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In today’s highly competitive manufacturing and service environment, machine and equipment uptime is critical. More often than not, it is a determinant of a company’s success and survivability. Downtime is the death knell of profitability. Perhaps the most important people in this metric are the mechanics and technicians. The wide range of skills required from the individual to keep a machine operational or to get it running after a breakdown is significant. This person must have an understanding of mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and increasingly, electric and electronic controls. That is a tall order by any standard.
Some of the best engineers are those who have an extensive background or started their careers in troubleshooting and repair. They have seen what works, what doesn’t and what to do about it. They have a keen understanding of what it means to design and package an energy-efficient and safe system for minimal maintenance, reduced downtime and repair with the fewest tools. They understand firsthand the need for and the value of proper and thorough documentation.
In other words, the engineer designs, the test technician tests and troubleshoots, and the mechanic fixes. All of these skill sets are critical. In the context of the overall success of the project, none is exclusive or more important than the other. Experts must be knowledgeable in the many aspects of fluid power: hydraulic, pneumatic, and basic electric and electronic controls.
Becoming a well-rounded fluid power expert does not end at a particular destination; it is a continuing, career-long journey. It requires the self-challenge to constantly seek out the opportunity to learn by engaging others with more or different knowledge and skills than your own. It demands stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking on the challenges that others may avoid. It involves extra time and effort that perhaps you would rather spend doing something else. You must read from textbooks, fluid power periodicals and component manufacturer catalogs to gain knowledge of the types of hydraulic and pneumatic hardware in the marketplace, how they work and how they do not. To gain additional knowledge, consider taking a community-college course or attending a technical seminar in a discipline where your skills are weak. It doesn’t matter if you have been in the industry six months or 30 years. To advance your career and become that well-rounded fluid power expert, you must have some skin in the game.
To keep pace with the broad and ever-changing needs of industry, the International Fluid Power Society (IFPS) provides many specific and complementary certifications to demonstrate core and advanced competencies. And though some of the content from one certification to another is necessarily overlapping, each offering is targeted to meet the particular needs of the individual and to establish his or her qualifications. Getting certified and holding multiple certifications demonstrates that you take your career seriously and can be the key component to increasing your worth to your employer.
So, what exactly is a fluid power expert? It is the individual who can satisfactorily address the particular need at that moment and one who also has a demonstrable, broad base of knowledge. If you are well-rounded in multiple aspects of fluid power, prove it. Take the time and make the effort to get certified in all of those areas. Then that expert can and will be you.
Lastly, are you an employer or manager asking yourself, “What can I get out of certification?” You can assure your customers that your employees possess an industry-wide accepted level of competence and that your mechanics, technicians and engineers have the skills necessary to perform their tasks confidently, efficiently, reliably and safely. It shows you encourage employee pride and are willing to invest in the development of their careers. Tell the world that as a business owner or manager, you care about the image your company and employees put forth and how it reflects on the larger fluid power, manufacturing and service communities.
So now you might be thinking, “OK, but why should I spend all of this money in training and certifying my employees and risk them leaving and going to the competition?” Well, I have some bad news for you. When it comes to the talent pool, the fluid power industry is in a crisis. The number of individuals coming into and staying in the industry compared with those leaving or retiring is strikingly disproportionate. If you don’t invest in the development of your employees, including in training and certification, you are inadvertently promoting the industry’s demise - and maybe even your own company’s downfall. At some point, it will not be a matter of if you lose that employee but when.
In the words of motivational speaker and sales coach Zig Ziglar: “The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave is not training and having them stay.” On the subject of employee training and development, no truer words have ever been spoken.
For more information on IFPS certifications, visit www.ifps.org or call 800-308-6005.