers who have benefited from the “Summit experience” can attest to the superior level of support and service received from our team. Summit offers industry leading products and services and our employees are our most valuable assets.”
Describe one of your company’s most interesting orders
“The customer required a valve that would be used to flash off the diluents in a diluted bitumen application (solvent recovery). The application would require high velocities through the valve while handling an abrasive fluid. Working closely with the end user and the engineering firm, we developed a special carbide valve trim that would resist the abrasion caused by the high velocities required to flash off the diluents. This order was identified as one of the most interesting because it showcased the depth of our engineering capabilities. We provided a product that solved the customer’s problem in a novel and effective way.”
What do you like best about doing business in Western Canada?
“Western Canada remains very vibrant with many opportunities for the creative and hard working team at Summit Valve. Abundant natural resources, thriving technology and services sectors, and low business costs make Western Canada an attractive place to do business.”
For more information, call Summit Valve & Controls at 780-468-6900.