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)
As a society, we learn about the world and advance our well being through science and engineering. The United States may be known around the world for its higher education, but we lack a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. One significant reason we have fallen behind is that we do not encourage our female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM). If we want to attract the best and brightest minds into the fields that will move us forward, we can no longer look to only half of the population.
While young people today have more opportunities to become exposed to STEM subjects than 20 years ago, more still needs to be done. Out-of-school programs are gaining popularity, and in order for that to continue, those of us in STEM fields have to support both local and national efforts to foster girls by functioning as mentors.
Finding a mentor early on can do wonders for the amount of satisfaction we find in our jobs, thus leading to a higher retention rate. A mentor is not only someone who is willing to take the time to teach us techniques and processes, but also someone who takes an interest in our long-term advancement. Because this person can see one’s potential, he or she is willing to go beyond job duties and put in the extra work to ensure that we gain the understanding needed to progress.
However, even with mentorship, the fact still remains that women in STEM careers have higher attrition rates than do their male coworkers and women in careers outside of the STEM disciplines. In 2005, the Society of Women Engineers conducted a retention study of over 6,000 engineering graduates. The survey indicated that one in four women were either unemployed or employed in other fields compared to one in ten men. Researchers are exploring other factors that possibly overwhelm women in STEM fields, including extreme work schedules, more frequent disciplinary actions, and unclear rules about advancement.
Women are gaining numbers in traditionally male-dominated fields, but they are still significantly outnumbered in STEM occupations. Getting talented women into male-dominated careers is one struggle, while keeping them is another. The issue is especially apparent in STEM careers, which is extremely important to the global economy. Attracting and retaining more women in STEM careers will help tremendously to improve diversity, maximize creativity, and boost competitiveness.
Having people with different mind-sets, capabilities, and imaginations on production teams improves the creative process and helps to minimize avoidable mistakes. Products rooted in science and technology are likely to better meet the needs of both men and women if the products are designed by a team comprised of both genders. It is a matter of designing products that are compatible with a broad audience; it is a matter of safety; and it starts with attracting more women into STEM careers.
As women become more prevalent in STEM careers, more and more young girls will begin to recognize the additional career opportunities open to them. With more women in the field, it will become more evident to young girls what they, as engineers, can offer the world. Without being able to see this link, they will continue to have problems envisioning certain positions as viable possibilities, even if they have some intrinsic interest in the subject matter. If girls cannot visualize themselves in STEM careers because they have never seen women in those positions, they will be much less likely to ever use their innate aptitudes and abilities in a math- or science-oriented specialty. That will truly be a loss of gigantic proportion, for our women, our profession, and our country.
By Karen Purcell, P.E., owner and founder of PK Electrical
My fluid power journey began in September 1998. I was hired by a distributor in South Carolina and started in shipping and receiving plus counter sales. I never knew how many hose assemblies one person could build in a single day…
Parker Hannifin was very involved with the IFPS and asked its distributor partners to get as many people as possible certified. We decided to tackle the Fluid Power Specialist certification, which had recently been split into the two tests we know today, Pneumatic and Hydraulic. Our management offered to pay a bonus for passing, so several guys started studying once a week. We also saw this as an opportunity to grow ourselves professionally, which in turn would grow our company. Several months of hard work later, we all passed.
Fast forward to September 2003. At that point, I had a growing family that necessitated a higher-paying job. I found a posting from Gulf Controls Co. (GCC), LLC via Monster.com. GCC was looking for a territory manager for Central Florida, a job I felt qualified for, so I built a resume to post online.
Monster allows just five words to describe your experience to a prospective employer. Realizing that “super-awesome, smart, cool guy” probably wouldn’t cut it, I chose four: Certified Fluid Power Specialist. Perfect—it fit the job requirements and provided something akin to a college degree: instant credibility. I flew down for an interview and was offered the job two weeks later. In December 2012, I started my 10th year with this company.
People in the fluid power field would likely agree with the following:
- Earning an IFPS accreditation isn’t easy. This speaks to the value the certification holds. Sissies need not apply.
- Passing the exam proves a base understanding of the topic. If you’ve earned one and you meet anyone else who also has, you can instantly speak “fluid-ese” and have meaningful conversations.
- Employers who request/require certification can trust they’re meeting people who know what they’re talking about.
- Each certification’s benefit is this: It targets a specific and valuable skill set. It’s not a four-year college degree built to create a well-rounded person. This is a meaningful certification you can add to your resume with a short and dutiful study period.
I would advise anyone looking to grow his or her marketability and professional life to consider earning a certification. There are many to choose from, so check out www.ifps.org to see what fits your job or skill-set best. Trust me when I tell you how valuable certification can be!
By Scott Gower, CFPS, Territory Manager, Gulf Controls Co., LLC