DEALING WITH CHALLENGES
She admits there are several challenges associated with her position, such as not being able to find something she is looking for or when she can’t meet the schedule deadlines. One of her recent challenges was not finding the material she required in North or South America. She didn’t want to miss the construction schedule, so she had to go further afield to Europe for the material and arrange for it to be shipped over. It can be more costly that way, but sometimes that is the only way to solve the problem of obtaining hard-to-find material. When asked about the possible challenges of working in a male dominated industry, Kerry is quick to respond that she has experienced very few. “When I started there weren’t many other women in the industry. But now it’s becoming a lot more common and here we have equal opportunities. I think at Jacobs we have about 20 women engineers in piping. I find that the majority of people that I work with are pretty good. They wait to see how the playing field is before they start with anything and in general everyone has been excellent.”
ENCOURAGING THE NEXT GENERATION
She believes that it is also a good time for young engineers to get into the industry because the current market has created enough work for at least the next five years. She does admit, that often the industry has its highs and lows where it is exceptionally strong for several years, followed by a weaker turn for a couple more. That may prove difficult for newcomers to the industry but in her personal experience she has managed to stay in a stable position during rocky times. Jacobs is also doing its part in helping to recruit young people into the engineering industry, by going and speaking at a variety of universities across North America. The company also has a fantastic employee-training program, which provides handson experience from experienced professionals who have been in the industry for years. Kerry maintains this transfer of knowledge is crucial because what’s important isn’t necessarily knowing everything, but rather knowing where to find what’s needed, which can be anything from magazines to specifications to associations, etc.
WORKING WITH STAINLESS STEEL
In terms of materials, a wide variety are used, such as brass and carbon steel to stainless steels and duplexes right up to special alloys like Hastealloys (Haynes International’s family of heat-resistant alloys) to inconels (a family of austenitic nickelchromium- based superalloys). Kerry lists copper-nickel as a CRA that is often used in offshore seawater environments and firewater services. When deciding on material for valves, Kerry explained that it’s always good to think about saving money. For example, if she is using a valve in a duplex line, she and the team will also look at taking a carbon steel valve and cladding it internally to help lower costs because duplex can be extremely expensive. “We tend to use 304/304L Dual Certified stainless steel. Carbon steel is for the general services of hydrocarbons, utilities and that type of thing. The difference is in offshore we tend to like to use 316/316L Dual Certified stainless steel instead of carbon steel for utility services. But a lot of our clients like to use galvanized carbon steel. It’s not my favourite because what actually happens is the lines get clogged with a lot of bits and pieces. I like my stainless steel! When it comes to super duplexes or materials like that, those are generally special application. We do have a materials group here—an intellectual group that actually does selection upfront but obviously it’s evolving over time.” Kerry explains that there are a lot of books available to help with material selection, along with many different corrosion calculations that can be performed. For a manufacturer to be considered for Jacobs’ approved manufacturer’s list, catalogues along with the appropriate certifications like ISO 9000 certifications have to be submitted. Then an audit will be performed on the manufacturer’s products to ensure their quality meets Jacobs’ stringent requirements. “There are a lot of special requirements when it comes to stainless steel, especially over here in the US. A lot of our clients are asking for positive material identification, so on top of the material test certification, they have to rerun other special tests so we can ensure we are getting the right materials.”
When choosing a vendor for materials, Kerry describes that she works with both manufacturers and distributors. It all depends on the size of the project and the required quantities. “With manufacturers, if we are talking piping for example, you actually have to wait until they are going to run the particular size or grade of material, but with a distributor they will source it for you, depending on how big the project is.” She also mentions that she pays a bit extra when working with a distributor but that it can sometimes be worth it just to have the availability. The most important factor though, when choosing a vendor, is whether or not they have fantastic after-sale service. Kerry explains that if there is a problem it is helpful to be able to call up the vendor and have them send a representative to help identify the problem by reviewing and assessing the situation alongside the engineers. This is just one of the many emerging trends she is noticing in the industry. “From a supply point of view the demand for materials is now going into lengthy delivery times, which is affecting our schedule and cost. It’s often because there is so much work on the go at the moment and over the last few years people have caled down their operations, so there isn’t the manpower. Operations have been downsized and now there is a high demand for materials. It has escalated quickly. From an engineering point of view, because of a lot of misfortune in the industry, our clients are demanding much more rigorous nondestructive evaluations (NDE) and nondestructive testing (NDT) for our valves and materials.”
Currently, Kerry is working on a brownfield project where the facilities are being upgraded, but there are lots more projects ahead in the pipeline, enough in fact to keep all 120 piping engineers busy for quite some time. “Clients enjoy working with Jacobs because both of our safety and quality records are very good. It is nice to see a company with so much work.” In her leisure time Kerry likes to promote Excellence and Quality in Piping Design and Engineering, and as President of the Society of Piping Engineers and Designers (SPED), is currently designing an offshore course for Designers and Engineers as well as promoting certification in the field of piping http://spedweb.com/.
This article originally appeared in Stainless Steel World Magazine