The new testing, training and product demonstration facility at Alkon Corporation and a new capabilities video demonstrate the valves and fittings manufacturer is stepping up its game in custom product development.
“The market for application-optimized valves is growing, and the transportation industry continues to look for more efficient, performance-focused components,” says Daniel Starkweather, Sales Manager for the Fremont-based manufacturer. “So, while the lab’s immediate purpose is performance validation testing for our expanding lines of valves and fittings, that’s not the whole picture.
“It’s a product development incubator, a hands-on training center, a prototype proving ground, a product demonstration theater for customers, and a place where we can pit our product against any competitor’s and show them what happens when ‘the rubber hits the road,’" Starkweather says. “Our new video shows them what we do for every customer; the testing lab is where they discover what we can do for their specific applications.”
Wayne Morroney, Alkon’s Vice President of Engineering and Quality, explains, “You always want a system optimized for the application. It has to be cost efficient. In this industry, it’s all cost and performance. You need to develop a balanced system to get performance throughout the entire system. You select different valves for different systems – the sizing of the system, the speed/response rate.
“Many distributors buy components and put together circuits for their customers. Our training shows them how different valves interact and how to mix and match for each application.
“If a customer wants to see how our product performs in a certain application or circuit, we can bring that entire circuit in and test its performance. For instance, if you’re selling a system for emergency brakes on a semi trailer, you would use a variety of fittings and valves: pressure protection valves, axle lift valves, spring brake valves. We teach distributors how they perform and interact and how to pipe them together.”
Morroney led the set-up efforts for the lab/training center and, in fact, designed some of the test equipment himself. Located in Alkon’s second facility (adjacent to the main building housing the production floors and offices), the lab is equipped with computerized flow, pull, temperature and response time testers; a 14 ft. testing bench with built-in equipment and five separate stations specifically for fittings or valves; environmental chambers and manual and electric pressure meters with air connections and regulators; three assembly benches with basic equipment (arbor presses, vices, etc.) for building prototypes, and portable equipment to allow electronic testing at assembly benches and testing benches alike. Used solely for hands-on assembly training, the room provides up to 12 workstations.
For training up to 30 attendees, the 600 sq. ft lab also is equipped with whiteboard and video equipment, also to be used for webinars and other outreach programs in the not-so-distant future, Starkweather says.
“We love developing specials, and this lab is just one more way we make that happen,” Starkweather says. “What we know about optimizing fluid control systems and their components – It’s too much to print in a catalog. With this new testing facility, our customers and their customers can see it for themselves.”