Manufacturers delivering fluid power solutions face unprecedented challenges today. High demand for new equipment and machinery is being countered by supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and growing expectations for more efficient equipment. The good news is that because manufacturers everywhere are facing similar shakeups, every company is in the same boat. There’s equal opportunity to be the innovator whose advancement provides end users a competitive edge.
Given the fast pace of change in manufacturing today, fluid power engineers and innovators can stay ahead of the curve by positioning themselves in support of the latest trends in power transmission outlined below.
1. How the economy is impacting the fluid power industry
Business is booming for the fluid power industry. Demand has not just rebounded following the COVID-19-driven factory shutdowns but, for many manufacturers, far exceeded demand seen prior to the COVID-19 recession.
“Virtually all industries using hydraulics equipment and machinery are seeing demand tick upwards,” says Paul Michael, Research Chemist at the Milwaukee School of Engineering Fluid Power Institute. “Construction continues to grow with demand for new housing and new funding for infrastructure courtesy of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Manufacturing surpassed pre-pandemic levels in mid-2022. Strong increases in new orders for virtually all major subsectors indicate that this growth will continue in 2022.”
Despite the supply chain disruptions plaguing virtually all of these industries, this demand is contributing to a healthy backlog for equipment and machinery manufacturers. In fact, we predict that OEMs around the U.S. will see longer backlogs and keep the fluid power industry growing well through the end of 2023. As a result, fluid power companies must have effective strategies in place for managing their backlog and solidifying customer relationships. Your customers are navigating supply chain disruptions by building new partnerships, and open communication with your partners will be even more critical going forward.
2. Labor shortages and the fluid power industry
Manufacturers of hydraulic equipment have been hard pressed to rebuild their workforce to sufficiently meet today’s demand. Many of the employees let go during the COVID-19 pandemic have moved on to new opportunities or opted for early retirement. That means employers are now reaching out to employees who may not have considered a career in the fluid power industry—and are finding it hard going.
Younger candidates interested in high-tech careers are more likely to consider a career in IT or robotics over hydraulics. Reaching these candidates demands that companies in the fluid power industry change their hiring approach. Companies may attract more young candidates by promoting the high-tech side of hydraulics manufacturing. After all, it’s now possible for engineers to fine-tune a digitally controlled valve from the other side of the world. It’s these types of tech-focused opportunities that may attract new candidates to this field.
In addition, companies may find greater success building up the certifications and industry-specific skill sets that they need with in-house training. Candidates who have broadly relevant knowledge and who fit your corporate culture can be trained on specific tasks, so long as you have a pathway in place for these career advancement opportunities.
There’s no doubt that your competition is taking this approach. Where we once saw employers in the fluid power market taking as long as two months to complete a series of interviews with potential candidates, we’re now seeing clients make offers based on virtual interviews. For some, the hiring process is complete within two weeks, from introduction to final offer.
3. Evolving technology and the fluid power industry
The fast-paced changes taking place across construction and manufacturing are driving tremendous demand for new hydraulic equipment.
- Construction: “We’re seeing demand grow for the electrification of heavy equipment,” Michael says. “Fluid power advancements play a key role here. Efficiencies gained through the use of better hydraulic fluids help manufacturers offset any minor efficiency losses that result from the switch from gas to battery power.”
- Manufacturing: Manufacturers are increasingly in need of automated equipment to balance the demand for manufactured goods against labor deficits. Hydraulic machinery manufacturers can expect strong demand for equipment that blends electrical and mechanical systems and incorporates more sensors in support of automation. “Sensors are getting easier to integrate into new designs and, in many cases, into preexisting machinery,” says Carl Dyke, Founder and Chief Educational Officer of CD Industrial Group Inc. It’s getting easier to find sensors that have the features you need and to deploy them and work with them.”
- Wastewater treatment: The influx of infrastructure investment funding is making it more feasible for municipalities to upgrade wastewater treatment plants with the most efficient new and emerging technology Smart hydraulic pumps are among the solutions being used to guide more cost-effective predictive maintenance and consequently lower operating costs.
- Oil and gas: Oil and gas companies are under intense pressure to lower production costs while optimizing their processes. More efficient pumping solutions – filled with sensors that allow predictive maintenance and safer conditions – will be necessary for meeting this challenge.
Given the fast pace of change happening in manufacturing today, manufacturers can gain a notable competitive edge by being the first to position themselves in line with today’s fluid power advancements.
Attending the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE) is the best way for manufacturers to find these fluid power solutions. Co-located with CONEXPO-CON/AGG, IFPE is the #1 trade show and conference for the fluid power, power transmission, and motion control industries. Through targeted education sessions, a dedicated exhibition hall, and unique networking opportunities, manufacturers can find answers and insight that will help them get ahead of the competition.
So mark your calendar for IFPE, March 14-18, 2023, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and take advantage of discounted rates available and register for IFPE 2023 today.
About the Author
Craig Novins, CPC, is President and Owner of Fluid Power Connections, LLC, now known as Universal Search Associates, LLC, an executive recruitment firm specializing in the fluid power industry. Fluid Power Connections maintains a database of thousands of fluid power and engineering contacts. Novins keeps abreast of the latest technologies by attending various specialty trade shows where hydraulics are used including construction equipment, mining, metals, wood, rubber, plastics, and packaging – any place where fluid power products are used.
Fluid Power Hydraulic Advancements Driving Industrial And Mobile Efficiencies
How Smart Sensors in Construction are Impacting the Hydraulics Market
6 Ways Electrification is Disrupting Mobile Machines in 2022