VENDOR REMEMBRANCES: The manufacturer/service provider view

Rick Wade

EthosEnergy Group

From his company’s small tabletop display to a 40-ft booth space, Rick Wade, business development manager, EthosEnergy Accessories & Components LLC, has witnessed the phenomenal growth of both the WTUI conference and his company over the last eight years. “It is the by far the best, and definitely biggest, user conference in North America,” he says. “Maybe even the world.”

“Through years of successful new product and process development, often spawned from WTUI member feedback, today we are an OEM-authorized option for LM fuel nozzle repairs as well as for the servicing of many engine accessories.” Clearly, WTUI has been invaluable to the maturation of his company, and Wade’s dedicated participation and collaboration with other attendees certainly has contributed greatly to this growth.

In addition to the conference being a fantastic opportunity for vendors to nurture relationships with all their customers in one place, Wade believes it fosters a truly supportive atmosphere in which users and vendors both are able to discuss relevant issues and learn from each other in mutually beneficial ways.

He especially enjoys the chance to play with other golfers and hackers alike in a fun, competitive format. Generally their outings during the annual golf tournament have been spectacular, on first-rate courses, but there are always some things you cannot predict. “Remember Pasadena at the Angeles National Golf Club?” Wade asks, recalling the several occasions they’ve played in rain and in windy as well as freezing-cold weather.

With the annual golf tournament and the Monday night dinner, WTUI offers an invaluable venue for business development and a place to create special memories and lasting relationships.

John Fintland

Advanced Filtration Concepts Inc

Approaching close to 20 years of participation with WTUI, John Fintland, AFC’s president, recognizes the conference as an important aspect to the growth of his business. “The first show I went to in Palm Springs (1996),” he said, “had perhaps 20 vendors filling two rows. It took a user 20 minutes to visit every supplier in the room; now the show takes up an entire convention center!”

Fintland has returned every year since and is just as committed to the organization today as he was 18 years ago. “The fact that WTUI attracts users from around the world has given AFC global recognition. I remember when it was solely a West Coast event; that’s certainly not the case today. I’ve met users all the way from Africa, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan, to Mexico, Canada, and our own backyard.”

According to Fintland, the fact that the vendors have two and a half days to meet and mingle with the users puts WTUI on a different level from the other GT shows. “Plant operators and engineers are not just passing acquaintances; many have become friends,” he said.

“Working with engineers such as Mark Battaglia of Berry Petroleum has driven us to be more application-specific and to focus on solving problems for generators rather than simply selling a product. Serving customers such as Berry, NRG, Calpine, and Southern California Edison has reassured AFC that we’re on the right track with our commitment to being service- and detail oriented. Those lessons have allowed us to grow in other industries as well.”

Finally, WTUI plays a vital role in the development and growth of AFC and the GT filter brands it chooses to represent.

Mike Pipes

GE Power & Water

After leaving the US Navy, Mike Pipes, today the LM2500 services product manager for GE Power & Water/Distributed Power, quickly found his way into a new industry. Since 1993, this former officer has been involved with LM engines, after joining the field engineering group of Houston-based Stewart & Stevenson Services.

Pipes is passionate about improving engine and package offerings and addressing the issues customers face on the ground. “My first five years in the industry were pivotal. I gained an understanding of the challenges customers face when equipment or services don’t perform as expected.”

During this time, Pipes spent many hours inside LM2500 and LM5000 exhaust collectors working on improvements to the alignment process. He developed the first alignment procedure that could be done without removing the exhaust collector from the package, brought the laser alignment tool into common use by S&S, and collaborated with colleagues and GE engineers to develop the Sprint™ performance enhancement product for the LM6000.

Pipes managed the field engineering department for two years after S&S was acquired by GE. He then accepted a project leadership role for conversions, modifications, and upgrades, later advancing to manager. “It was during this time that I was able to strengthen the OEM’s relationship with WTUI,” he said.

In Pipe’s view, the conference has really matured over the years. “I first attended in 1996, so I missed WTUI’s simple beginnings. Then, it seemed more focused on the time spent outside of the conference rooms; now, however, I believe that the group and its sponsors are more focused on the original intent of the gathering—finding ways to improve plant operations and reduce maintenance costs.”

For Mike, WTUI is about bringing people together to share knowledge and best practices. Collaborating with other users and with the OEM is what makes this user organization successful, and it is what will ensure its success into the future.

Gregory J Labas

Conntect Inc

“The first WTUI show Conntect did was in Las Vegas,” company president Greg Labas recalls. “It was the second or third year the group invited vendors and it was so small that we just had simple tables with banners hung over them. Now, of course, everyone shows up with large, intricate booths and it’s a whole different show.” But one thing hasn’t changed and that is the opportunity to make personal connections with other participants. “We’re there with our customers, the guys who buy our stuff.”

Attending WTUI, he said, is not like going to other conventions where there are all kinds of people, students, and others who aren’t your customers. “At the WTUI show, you know you’re talking directly to the people who run the plants. And on top of that, there’s a lot of camaraderie.”

Being involved with the WTUI has been a key part of Conntect’s success. “In the beginning, we didn’t know exactly who the customers were,” Labas continued, “we had to go out and work to identify them. But with WTUI, we didn’t have to spend time identifying customers; instead, we could spend time getting to know them. After a while, each convention seems like ‘old home week’ and you get to see old friends—and do business.”

Conntect is proud of its high-quality products and services, but the fact is they are services that the users need, but aren’t essential to keeping the engines running. So by getting to know the users through WTUI, Conntect builds trusted relationships. “We can then go to the plants, sit down and talk to them, communicate the value of our services and learn about the challenges they’re facing. Then we talk about what works and what doesn’t and why. There’s just no better feedback than that.” And no better relationships than with the users from WTUI.

Bob Auguston

Rochem Technical Services USA Ltd

“The people who organize and attend WTUI are amazing! Our company has been at WTUI since the Rio Bravo conference in Bakersfield. We think this is one of the best user conferences, and it provides the best value and opportunity to connect with the users and operators.”

Attending the conference definitely has paid off for Regional Director Bob Auguston and Rochem Technical Services. “WTUI has helped our company better understand the needs and operational challenges of the aeroderivative segment of the gas turbine market,” he said. “From this, we’ve been able to develop and provide products and services to meet these challenges.” From Auguston’s perspective, attending the WTUI conference each year is smart business.

According to him, WTUI as an organization works because of the dedication of everyone involved, including the officers, the leaders of the breakout sessions, the depots, the users, and the vendors. “Our company looks forward to participating in the conference for many years to come.”

Keith Flitner

Parker Hannifin

The path to WTUI for Keith Flitner, global account manager for Parker Hannifin’s energy marketing team, started with a degree in aerospace engineering from San Diego State Univ. The company had been an active supporter of WTUI for many years.

Flitner said Parker’s growth in the power generation market has paralleled WTUI’s. “At first we focused on our role as the lead supplier for LM fuel nozzles and repairs. For years our booth in the exhibition hall was staffed by some now retired Parker people, such as Frank Hanzlik and Mike Roth. More recently, the company expanded its presence to include information on over 60 Parker divisions that manufacture thousands of products used around the world in electric generating plants.”

What really has impressed Flitner is the social nature of the WTUI. After the 20th anniversary in 2010, the company decided to expand its presence at the meeting and add a hospitality night. This has become annual event to recognize friends and associates for their achievements during the past year.

Another comment offered by Flitner about WTUI involves participants who are attending for the first time. He said it’s always great when a user comes by our booth and is able to finally connect a face with the Parker name. The stories that are shared and history exchanged is always fun and interesting. Without a doubt, the WTUI proves every year to be a valuable forum for the industry.

Dan Harmon

General Electric Co, retired

As a GE representative for the LM6000 in the early nineties, Harmon got involved with the WTUI conference just as that engine model was being introduced. “I was there as the breakout session went from sparsely attended to the largest session as the technology was adopted and the WTUI conference went global.”

The conference has been successful, Harmon said, because of its focus on the operator. “But as an OEM representative, I always felt welcomed, especially by Jim Hinrichs, but also by every session chairman and most operators.”

Harmon supported WTUI first as the LM6000 customer service engineer, then LM6000 product line manager, and finally as the LM6000 product champion. “In developing the LM6000, we tried to design for reliability using lessons learned from LM5000. My philosophy from the beginning to the end was foremost to listen to the customers and be honest with them on the product issues. Nobody feels reliability more than the equipment operators. I believed strongly that for GE to be successful, our customers had to be successful.”

Because GE is large, it has a natural tendency to be slow relative to the needs of the customers. Harmon’s job was to listen to the customer, assess the impact of product issues on them, and then create the sense of urgency within GE for change.

The WTUI conference, he said, was hands down the best forum we had to get the data direct from a large group of operators. “They were not shy about telling us both the good and the bad about the product and processes so we could improve. It often took collaboration between the OEM and the customer to solve issues,” he said.

Harmon supported the conference for many years. “I met some outstanding individuals and always looked forward getting to know people in their jobs as human beings.” Although now retired from GE, Harmon believes its participation in the conference is important for everyone involved.

Rick Parker

Zokman Products Inc

“All of my experiences with WTUI—and I’ve had a lot of them—have been good,” said Rick Parker, president, Zokman Products Inc. “I’ve been involved with the organization for 21 years. My first conference was in 1994, in Palm Springs, and I haven’t missed one since.”

Asked about how the organization has changed over the years, he said, “Most notably, there were fewer users back in the early 1990s, which makes sense. When I first started attending, there were fewer than 50 LM6000s out there, and now, there are nearly 1200. The group and this sector of the industry have grown exponentially, which has been great for our business. The more units, the better!”

Rick started out with a small sales territory that covered the Midwest. “It was a real grind,” he recalled, “but the customer relationships I established over the years made it all worthwhile.” Today, the reach of Zokman Products has expanded, to say the least, as his company now is the master distributor of Zok compressor cleaners for the Americas.

Now Parker brings to WTUI representatives from Falcon Crest Aviation, Reed Services, PETSA International, GPI International, and Ingen do Brasil. Together they cover sales for the entire Western Hemisphere. “Because the event’s the focus on the technical issues for the LM fleet,” he said, “WTUI brings users from Canada all the way down to Argentina.” Truth be told, it is the rare user on the show floor who doesn’t know the ZOK Man.

Dave Martin

HPI LLC

“Oddly enough, I found out about WTUI from a competitor who had exhibited, so I figured it would be a good idea to check it out. That was 1997 and I have been to every WTUI since then,” said Dave Martin, business development manager for HPI LLC. He has worn three hats in the 18 years he has attended WTUI, starting with SKF’s Condition Monitoring Div, moving to Meggitt’s Vibro-Meter Div, and recently joining HPI, which specializes in controls, O&M services, NERC cybersecurity solutions, and turbine MRO.

He is one of the few attendees to participate in the WTUI biathlon: golf and tennis. A native of Sonora, Calif, Martin is very familiar with the back roads of the state where many LM units can be found. “In the days before GPS, a lot of plants were not easy to find but we did, especially in the Oil Patch!”

The growth of the WTUI annual conference and exhibition has seemingly paralleled his own business success. “I think it was 2002 in Tucson when I noticed an inflection point for WTUI. It went from about 20 or 30 booths in a small room to a full-blown exhibition with like 100 vendors.” He continued, “I was with Vibro-Meter for 13 years and our sales increased 28-fold during my time there and more than a quarter of that business came from the LM fleets.”

Martin credits his long-time relationships with the likes of Steve Lancaster, Audun Aaberg, John Vermillion, Wayne Feragen, Chuck Casey, and Wayne Kawamoto as a big reason he keeps coming back, not to mention, all the new faces over the years.

Reg Morse

Bremco Inc

“Bremco attended its first WTUI meeting about 10 years ago with Bill Kitterman and Bob Morse manning our booth, “ President Reg Morse said. “This gave us the opportunity to display our services to new and existing clients. We found many customers attended this show and they often brought colleagues to our booth to introduce us to them directly.”

The conference has proven extremely beneficial to our company; it allows us to plan meetings with key vendors, plus customers and prospects attending the exhibition. WTUI has become one of our most important meetings because of the number of key people participating from across the country. We certainly appreciate the effort the leadership team has put into providing a first-class venue which continues to satisfy the needs of all who attend.

Mike Kassner

GasTOPS

GasTOPS has been active in WTUI for more than 15 years. “The annual conference and exhibition is a mainstay in our corporate marketing activity to the North American LM engine owners and operators,” said Mike Kassner, director of business development, “and the company is grateful for the business opportunities it has provided.”

GasTOPS provides innovative, advanced control and condition assessment systems and services that ensure reliable and cost-effective operations of critical equipment. The power- generation and oil-and-gas industries benefit from GasTOPS technologies through the implementation of its advanced condition monitoring solutions. Condition assessment solutions from GasTOPS provide information about the mechanical health of critical, high-value, rotating machinery. GasTOPS’ flagship product, MetalSCAN, provides aeroderivative GT users with the earliest possible warning of bearing failure, potentially saving millions of dollars from secondary damage and lost production revenue.

The online monitoring system senses metal particles in engine lube oil, monitors the progression of damage, and provides early indication to operators via warning and alarm limits. MetalSCAN was first used on GTs 20 years ago; today it is installed on more than 300 engines. The system can be installed by the OEM at the factory or retrofitted in the field.

Kassner closed saying, “The engaged and dedicated WTUI organizers have consistently created a high-quality, professional event that is an ideal venue for exhibiting and sharing experiences. My fondest memory was the evening aboard the USS Midway in San Diego a few years ago. It comprised a tour of the aircraft carrier, an elaborate dinner, a 10-piece band, and spectacular fireworks. It was one of the best-staged corporate events I have ever seen.”

Lester Stanley, PE

HRST Inc

In the mid-1990s, years before our company was formed, engineers now part of HRST attended WTUI as employees of a boiler manufacturer. I’ll never forget Jack Dow’s scolding when I attempted to take down the booth an hour before the official end of the conference. Jack and wife Gae ran a tight ship.

WTUI “after hours” events were legendary: Drinks in the hotel bar, drinks in the Monterey aquarium, live heavy-duty rock-n-roll to the remnants of Bad Company, plus the Doug Flutie Band, etc. Thankfully, cell phones with cameras were not around yet, so no photos exist to damage the careers of the participants! Remember the impromptu guitar solo by a gifted user at one of these “concerts” just before the millennium?

Another personal favorite memory is renting a six-person sailboat in San Diego with engineers from a major SCR supplier, and requiring an emergency docking after about two hours for a restroom break. Root cause: Beer and light winds.

Once HRST formed, our small team, with virtually no marketing budget, knew it needed to attend WTUI if we wanted HRSG service business. But profits were slim and purchasing a professionally designed booth display was out of the question; so as good engineers, we improvised.

In 2003, I built a custom plywood support frame in my garage, with carefully positioned hinges, to support a pair of my coveralls and hard hat, and a very expensive ($400) flat display panel that would mount to the frame and poke out the chest of the coveralls.

Boothman was born (photo)! It was a big success. Plus, it was inexpensive, folded to fit in my suitcase, and was an eye-catcher for users on the show floor. Hotel towels were temporarily removed from the room and stuffed in the coveralls to provide form. Even today, we refer to our PowerPoint slide set showcasing our products and services as the Boothman file.

Users attending WTUI have been instrumental to technology development and business success at HRST. Example: Around 2006, an LM6000 user from Canada spoke to us about the repetitive economizer tube leaks his unit was experiencing. Our investigation revealed overnight shutdowns caused 5C water to enter the back end of the heat exchanger, which was full of 100C water from residual shutdown heat.

Pow! The startup each morning gave the economizer a huge thermal shock. By the end of the following year, we had developed and installed HRST’s first ShockMaster economizer. The leaks stopped. A few years later, this same technology was retrofit into an LM6000 HRSG operated by another WTUI member with the same positive result.

Briefs

Turbine Technics Inc

Shawn Burdge represented the company at its first WTUI exhibition in 2006; the user group’s 25 anniversary is Turbine Technics’ 10th year of participation, and Burdge is still in the booth.

Significant relationships, both in business and in friendship, have been developed through WTUI participation. Many users have become regular customers and collaboration with other vendors on the show floor has enabled the company to expand its product line.

TVS Filters

Fran Redisi has participated in WTUI exhibitions since 1996; booth partner Dal Scivley since 2007. They said many users have contributed to TVS’s success by suggesting product-line improvements such as high-efficiency media, longer-length filters to extend life and reduce pressure drop, and use of heavy-duty frames for prefilters.

National Mechanical Services Inc

NMS, a field-service company specializing in generators, heavy rotating equipment, and outside machinery repairs, was founded by Bill da Silva in 2003. A no-nonsense man with a steely resolve at work in the field, da Silva was a fun guy to be around in a casual environment. He had a big heart and warm smile and was always good for a joke or entertaining “war” story. Following his untimely passing about four years ago, da Silva’s wife and daughters took over his office and continued building the business as he would have—including annual participation in the WTUI exhibition.

Groome Industrial Service Group

VP Jeff Bause showcased his company’s services for cleaning SCR and CO catalyst for the first time at WTUI in 2009; it was Groome’s first user group meeting. Bause remembered John Baker urging Groome’s participation in Western Turbine while they worked collaboratively to resolve some of Baker’s O&M issues at his former plant. Today the company works in 30 states and has developed additional services with the encouragement of Western Turbine users.

Sulzer

Warren Holmes and Mike Curran were in the Sulzer booth at the company’s first WTUI meeting in 2008. LM5000 power turbine and industrial frame unit repair capabilities were showcased. Today the company is licensed by GE as a repair facility for LM5000 PTs.

W L Gore & Associates Inc

WTUI has been a reliable resource for collaboration during the development of the company’s line of hydrophobic HEPA inlet filters for gas turbines. Alliance Pipeline was the first user member to share case studies on its early experience with our product at the group’s 2012 show. Since then, we have learned more as Alliance expanded its use of HEPA filters. The sharing of this information through WTUI has had a significant impact in broader adoption of Gore filters for GTs.

Gas Turbine Controls Corp

WTUI has given us the opportunity to expand our operations to the West Coast, with particular emphasis on the LM market, Sam Leyton said. GTC has been showcasing its Speedtronic spares in the exhibit hall every year since 2007. The show has helped the company develop and strengthen relationships with key LM-focused vendors that it may not have met had GTC not been exhibiting.

CSE Engineering Inc

CSE has exhibited at WTUI every year since 2007 and its general manager, Steve Morton, has attended every meeting since 2000—the first seven years as a user. Several of the company’s largest and most loyal customers also participate in this event, providing another opportunity for collaboration.

AGTSI

Aeroderivative Gas Turbine Support Inc was founded by Alan Mibab in 2004 and has participated in WTUI since that year. Mibab understood the value of the conference and exhibition well, having participated under a different company name for six years before AGTSI opened its doors. LM users have contributed significantly to the company’s success.

Advanced Turbine Support LLC

Advanced Turbine Support is participating in its seventh consecutive WTUI meeting this year. The event has contributed significantly to the company’s success. Example: It helped to cement the relationship between Advanced Turbine Support and TransCanada Turbines that led to the former becoming a TCT-approved inspection vendor. Collaboration with users led Advanced Turbine Support buying a Sweeny Turning Tool to facilitate LM borescope inspections.

C C Jensen Inc

Sales Manager Axel Wegner is the face of C C Jensen at powerplants nationwide; he participates in WTUI every year. Wegner said users have been instrumental in the development of the company’s four-in-one filtration unit to address different contaminants by simply changing to special filter inserts to remove particles down to 0.5 micron, water, acidity, and soluble and insoluble varnish. The company’s compact HDU fine filter prevents turbine hydraulic related trips while prolonging bearing and lube-oil life.

Duct Balloon

Gary Werth has been demonstrating stack balloons for use during unit layups for the five years he has been attending WTUI. They prevent the free flow of air through a unit when it is shut down guarding against the ingress of dirt and moisture.

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