13 June, 2021

Meeting the skills challenge

25 February, 2016

By John Savage, director, the National Fluid Power Centre.

As technology has advanced into the use of electronics and control, a large void exists in which many highly experienced competent fluid power personnel are being moved out of their comfort zone. This applies to many professions within the fluid power sector; such as maintenance personnel, sales personnel, project and design engineers etc.

Clearly, integrated electronics and control with hydraulics and pneumatics provides a range of benefits, such as improvements in:

• Performance monitoring linked to productivity and better utilisation of energy.

• Fast response to changes in product design.

• Health and condition monitoring.

• Product quality control.

• Safety management all round.

• Greater reliability and less downtime based upon the ability to monitor and respond to change.

Electronics and control are now providing in conjunction with hydraulics and pneumatics and integrated system far beyond what they could have achieved purely as fluid power.

However, we must rise to the challenge. Whether it’s a 30T excavator, an injection moulding machine, a wind turbine or a food packaging production line, staff must now be trained to see the bigger picture of the integrated system.

Extension of both knowledge and skills

This will require an extension of both knowledge and skills involving electrical/electronic principles and the function and application sensors, switches and microprocessors, together with a better understanding of functional safety and the ability to manage, maintain and effectively fault find on integrated systems.

This will result in the provision of an effective workforce, greater team synergy and better cross-communications while still maintaining individual expertise.

The National Fluid Power Centre (NFPC) sees its prime role in educating and training fluid power personnel and moving them into the world of Integrated Systems Engineering. Backed by its Industry Advisory & Strategic Planning Group, the facilities now under development will support the development of the UK workforce and beyond for many years to come.

In its usual way, the NFPC places a great emphasis upon practical hands-on training and workshops to support this major plan, ensuring the effectiveness of its training while moving personnel back into their comfort zone

Workforce capability

The success of any company depends very much upon the capability of its workforce at every level. As we invest in these advanced levels of technology we must not fail to invest in our staff and match their knowledge and skills to address these integrated systems. Once again, the plan here at the NFPC is not just to impart knowledge but also to develop the vital skills and competence levels to meet this challenge. This is ‘a race with no end’.

Moving forward

By the end of 2016 the NFPC will have in place three key training programmes linked to integrated systems engineering, covering the knowledge and skills levels for those employed with industrial systems, mobile systems and pneumatic systems.

Since taking up the challenge in 2014 by the NFPC Advisory and Strategic Planning Group consisting of over 50 National and International companies to develop a world-class facility for the provision of integrated systems engineering, the response has been excellent. Over the past 15 years some 25,000 craftsmen, technicians and engineers have been educated and trained specifically in hydraulics and pneumatics at the NFPC.

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