Valve manufacturers serve key role as economic spigot

By William S. Sandler, CAE 
President, Valve Manufacturers Association

Valves and actuators keep industries working. As a spigot for the economy, valve manufacturers are an important part of the nation’s economic engine, and the Valve Manufacturers Association (VMA) is their partner in sustaining and encouraging their growth.

VMA started 75 years ago in response to the booming industrial era, in which companies required both increased standardization and specialization. Over the years, the industry has evolved and includes US and Canadian firms known for outstanding engineering. And VMA has become a “seal of approval” for those looking to do business with our members since members must be approved based on a number of criteria.

Today, the $4.3 billion valve and actuator business greatly contributes to the success of other key industries that rely on its products to keep their products working, including hydrocarbon processing. As such, it also serves as a bellwether for how manufacturing is faring globally.

The good news is that the US and Canadian industrial valve market has been on an upward trend since 2010, again reaching the high levels seen in 2008. We have also seen growth both domestically as well as internationally as our members adapt to and benefit from globalization. In fact, shipments are expected to grow by 3% this year alone.

In looking ahead, the challenges the industry faces are bigger as we serve a global customer base and employ a global workforce. Like other engineering and manufacturing industries, the valve industry supports high quality jobs, employing more than 20,000 people directly and thousands more indirectly.

Unfortunately, the industry is on the verge of losing many experienced workers, while the younger technical talent pool is not keeping pace with industry growth. Also, we need a workforce that can operate in a global community—with language and cultural capabilities. 

To adapt, we must overcome workforce issues that threaten the industry’s competitiveness, including investing in better scientific, technical, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) instruction. That’s why VMA has placed more emphasis on valve literacy through training and education to help our industry meet the needs of our customers. 

For instance, VMA developed a “Valves and Actuators 101” program that has now been taught to nearly 1,000 individuals from all facets of the industry. And soon we’ll be adding a valve basics online program to provide even more training to industry newcomers. We know this only a start, and we must find new ways to interest youth in entering STEM fields and promote the high-quality jobs we offer. 

As we mark our 75th anniversary, VMA continues to steer and position this flagship industry as it faces the challenges of a changing landscape—globally and locally. By helping our members evolve, they can continue to offer outstanding products that meet the ever-changing needs of our consumers. In the process, the industry will continue to be an important cog in bolstering the economy.

William S. Sandler, CAE, is president of the Valve Manufacturers Association of America, which represents the interests of US and Canadian valve, actuator and control manufacturers. For more details, visit


Photo 1: The valve industry supports more than 20,000 jobs in the US and Canada.
Photo 2: William Sandler, President, Valve Manufacturers Association

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