As a new editor of Fluid Power World, I’m granted the privilege of meeting people and attending industry events with fresh eyes. I’ve heard stories of this tight-knit fluid power community and how passionate everyone is about the industry. Though I arrive with an open mind and eagerness to learn, my expectations continue to shatter with every interaction. The camaraderie among fluid power professionals is warming, and the dedication to strengthening the industry is inspiring.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of attending the NFPA’s Fall Regional Meeting in Cleveland, where managers and engineers willingly exchanged knowledge. Chris Chidzik, Principal Economist at The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT), also spoke about economic trends and forecasts.
In general, GDP is down, but consumption is up. Job growth is up, but so are job vacancies. Inflation is still rearing its ugly head, but consumer spending is up. With all the conflicting messages we hear, the big question everyone’s been asking is: Are we in a recession? Though the data suggests yes, it certainly hasn’t felt like one. Chidzik explained that this year’s GDP contraction was most likely due to supply issues, which all fluid power manufacturers experienced first-hand.
All this aligned with what I learned at the 2022 PTDA Industry Summit, where Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics assured that manufacturers struggling to manage backorders may feel a sense of relief as the market eases.
“We’re not looking at a recession. We’re looking at opportunities, just at a decelerated rate of rise,” said Beaulieu.
But he cautioned against getting too comfortable because things aren’t returning to “normal” anytime soon. Though inflation is expected to take a break, it’ll creep back up again.
Within the first few months on the job, I also interviewed various fluid power professionals to learn about their latest products and innovations. Optimizing production, refining quality, and improving customer service were common themes. These days, customers don’t care if OEMs are innovative or flashy. They just want the exact part with the exact specifications within the needed time frame at the best cost. And they want to know that the OEM will be there to help when they call.
More than ever, each OEM is part manufacturer and part customer service provider. But that doesn’t mean they’re not innovating or thinking of the future. There’s a reason why products are still flying off the shelves, even at a decelerated rate.
Aside from products and economics, I’m looking forward to attending more fluid power events — especially IFPE 2023 — and connecting with this fun, hard-working community. I’ve already learned more than expected since I started at Fluid Power World. And the most important lesson that we can all take away is this: When considering parts for any fluid power system, don’t forget the most important part — the people.
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