As president of the International Fluid Power Society this year, I have had the pleasure of attending a large number of trade shows and national meetings, completed many local customer calls, and heard the same dialogue being repeated: “We need skilled people.” I don’t care if it’s at the salesman level, engineering disciplines, trades, whatever. It’s the same mantra.
Why is that? Well, I hear many reasons for this, but one does seem to be in the majority. Colleges and universities are not producing qualified candidates with exposure to fluid power. I can attest to the fact that I have talked to many good, young engineers just leaving school and they admit there are little or no fluid power classes, much less fully focused degree programs in this area.
Wow! Nature seems to have run amuck here. We are taught early and often that nature always tries to fill a vacuum. Well, if that and the laws of supply and demand are truly correct, we should be flooded with young people running to our companies and fighting to get into our profession. Are the money and benefits not right? Is the work too hard and dirty? I think not. Check out the May/June issue of Fluid Power Journal and read the results of our recent salary survey. We take pretty good care of our people, from what I’ve read there. (By the way, isn’t the Journal looking great these days? Super congrats to the staff at IDP!)
The problem, I believe, is exposure.
These young people live in a world where fluid power is everywhere. The applications for it are growing—not shrinking—but nobody seems to be pointing that out. We don’t personally have to tell the world of this fact. All we have to do, individually, is talk it up to our own sphere of influence.
This is my call to action for us all. Make an appointment with your local high school or middle school guidance office. Volunteer to give a talk at a career day function or similar. Let them know our chosen field of work is vibrant and strong, and that we need new recruits.
The Society is well on its way of completing our Boy Scout Merit Badge project and feel this will be an awesome way to educate young folks about fluid power.
Check out the May/June issue of the Journal and read the article about Alfred State College. These students are getting certified and securing jobs. Has a nice ring to it in today’s job market, doesn’t it?
Again, I challenge you, get in the game. We need you! Who is a better advocate for this great career area? Those of us already in it! Spread the word…Fluid Power Rocks!
By Mark Perry, CFPHS, Fitzsimmons Hydraulics, 2013 IFPS President and Chairperson
How safe are my employees? How efficient and reliable are my systems? What is my competitive advantage? Am I certifiable; are my employees? These are questions every leader asks. Well maybe not that last question in the literal sense, but you should consider it in the professional sense, by asking is IFPS certification right for you and your employees?
In a competitive market, success depends on persuading potential customers that your company can do a job better and more cost effectively than anyone else. You have plenty of experience, good references, and a solid reputation, but there’s only one way to make sure customers know you are among the finest in our industry: IFPS certification. The IFPS is the only organization that provides comprehensive technical certification offerings for all professionals in the fluid power and motion control industry. Fluid power distributors, manufacturers, and end-users rely on the IFPS for comprehensive educational and training offerings to create a safer, more efficient workforce.
IFPS certification is your competitive advantage. It assures your customers that you and your employees have not only mastered the appropriate skills and tools, but also made a commitment to professionalism and safety. And because the IFPS certifies thousands of fluid power professionals each year and serves as the industry standard for assessing the knowledge and skill level of your employees, IFPS certification confers instant credibility on your company. Certification reflects your dedication to the highest standards in the fluid power industry. In short, when customers choose to work with IFPS-certified individuals, they’re assured of improved safety, improved reliability, greater efficiency, reduced liability, and decreased environmental impact.
Because fluid power certification requires an investment of time and resources, it’s fair to ask if that investment is worthwhile. Every company has different objectives and different needs, but the fact is that potential customers increasingly are looking to fluid power certification as a guarantee not just of technical proficiency, but also of professionalism. By encouraging your employees to seek certification, or seeking the certification yourself, you are making a significant investment in your company and you are telling your customers, as well as potential customers, that you hold your company and your employees to the highest standards. Thus, fluid power certification can be used as an effective tool for sales and recruiting.
For fluid power distributors, manufacturers, and end-users, certification will do the following:
- Provide a benchmark for assessing new employees, enabling you to employ the most talented workforce
- Offer increased credibility
- Create a highly skilled workforce
- Improve safety
- Improve reliability
- Create greater efficiency
- Reduce liability
- Decrease environmental impact
Whether your employees are engineers, designers, specialists, technicians, or mechanics, IFPS has a certification program that will meet your company’s specific needs. Please take a moment to call or visit the IFPS website at www.ifps.org to determine which program is the best for you!
By Donna Pollander, IFPS Executive Director
In my last Notable Works column two years ago, I highlighted the energy-saving potential of fluid power. The data for that column came from a draft of a Department of Energy (DOE) report, “Estimating the Impact (Energy, Emissions, and Economics) of the U.S. Fluid Power Industry.” The report has recently been officially released. You can read it at www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1061537/. The delay in the release was caused by skepticism within the DOE. The numbers were just too good to believe.
But the numbers are accurate. Fluid power consumes 2.1% to 3.0% of all of our energy with an average efficiency of 22%. By adopting best practices and developing new technology, the efficiency of fluid power would dramatically increase efficiency, substantially reduce energy use, and curb emissions. Annual U.S. sales of fluid power exceed $17.7B for components and $226B for systems that use those components, presaging the large economic impact of a program to promote more efficient fluid power.
As impressive as it is, since it confines itself to existing applications, the DOE report underestimates the impact of more efficient fluid power. The rapidly developing field of hydraulic hybrids illustrates this underestimation. Hydraulic hybrids for off-road applications, such as excavators, would be an existing application included in the DOE study, while hydraulic hybrids for on-road applications, such as delivery vans, would be a new application not considered in the DOE study.
Considerable progress has been made in both off-road and on-road hydraulic hybrids. As just two examples in the last year, Caterpillar announced the first hydraulic hybrid excavator and Parker-Hannifin announced the creation of a new division to produce hydraulic hybrid systems. Both of these developments promise dramatic efficiency improvements and expanded employment and economic development.
The efforts to create more efficient fluid power are supported by the activities of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP). CCEFP is a research and educational organization with seven university and more than 50 industry members. Our mission is to transform the way that fluid power is researched, applied, and taught. We do this by developing fluid power that is efficient, compact, and effective. Efficient fluid power will save energy; compact fluid power will be smaller and lighter; and effective fluid power will be quiet, clean, safe, and easy to use.
The CCEFP is in its seventh year, and the impact on fluid power is being broadly felt. Before CCEFP, university research in fluid power in the United States was confined to a few isolated research groups. It has now grown to an $8-million coordinated effort with funding from government, industry, and universities. Our researchers work closely with industry and employ a systems approach to set research priorities. We are currently supporting 21 research projects that are demonstrated on four test beds.
The numbers show the impact of CCEFP on fluid power workforce development. The Center currently has 48 faculty and staff researchers, 81 graduate students, and 63 undergraduate researchers. Since its inception, 104 bachelors, 80 masters, and 28 doctoral students have graduated. A recent survey showed that 61% of CCEFP graduates enter the fluid power field. Of the 70 students who participated in the 2012 NFPA Workforce Development Summit, 56 were from the seven CCEFP universities.
Center researchers have also been active in publishing research and patenting inventions. To date, research has resulted in 78 publications in technical journals and 248 publications in conference proceedings. Forty-three (43) inventions have been disclosed, 24 patent applications filed, two patents awarded, and two licenses issued to industry.
CCEFP is in the seventh year of a ten-year program funded by the National Science Foundation. In the next few years, we will be making a transition to other funding sources. Of course, we will continue to receive dues from our industry members, but this support covers less than 10% of our operations. And we will continue to aggressively pursue funding for individual projects from government and industry sources. But to really have a continuing impact, CCEFP must obtain a large government grant. To make CCEFP sustainable, we are actively pursuing large government grants from two sources: the Department of Energy (DOE) and the NNMI (National Network for Manufacturing Innovation). The investment in fluid power from these programs is justified by the large potential for energy savings and economic development documented in the DOE report.
Industry support of CCEFP is important for its success. If you are an industry member of CCEFP, I would like to personally thank you for your support. If you are not a member, I hope you will consider joining us. Information on industry membership can be found at www.ccefp.org/industry. The many benefits of industry membership are detailed there.
By Kim A. Stelson, Director, Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP)