NFPA’s IEOC Day 2: Hydraulics is not going away, not by a long shot

yengstAs long as I’ve been covering the fluid power industry—nearly two decades—there has been an undercurrent of concern as to whether hydraulics was slowly going away. Were electrics or some other combination of motion control technology going to force it into the sunset? Wasn’t it just a matter of time before the inevitable happened?

So it’s great to hear presentations like the one Chuck Yengst of Yengst Associates gave at this year’s NFPA Industry & Economic Outlook Conference in Chicago. In partnership with the NFPA, Yengst surveyed 10 OEMs—Caterpillar, Deere, Komatsu, Volvo, Terex, Manitou, Doosan Bobcat, JCB, and Manitowoc—as well as four component suppliers and three dealers representing OEMs to get a feel for the future of hydraulics.

The results were largely positive. When you look over the past 20 to 30 years, it’s obvious that hydraulics has come a long way. The old issues about leakage, while not entirely gone, are certainly not as prevalent as they once were.

“There has been a huge improvement in the hydraulics field as far as how things work and how things are put together,” Yengst said.

And while electric actuators were long considered a potential enemy, the reality is that electronic controls have made hydraulics more efficient, more precise, and a more intelligent choice on mobile machinery than ever before. In fact, today, hydraulics accounts for an amazing 60-70% of what engine power is used for on off-highway equipment.

The weak point of hydraulics continues to be the issue of contamination. But controlling contamination through scheduled sampling of fluids in the field (and improved filtering) will pay off with longer machine and system life.

“Hydraulics are here to stay—we’re going to add electronics and complement it,” Yengst said. “We’re going to make better machines all the way through.”

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