By Eric Lanke
At the NFPA Board of Directors meeting in February, Board and Strategic Task Force members participated in an exercise to create a view of the fluid power industry five years in the future. The purpose of the exercise was to identify a set of key factors likely to impact the fluid power industry in that time frame, and then create a set of action plans that the NFPA can implement ahead of the impact of those factors in order to best help its members thrive in a changing environment.
Five years ago, a Board-level task force completed a similar exercise and published a brief report on the then far-away future of the fluid power industry in 2018. That report speaks of a changing technological and geographic focus for the industry, and it was used by the Board in 2013 to better position NFPA as the association for the North American fluid power industry.
When the Board met in Orlando, everyone agreed it was time to look five more years into the future – to 2023 – and to make a set of similar decisions about the future focus and objectives of the association.
To help frame the first step in our discussion, we defined what we were looking for as a “megatrend,” an external force acting on our industry, something everyone agrees will create change in our environment, but for which few can accurately predict the full impact of that change. In that context, our Board and Strategic Task Force members discussed several critical issues – including globalization, electrification, and consolidation – but settled on just two megatrends that were perceived to have the greatest possible impact on our industry in the next five years: workforce and Internet of Things.
Creating an educated workforce for the fluid power industry is an issue NFPA and its Foundation have been addressing for some time. The fact that it remains a megatrend for our industry demonstrates how challenging the issue is. As a next step in the discussion, we worked to define what a positive future for the fluid power industry would look like relative to workforce, knowing that not all of the elements of that future may be in our association’s control. Here’s the picture we came up with:
In a future where fluid power has an easier time finding the skill sets it needs for growth and innovation:
Internet of Things, on the other hand, is a megatrend that NFPA has almost no history in addressing. Here, too, we sought first to define what a positive future for the fluid power industry would look like:
In a future where fluid power benefits from integration with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies:
These descriptions, admittedly, are just the beginning of our process. When the Board comes back together in June 2018, we’ll begin talking about what NFPA can and should be doing to help make these two positive futures come true.