The starting point for our R&D process is always the needs of the customer. Close customer relationships and a dedicated sales and service network that has regular contact with the people that operate and oversee mill operations around the world, ensure that we stay on the pulse of the renewal and transformation in the industry. The insights of our experienced specialists and the feedback we hear from the field are the fuel that feeds our engineers to continuously create new features and product innovations.
As an example, the recent developments to our Neles M- and X-series ball valves are directly based on the demands of our customers. New, bigger nominal sizes where needed, and we went to work. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that we were not only enhancing process quality and performance, but that our valves would be as easy as possible to service and maintain on site. The modular structure of our latest valves enables faster, safer and easier maintenance. They are now lighter in weight and allow you to select the construction materials and coatings for different valve components to suit your specific needs.
Development of new products is often a collaborative effort and we look to involve our customers early on, to ensure we are meeting their needs. With all of the engineering, simulations and testing required before a new product series can be launched to market, the R&D project takes a year or two to complete. But we also see industry- or customer-specific product features go from the drawing board to delivery in just a few months’ time.
R&D is all about continuous learning. It is also about taking what we learn and putting it into practice. New technological advances are continuously providing us with new opportunities to create valves that were previously only possible to imagine, but not build. For example, the emergence of industrial 3D printing has already allowed us to design, manufacture and test ball valves with intricate flow patterns that were impossible to create with traditional manufacturing methods.
Looking ahead, we expect to see the big global megatrends to continue to dictate product development. Environmental concerns such as the need to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency are likely to be increasingly important factors for our customers in the future as well. It is exactly these types of challenges that we look forward to continuing to tackle to support the success of a more sustainable pulp, paper and bioproducts industry.
Vice President of Valve Technology