Since this is the off-highway issue, it seems like a good time to reflect on the advances made in the mobile industry over the last 46 years and two months—the time I spent at Power Systems before retiring in July 2014.
In 1968, the year I began my career, the ORBIT motor [developed by the Char-Lynn Company of USA (now Eaton)] was rated at a maximum output of 2,000 in. lbs. with a flow rate of 15 gpm. Today, ORBIT motors are approaching torque values of 100,000 in. lbs. with a 100-gpm flow rate. What is so interesting is that many of the patents on this technology date back to the 1950s. We could have had many of these unique products sooner if the machining technology would have been in place.
I am consistently amazed at how manufacturers continue to develop unique new products. For example, cartridge valve technology has exploded over the last 20 years. It would be interesting to come up with a complete list of all the variations of valves in the marketplace today. Proportional valves are my favorite. Many assumed they would become popular in the 1980s, but the technology was not in place to drive them and there was too much contamination in the hydraulic systems. If you use proportional valves, you need to seriously consider filtration levels of 15/13/11.
In my early years working in the industry, customers often regarded filtration as an unneeded expense. It took a long time to change the industry’s perception to recognize the filtration levels needed in the mobile hydraulics world. My eyes were opened in the 1980s when a log loader manufacturer in Minnesota went to six-micron beta 200 filtration and cut warranty expenses from $600,000 to $100,000 in one year! When the components did fail, contamination was not the problem. Rather, it was a warranty problem. Today, it is still estimated that 70 to 90% of all failures on hydraulic components are from contamination. We need to eliminate abrasion, erosion, adhesion, corrosion, and fatigue wear found in hydraulic systems.
The marriage of electronics and hydraulics is an exciting union that gained a lot of interest in early 2000. With this marriage, brute force can be achieved and controlled. I believe electronics drive the industry and certainly is here to stay. Become familiar with the terms Hall Effect and linear position sensors, CANopen, J1939, ISOBU, Multiplexing, TFT displays, and Codesys. These are some of the terms electronic wizards are using today. I am quite certain there will be additional terms added to this list in the near future.
Today’s customers are no longer looking for the lowest-priced component. Our customers are more concerned with productivity, reliability, and creative ideas that make their products unique. And to the end users of our products, it’s all about getting the job done faster with more accuracy and no downtime.
In the almost half century I worked in the industry, the most critical and positive change has been the growing relationship between manufacturers and distributors. We have figured out that we need each other! Working together leads to market share gain.
Yes, there have been many other developments and gains in fluid power. I have only highlighted a few of the critical advancements that have contributed to making our industry stronger. It’s a unique field; I am thankful for the opportunity to work my entire career in this fast-growing industry and to work with so many of you in contributing to that growth. There is more to come.
I am sometimes questioned about the IFPS logo on my shirt. Once I was asked if it was a symbol for some type of “secret society.” This gave me a chuckle and the opportunity for a short elevator speech, but it also gave me pause for thought.
I happily explained that the International Fluid Power Society is a non-profit organization that works to promote education, training, and professionalism in fluid power through certification. I also explained that I am a member and chair the committee for membership and chapters.
This prompted a quizzical look from the other person and the question, “Fluid power?” I went on to say “hydraulics and pneumatics,” and while doing so, in the back of my mind I was thinking…maybe we really are a secret society.
When you use the IFPS logos, stickers, lapel pins, lanyards, and other membership emblems, you are inviting questions and creating the possibility of helping someone advance in this industry. It is good to explain that IFPS benefits include discounts for training, certification, test fees, and even discounts for drug prescriptions and rental cars.
It doesn’t hurt to talk about the Fluid Power Journal, professional networking, professional development points, and the free study manuals and web seminars, but of even greater value is explaining how your membership affords you the opportunity to help others.
Maybe the curious person asking these questions is also involved in fluid power, but not certified. You can help them. Perhaps their teenage child is involved in a FIRST robotics program, or perhaps their recent graduate is struggling to find a career path. Volunteering to help a FIRST team or educate the younger graduate about careers in fluid power gives you other opportunities to “pass it forward” and realize great personal rewards.
We are here to help you with these initiatives. The IFPS board meetings are held twice a year, and during these meetings, the Membership and Chapters committee, along with our other committees, work with ideas to help improve the membership experience, create useful tools, recognize our members, and expand our presence. Some of our recent accomplishments include the following creations:
- A discounted membership rate for active military – reduced annual and two-year membership renewal fees. It’s our way of saying “thank you” to those who serve.
- Individual membership brochure – a handy overview of IFPS and membership form that explains what we do. This is a great tool to have. (Please contact IFPS staff and ask for some.)
- Fluid Power Professionals Day – a day to thank you for all you do as a fluid power professional. Lots of details in the Journal or at www.ifps.org.
- Chapter start-up guide – a step-by-step instruction manual for community-service-minded individuals to start up an IFPS chapter. Chapters have additional financial benefits and serve as an outreach to the community through schools, other service organizations, and local industry.
- Chapter operations manual – an organizational aid and guide to running your chapter.
We have more plans for the future, but it is you—the individual IFPS member—who can really make a positive difference in the lives of others.
IFPS membership…what do you make of it?
Have you ever wondered what happens when you flip on a light switch?
Fluid power might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but electricity suppliers and transmission companies rely on equipment controlled by hydraulic and electronic systems to install and maintain our energy supply.
Technical fluid power knowledge is paramount for the OEM designers and production teams that integrate machine systems and also for the operators who count on safety, performance, and reliability in diverse and potentially dangerous environments. Even fleet managers rely on trained fluid power service technicians to maintain high levels of vehicle uptime, a leading metric in managing operation costs and profitability.
To continuously improve performance in these and other areas, employers need educated workers who possess the skills to meet current and future challenges. IFPS training and certification programs are designed specifically to help companies in the utilities market meet these needs, and they also offer employees an academic alternative that can pay off big for employee and employer alike.
According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, one-quarter of adults hold educational credentials other than an academic degree. The report found that alternative credentials give workers the opportunity to achieve higher earnings, and that traditional scholastic education environments are not the sole place for employers to find the talent needed in today’s challenging economy.
“Getting an academic degree is not the only way for people to develop skills that pay off in the labor market,” said Stephanie Ewert, a demographer with the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch and co-author of the report, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials: 2012.
For people who already have academic degrees, the report points out that those who seek professional certifications have an even better opportunity to obtain better pay across many fields.
Employers stand to benefit, too. Through training and certification programs, like those offered by IFPS for the utility market, workers gain the technical skills that companies need to improve products and processes, reduce costs, and boost the bottom line.
For more than 50 years, IFPS certification programs have been developed for employers and workers seeking the specialized education required of fluid power system designers, specialists, technicians, and mechanics. Nowhere is the advantage of education and certification better demonstrated than in the utility market, where IFPS programs are a bright idea, indeed.