To help guide the rapid expansion of Sofis in the Americas, Cesar Perez has joined Sofis since August 2022. As a Service Technician, he is responsible for precisely installing and accurately maintaining Sofis products, and he will gradually help train future colleagues.
Before joining Sofis, Cesar was employed as a pipefitter for a decade, building pipes, assembling them, and installing valves onto them. “My experience, especially in reading P&IDs, and my familiarity with different types of valves and their use, are of great use in my work as a Service Engineer for Sofis,” Cesar explains. At the start of his career, Cesar worked with many EPC contractors, on shutdown projects, to rebuild units all over the world. After that, he switched to new construction projects.
During one of his shifts in his role as a supervisor for McDermott, he met Kevin Knetsch of Sofis, as he was installing valve interlocks on the same project that Cesar was working on. “I was showing him where the designated valves were located, so he could take the proper measurements necessary for installing valve interlocks,” Cesar explains. “I was interested in valve interlocking systems, so I asked Kevin a lot about their purpose, their functionality, and technical set-up.” Cesar’s enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by Sofis and his contacts with Kevin were quickly followed up by job interviews, and shortly after, an official job offer by Sofis. Cesar: “Sofis liked my resume, and as they are quickly expanding in the United States, they were in need of specialists to install and maintain their valve safety products”. Cesar admits that his experience as a pipefitter, being able to read P&IDs, was a big advantage. “Also, being ‘in the field’ is like a walk in the park. I know my way around industrial facilities, so to speak” he adds, smiling.
Trained as a full-service provider
Since August last year, Cesar has been working on various projects related to valve interlocking in the United States, and he has also found his way into the organization. “I like to be able to fix a problem or find a solution before I make a call”, he says. Especially in the beginning, he had direct support and training from Sofis, but over the months, Cesar has been able to carry out most tasks himself, without any problem. “I’m fully familiar with Sofis valve interlocks, and commissioning valve interlock systems in the field. I’m ready now to pick up on the Sofis FlexiDrive remote valve operator and the EasiDrive portable valve operator, for which I received full training in the Netherlands. at the head office of Sofis. This allowed me to get informed on how to take the right valve measurements, and to solve any issues with regard to functionality, to assure the FlexiDrive operates flawlessly.”
Improving user awareness
When commissioning valve interlock systems, or captive key systems as they are called in the United States, Cesar always makes sure to involve operators and any other staff members on-site that will be working with these safety systems. “Operators have to witness the systems and see for themselves that the interlock is working properly after inserting the right keys. I also use the P&ID of the project during these introduction sessions and ask operators how they feel about the use of valve interlocking systems. By standard, operators and maintenance staff will agree that safe manual valve operations can be far better guaranteed than by using lock-out tag-out products.” To Cesar, this indicates that the mentality toward using valve interlocks to secure safe valve operation has changed positively, especially over the last few years. “Of course, operators don’t always like the idea of adding extra steps when operating valves, but in general they feel that preventing accidents by only allowing operators to open or close the right valves, is more than worth the effort.”
Efficient project execution: P&ID
The first project Cesar was working on involved installing 400 valve interlocks in total. “My current job is on a project involving 200 valve interlocks”, he adds. “The valves are bigger, so I guess I’ll be installing fewer valve interlocks per day this time”, he explains smiling. When starting a new project, his first step is to get in contact with the right operators and the ones who will be in charge of the project. He also makes sure that he is work is according to the latest P&IDs. “In my first project, I experienced that I was not handed the latest version, and ended up re-installing some valve interlocks on valves that were not intended to be equipped with valve interlocks. When I have the latest version, I can locate all the valves, and specify the manufacturer, the class, the size, the type of valve, and so on. When putting this information in our datasheet, I have to compare and make sure that all information on the designated valves is correct. Once the right valves have been established, I’ll take measurements and send them to our designers, who will design the correct bracketing materials. “After the valves are delivered, Cesar first discusses whether there are units that need to be installed first and will install all the valves. “After that, we’ll be commissioning”, he continues. “This can take time, as sometimes they are still testing the pipes or doing leak tests.” During commissioning, the entire valve operating sequence is explained, as well as the basic principles of valve interlocking.
Potential to grow
Cesar is putting a lot of effort into becoming the ultimate specialist in all smart valve solutions, to improve our customers’ manual valve processes. “I want to know everything that’s possible about Sofis solutions, and I feel that within Sofis, there is a potential for me to grow,” he says. “The Americas are a growth market, especially for Sofis solutions, and I’m sure that I can play a role in spreading out our installed base. I also would like to be involved in providing training to new colleagues, and share my knowledge with other future team members.”
When it comes to his colleagues, Cesar especially appreciates the fact that everybody is keen on helping and providing the right input for him to better perform his job. “People at Sofis are friendly, and they are good to talk to. Since I’m here, I’ve asked so many questions, and they have been able to guide me through the whole process. In short, they always have an answer for me”, he explains.
Fluency in English and Spanish
Cesar is born and raised in Texas and speaks English and Spanish fluently. Even in the United States, Cesar feels it’s an advantage to speak Spanish. “It’s never been an issue for me to communicate properly”, he says. “Also, with projects coming up in South America, being able to speak Spanish appears as a big plus to me”.
When not a work, Cesar likes to go out for a ride on his race bike. “As soon as I hit the highway, the adrenaline kicks in, and I’m gone like a rocket,” he adds with a smile.