As my time on the IFPS Board of Directors comes to its end this year, it’s a good time to reflect on the state of our industry and the major changes since I joined the board in 2013.
In the mobile hydraulic market, the most influential challenge was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 4 regulation to lower exhaust emissions for diesel engines. Mobile OEM’s in construction, mining, forestry, agriculture, and other markets faced many questions. Where do we fit this after-treatment device on an already crowded machine? How do we perform more work with less horsepower? How do we control the cost of this new design? How do we accommodate the engine’s increased demand for cooling?
Skills for the Changing Market
The changing market calls for skilled, technical application personnel at various levels (Machine OEM, System Integrator, Component Manufacturer). Fortunately, my employer (Kraft Fluid Systems) places an emphasis on technical training and IFPS certification to continue meeting these challenges. At no time in our company’s 45-year history has this been so visible. Mobile machines require hydraulic systems to be evaluated as never before. This requires we identify and remove inefficiencies that could consume even a small bit of precious horsepower. Helping an OEM replace a 99 Horsepower engine with a 74 Horsepower engine, without affecting productivity or performance, is a rewarding task. To do so requires technical-systems training and experience to understand the machine operation. Picking components from a catalog simply does not work. Knowledge of the system and application is vital to the success and profitability of the OEM.
Role of Hydraulic Manufacturers
Hydraulic manufacturers, as well, have stepped up to the plate. Our firsthand experience with innovations from Danfoss Power Solutions has allowed us to launch machine systems integrating hydraulic components, Plus+1 ™ electronic controls, and critical communication with the diesel engine itself. In some cases the Kraft Electric Drives division is seeing demand for an electric motor to replace the diesel engine as the prime mover in the hydraulic system. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and will continue to do so. Most likely, as unbelievable as it may seem, it will continue to accelerate in the coming years. “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Who will design, apply, build, and maintain these systems in the future? As the technology in our industry continues to change so rapidly, the IFPS certification program continues to train and evaluate these professionals. The newly updated Hydraulic Specialist and recently released Electronic Controls Specialist certifications are complete, thanks to the efforts of my colleagues on the IFPS committees, as well as the IFPS staff itself. As exciting as these certification updates are, they are just the tip of the iceberg of the coming attractions. While our industry stays hungry for highly skilled technical application professionals, the IFPS will continue to feed that hunger.