Rob Coffee has been the president of the Fluid Sealing Association (FSA) for nearly a year, as the vice president of sales and marketing for Proco Products, Inc., in Stockton, Calif., assumed the role succeeding Phil Mahoney.
Coffee has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and has been with Proco Products since 1994. He has been involved with the FSA since 2010. Coffee’s industry experience dates back to 1980, when he worked part-time after school at Pathway Bellows. He answered some questions from Pumps & Systems on the state of the seal industry and his role with the FSA.
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What are your goals as the FSA president (a two-year commitment?)
“Our focus in my term is to show the Fluid Sealing Association with all the divisions integral to fluid sealing. In the past, we’ve operated as separate divisions, but now we have to make that a systems approach to show industry that there is a complete solution and the Fluid Sealing Association is your place to find answers. Fluid sealing is certainly important and you need expertise for gaskets, packets, mechanical seals and expansion points. Our goal is to show we’re going to be beneficial to the environment because seals are very important for not spilling fluids and on the cost-benefit side, we’re keeping the energy inside the piping system so operationally, you have a better system.
“Good for the environment and good for the pocketbook is going to be our mantra and taking the fluid sealing as a systems approach will be an important approach so end users just don’t think of just a gasket or a mechanical seal for my pump application. Fluid sealing is important and the FSA is showing me the whole system. That’s my charter in the next two years as president, to bring that to life.
“My charter is to show the FSA as a systems approach organization where all of our divisions are integral whether it be fluid sealing or sealing in a duct system.”
What do you plan to implement in 2019?
“The mechanical seal division under the guidance of Rob Phillips of Flowserve created what we call the Knowledge Base, which currently houses information on mechanical seals that will be meaningful to end users or engineers looking for specific information on mechanical seals. The repository for expansion joints is currently being worked on to upload all the materials from our technical handbook and the gasket & packings division are embarking on formatting and uploading their content to this platform. The Fluid Sealing Association has published articles which are now housed on the Knowledge Base which is great content written by our membership. Essentially finishing the knowledge base is what we’re focused on currently to get useful materials to industry broken down in a way so that if people are looking for a specific need for whatever they’re looking for, that they’ll be able to use the knowledge base to grab the materials for whatever project is important. Right now, that’s the key focus, to finish their projects so that the knowledge base is out there for the industry to access. The knowledge base is a product that folks looking for information will have to sign up for but it’s a simple process of adding your email and a password, user profile to go in and look for the information. We feel that this is going to help our association better recognize because we’re providing technical content for training topics on the products that the industry is using and that we sell.
How do you view training?
“We see training as a must. We do work with organizations like the VMA (Valve Manufacturer’s Association) and TPS (Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia) to do presentations on various topics whether it be mechanical seals or packings, gaskets or expansion joints. To take it further, it’s going to be dependent on the divisions, but once the Knowledge Base is completed, each division is working on presentations so whether it’s a video clip to be put on YouTube for a short spot or a presentation to be developed where we could have webinars for sale and purchase, to learn about products, we’re working on setting up the presentation. One of our members from Chesterton, Ron Frisard, has training capabilities and we have a couple of opportunities to set up and film a presentation, we will be working on that in 2019, it will be based on the specific division and content rolling out based on the timeframe on the technical committees in each division
“We will be co-locating with the Hydraulic Institute in Pittsburgh from Oct. 22-24.”
How do the tariffs affect the seals industry?
“I (wrote) a letter to the commerce department that says, “Hey look, we understand the reasoning for the tariffs and improving our manufacturing capabilities at home, however the tariffs right now are hurting our fluid sealing companies in such that that part of manufacturing hasn’t filtered down to our level and so we’re really kind of being clobbered by the tariffs that are in place, so we’re looking for a little relief for items that are down two or three notches from the real intent of the tariff, so we are looking for a little relief for the products that we sell because there is no alternative currently in the U.S. as far as manufacturing is concerned for certain products.
“The member companies understand the reasoning. That’s not the issue at hand. It’s, ‘Hey look if there were alternatives in the US, that would be OK, but there are no alternatives so essentially we’re hiking our pricing to cover the tariffs and there is no benefit for the product in the fluid sealing lot of companies, so that’s where we are.’”
The letter is as follows:
The Honorable Wilbur Ross
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
1401 Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 20230
Subject: Tariff Relief
Dear Mr. Ross:
I am writing to you today as the President of the Fluid Sealing Association on behalf of our member companies. Founded in 1933,the FLUID SEALING ASSOCIATION® (FSA) is an international trade association. Member companies are involved in the production and marketing of a wide range of fluid sealing devices primarily targeted to the industrial market. FSA membership includes a number of companies in Europe and Central and South America, but is most heavily concentrated in North America, and specifically in the United States. FSA members account for a majority of the manufacturing capacity for fluid sealing and containment devices in the Americas market.
The Fluid Sealing Association is recognized as the primary source of technical information on sealing devices with a mission to influence and support the development of related standards and to provide education in the fluid sealing area. We promote a safe, clean environment for society and a safe work place for all employees. We monitor the economic, environmental and social changes which may impact our membership's business and we maintain a forum for the exchange of this information.
In light of the tariffs that have been levied against China and other countries, I am writing to voice our concern that, while we understand the premise of these actions, it should be recognized that these moves are affecting certain parts of industry that have no control over manufacturing presence in this country. Various raw materials that make up the products involved in fluid sealing are more global in nature and are not necessarily available in the USA. Our members are struggling with elevated costs related to the tariffs levied. These extra costs have no intrinsic value for the betterment of the products we supply to help keep the environment clean, reduce production costs and keep people safe in fluid handling.
The skill to manufacture fluid sealing products transferred overseas long ago. Further, many of our members are struggling to combat the added tariff costs, having to reduce margin or pass on added cost of the tariff to the consumer without any further benefits. A fine line has been drawn. Some of our members have great difficulty in keeping people employed through the supply chain due to the imposed tariffs. People that have expertise in the design, manufacture and supply of fluid sealing products are or will be sidelined as production dries up due to the tariffs being levied at this time. As an association of fluid sealing manufacturers, we are asking for relief for the attached HS Codes. I have also included a position paper co-written by both the Fluid Sealing Association and the European Sealing Association for reference.
While the steel and other tariffs are important for our country to control predatory pricing or illegal dumping, and to restrict intellectual property theft in the global market, the products provided by our Fluid Sealing Association members are far from these relevant issues. Please consider our plea.
Robert S. Coffee
What is the next thing to watch for in seals?
“Certain parts of our divisions are working on standardizations and being part of discussions with maybe ASME or API on whether it might be testing or a specific type of seal that might be better for the environment with regard to emissions. We’re continually working with them whether it be standards organizations or industry to improve the sealing process.”
What are you most optimistic about for 2019?
“The fact that business is good for a lot of our member companies. We look forward to a good business climate and the education and training with technical publications that we will be giving out to the industry and the articles that we will be writing to help our customers based on problem solving that may enlighten folks on different sealing process.”