by Marc Weston, Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer, Danfoss
Each June, the NFPA Board of Directors holds a strategic retreat where we talk about the many challenges facing the fluid power industry, and what NFPA is and should be doing to help our members address them. It is at this meeting where we review and, if necessary, adjust what we have come to call our Strategy Agenda – the list of strategic objectives and success metrics that we must achieve if we are to make good on our mission of strengthening the fluid power industry.
At this past June’s meeting, we recognized some substantial strategic and program successes that have occurred over the past year. Our membership has continued to grow, but what has grown more significantly is member participation in our many activities. Our conferences, our leadership committees, our trade shows, our market information programs – participation in all of these activities is high and increasingly diverse, as we continue to see the value of bringing the entire fluid power supply chain together into one organization. Similarly, our work with a broad network of education partners continues to advance, with each year bringing a new record number of middle school, high school, technical school, and university students introduced to and educated in fluid power through our many programs and partnerships.
The Board remains committed to this agenda, defined by our five ends statements – the clear, high-level objectives that describe the major outcomes that we wish to achieve for our members and our industry:
As the Board discussed ways to continue to advance this agenda in our 2017-18 fiscal year, during which I am honored to serve as the chairman of the NFPA Board, our focus returned again and again to two key initiatives:
1. Improving the value proposition for our distributor members.
Distributors, especially those that provide system integration, engineering, or other value-added services to our customers, are an increasingly vital component of the fluid power supply chain. More than a dozen years ago, NFPA reshaped itself to better include these channel partners in the membership and activities of our association. The wisdom of that decision is clearer today than ever before, but several institutional barriers to their full integration persist. Over the course of the next year, our Board has resolved to remove those barriers, meaning that we not only will be asking more of our distributor members, but also delivering an improved value proposition to them – more programs and services tailored to their unique needs.
Our Distributor Council, ably led by Jim Kaas of Iowa Fluid Power and Jim Slone of SunSource, will be at the forefront of those changes, and both individuals have been elected to voting seats on our Board of Directors to better facilitate the necessary changes.
2. Connecting our members to the new talent being generated by our workforce development strategy.
Through our many different programs and partnerships, more undergraduate and technical school students are being educated in fluid power than ever before. Based on our initial estimates of workforce need within our membership, those numbers, in fact, are approaching those that should be necessary to satisfy that need. And yet, many, if not most, of our members tell us that they still struggle to find the fluid power talent they need to keep their businesses growing. Indeed, in survey after survey, the creation of a fluid power-educated workforce still represents the biggest challenge their companies face.
We’ve already communicated that our successful financial partnership with the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) will be coming to an end at the close of our current fiscal year. With two new federal programs launched that can provide substantial fluid power research funding to our CCEFP and other academic partners, NFPA’s attention will be turning more fully toward the continued growth of validated fluid power education programs within undergraduate engineering and technical school programs. The ongoing financial support of our members will be key to success in this area, but so will their active engagement as mentors and hiring managers.
Tackling these challenges in the year ahead will require the dedicated attention of both the Board and our professional staff. I am looking forward to a very active year as your Board chair. Please feel free to contact me through the NFPA office if you have any questions.