New, clear vision19 August 2020
Nuclear Engineering International talks to José Larios, CEO of the newly-formed Celeros Flow Technology, about the company’s nuclear credentials and what it is like to launch a new venture during a global pandemic.
Celeros Flow Technology is a new lifecycle partner in the nuclear arena, and includes familiar names like ClydeUnion Pumps and Copes-Vulcan
Who is Celeros Flow Technology?
Celeros Flow Technology launched on 6 April 2020. It is a global company that includes a range of well-respected valve, pump, filtration and closure manufacturers. The company was formed following the divestment of the Power & Energy division of SPX FLOW and is backed financially by Apollo Global Management. Our aim is to serve as a full-lifecycle optimisation partner and as an experienced advisor on all matters concerning critical flow systems. The nuclear power sector is therefore a key market for us.
What is the significance of ‘Celeros’ in your company name?
Following divestment, we took the opportunity to assess the new business, which is smaller and more focused than before. Taking care of the customer and working closely with them is key in our chosen markets, so we wanted to focus on relevant, appropriate core values that people would understand. We needed to be realistic, while making our business relevant, appropriate and understandable. That is what will drive our relationship with our customers and ultimately drive the business forwards.
We wanted a name that summed up our vision of a company that offers speed, agility and responsiveness, as well as being memorable – preferably unique. Celeros comes from the Latin word for speed, which makes it easy for our employees and customers to understand our key business differentiator.
What are your nuclear industry credentials?
Our brand portfolio includes such nuclear industry stalwarts as ClydeUnion Pumps and valves manufacturer Copes-Vulcan. Through them, we can trace our nuclear heritage back to the first ever industrial scale nuclear power plant. Today, our equipment is installed in more than 65% of operational nuclear power plants worldwide.
What does Celeros FT have to offer the nuclear sector?
We offer a blend of OEM manufacturers and full aftermarket support, together with considerable engineering expertise and specialist industry knowledge. This expertise is available through a number of coded sites that are qualified to ASME “N Stamp” and/or RCC-M and boast a long history of excellence.
On the pumps side, we have a comprehensive Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 product range and can also provide a full conventional island product offering that is designed for the high reliability and availability requirements of a nuclear facility. With regard to valves, we can provide technical solutions for a variety of nuclear applications, including feedwater, steam dump, pressuriser spray, reactor coolant, sampling, service water and safety injection systems.
What differentiates Celeros FT from its competitors?
Aftermarket is a key differentiator and is central to our business. Our equipment has a long service life; it is highly engineered and usually mission-critical. So, point of sale is only the beginning of the customer relationship. We are aiming to be the lifecycle partner of choice for OEMs and end users of our valves, closures, pumps and filtration equipment – as well as providing support for third party equipment. That means taking the time and effort to ensure that every piece of equipment delivers optimum performance in the field for the whole of its operational life.
Our Aftermarket Technical Services Team typically supports nuclear customers with refurbishment of existing flow control components and assemblies to extend the life of the OEM equipment, or upgrading and modernisation to meet changing regulatory and performance requirements. The latter might include configuration or material changes to resolve potential operational issues due to changes in operating temperatures, pressures or flow rates. Our solutions are developed based on the need to keep processes running smoothly and protect valuable assets – but we also understand the need to optimise the total cost of ownership.
What challenges did you face launching during a global pandemic?
Having nearly every border closed and the ability to visit customers taken off the table ten days before launching your company isn’t ideal! COVID-19 certainly brought some setbacks, but from our perspective, the investment was always long term and we had a clear strategy with clear goals, so we carried on.
The launch of Celeros FT has been a year in the making. We’ve been communicating about it to our customers since May 2019, so they were primed. Equally, our employees were already engaged in the transformation when COVID-19 hit.
What positives have you taken from the experience?
Agility is key, because launching a company is not just about going through the motions. We had a roll-out plan but we had to adapt it to the rapidly changing circumstances.
Good communication is essential. We were already sensitive to the changes which our customers and employees were likely to experience following the divestment, so keeping them informed about the additional changes due to COVID-19 didn’t catch us off guard. In fact, some aspects of the global pandemic actually helped us to communicate better. People were more accessible because of the travel restrictions and so were available to view video introductions, for example. We also encouraged our teams to make personal contact via Skype or video link to establish personal contact and to field any questions.
Sometimes a negative can turn into a positive. The furloughing and enforced downtime imposed by the lockdown has given people time to reassess options and life direction. We’ve used the opportunity to attract and invest in the talent we will need to grow. So we are not only continuing to operate throughout the crisis to support essential industries, we are also ready to respond when normal business resumes.
Can you give any examples of challenges the leadership team has faced and overcome, during the launch?
Safety is our number one priority so, when lockdowns were being announced, getting all our employees home was our key aim. The speed and magnitude of how things were changing was a real challenge. We tried to take emotion out of it and there was never really a discussion about what would happen to the profitability of the business – it was always about the employees, the subcontractors, our customers, and being safe.
As a mission-critical equipment supplier, we have continued to operate throughout the pandemic. Tim Old, our VP-Aftermarket, personally hosts a call each morning for all field service jobs. He checks that the team has the right protection available, and that procedures at the customer site are adequate. ... Jobs go ahead or not depending on whether all the necessary safety procedures and equipment are in place.
What does the future hold?
There is no doubt that the economic impacts resulting from the global pandemic are still not fully understood. Certainly, COVID-19 has challenged and affected production across all industries and the ramifications will go on for some time.
In general terms, it seems likely that business focused around capital investment may be paused or reduced; although some large strategic nuclear projects already in construction prior to the pandemic, such as Hinkley Point C in the UK, continue to progress. Fewer new projects coming on stream will mean a greater emphasis on servicing and maintenance in order to keep existing critical equipment running for longer, so I think this will be the focus for nuclear operators, at least in the immediate future.
Jose Larios, CEO of Celeros Flow Technology