17 September, 2021

Boardroom Report - Challenges and opportunities

11 February, 2021

Hydraulics & Pneumatics spoke with leading solutions providers and industry associations about the current state of play within the fluid power and related technology space.


This is a very important time for the hydraulic sector, and innovation is focusing more and more on the connectivity of the products with sensor devices and external devices apps, wi-fi, etc. This is one of the predominant observations of Francesco Chessari, executive director, MP Filtri UK Ltd, who points out that more and more users want to be able to check their hydraulic system from any remote area they may be in and to be able to check all their sensors with a push of button.

Chris Buxton, CEO, the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA), also recognises the importance of connectivity and, moreover, points to a related inexorable trend that has been accelerating over the past ten years – the convergence of technologies. “In order to grow, companies more used to capitalising upon a niche market will have to consider diversification and solution sales,” he says. “Customers no longer want a hydraulic technician or an electrical engineer or a pneumatics technician – they want a systems engineer who can take a holistic view of their requirements and can deliver a range of integrated products that meet that requirement. The future is integrated systems and those who keep hankering after the past and trying to tell us to ‘go back to our roots’ and ‘concentrate upon what we know’ are like King Canute on the shore trying to stop the tide. They will surely drown and go out of business. We need to embrace and exploit the change – not fight it.”

Maturity

However, Buxton believes that the fluid power market is mature and, to a degree, has become a little complacent. “For some years, the market has relied upon the fact that it has a fairly unique position with few alternative preferable technologies being available for its various applications,” he says. “As new technology emerges, many of the alternatives are now beginning to become credible and some would argue that they are more environmentally friendly. For some years, there has been a trend to move away from fluid power to electromechanical (EM) technology, particularly in the applications where power density is not relevant. With progress being made in control techniques both in DC and now AC drives, that threat has become all the greater. The industry used to suffer, and still does to some extent, from an image of being dirty and wasteful in terms of energy consumption. There has been a lot of work undertaken by technical experts who understand the detail of the technology of fluid power in conjunction with other bodies, like IMechE, to increase the awareness in the industry of how to overcome these issues. This has been done and continues to need to be undertaken at a grass roots level.”




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