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Kevin Flint – Keeping you safe with ball valves

You benefit from standards every day without realising it. Whether you’re filling your car or relying on mass transport, the systems used for highly flammable fuels must be made to standard.

kevin flint international standards committee member

Every innovative component needs to be engineered the right way so that you go home safe. Standards determine what the “right way” is, but this couldn’t happen without the specialist international development committees’ dedicated contributors who provide technical expertise.

Making a difference, from the Bay of Plenty to the world

A stone’s throw from Tauranga lies a small engineering company that’s having a global impact on products used by millions of people every day … through ball valves.

Many of us won’t be familiar with the function and importance of these steel components, but what we might not realise is that they actually play a crucial role in keeping us all safe.

Kevin Flint, a manufacturing and product development engineer with more than 20 years’ experience and one of Standards New Zealand’s committee leaders, explains.

“Our company manufactures and designs products and systems that New Zealanders use every single time they fill up their car or work vehicle at a fuel station. If you look on the petrol pump handle, you’ll see ‘Elaflex’, our parent company, which owns 100 per cent of the New Zealand market and most of the European share.”

Tiny component, huge impact

“Ball valves help control the flow of gas, and yet were excluded in the first international standard as no one had considered they would have a use on cylinders. In 2019, we managed to get a new standard developed to allow for the inclusion of ball valves. Standards are going to be fundamental for the fuel industry as it adapts to the emerging use of hydrogen fuel.”

In representing Standards New Zealand on international standards committees, Kevin demonstrates New Zealand’s reach and importance in the global market. “My role has taken me across Europe and North America. Ours was the first company to put ball valves into cylinders; the designs we implemented are now part of a multimillion-dollar industry in the United States. The engineering innovations born here over a decade ago are now built into mobile pipelines – essentially massive tankers that roam across America.”

Joined-up thinking across the supply chain

“Standards are very dense in technical detail, with one standard requiring 60 individual documents to be read. Even in engineering nothing is black and white and there can be lots of different interpretations. Because we occupy such a niche, establishing the committee from scratch was a challenge. No single company is allowed a monopoly on the committee, as that could sway any development. Manipulating standards development towards individual gains is unethical, and that’s where using Standards New Zealand helps, since it offers an unbiased overview. Ordinarily we’d work with competitors, but here I had to take a ‘joined-up’ approach across the supply chain, involving expert users and hydrogen suppliers while I acted as convenor.

“I’ve worked with engineers and representatives from Germany, Italy, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. While Germany takes the lead in the field of engineering, having a committee from New Zealand means we have a seat at the table.

“Prior to the pandemic, I once attended three meetings in Europe in three months. Now there is a greater shift towards doing things online. This makes the role more accessible and budget-friendly without international travel costs.”

Represent New Zealand, represent your industry

“Put simply, if we get something wrong in our line of work, people can die. Standardisation ensures testing for quality and safety. Being part of building a small team focused on problem-solving and then representing New Zealand in influencing global improvements is impactful.

“It’s also been helpful for career growth and in training young engineers. I involve them in development discussions to encourage succession on to committees and to help them understand how standards work.

“They imagine standards are just magical things that appear, but standards are built through hard work and many years of product and industry expertise. You need to be passionate about the subject to contribute. If you enjoy learning along the way, I’d recommend it.”

If Kevin has inspired you to represent New Zealand in your industry, you can find more information and email an expression of interest.

ISO and ICE Technical Committees participation