The highlight in the fluid power community over the past couple of weeks was certainly the annual conference of the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) in Hawaii. In what was supposedly their largest Hawaii event ever (it’s usually held in the islands every third year), attendees heard plenty about globalization.
I’ll be talking about the conference over the coming weeks, but here’s my first installment:
Ken Gray, global product manager, large excavators, Caterpillar Inc., discussed the increasing influence of the developing world has on product development cycles. Gray said that there are three main global growth drivers now: Economic (low inflation rates and under-investment in the past), societal (huge population growth rates, increased urbanization and a burgeoning middle class) and industrial (infrastructure and energy needs). Gray stressed that the predicted global population of 7.6 billion in 2020 will have a lot of needs, including food, water, housing, transportation and energy.
In addition, Gray went through some of the confusing regulations (such as Tier IV) that global manufacturers increasingly have to deal with—the global maps of different overlapping and competing regulations was enough to make an engineer’s head spin.
Another huge impact on manufacturing of equipment like excavators comes from the competitive landscape. Ten years ago, a company like Caterpillar had about nine competitors across the globe. Now, the number has exploded to something like 60. It’s no longer possible to keep as close tabs on every competitor or to know as many details about how their equipment is constructed. (Imagine having to simply purchase equipment from all the competitors to deconstruct what they’re doing—a nightmare!)
Gray’s key was that manufacturers should focus on what they do very well and not try to be all things to all customers. And he stressed to reduce unnecessary complexity, for example in what varieties of products are available—customers might be fine with 15 choices instead of 80. And your manufacturing operation will thank you!
Eaton Corp. made the news in a couple of nice ways. The company, which has a vehicle group facility in Galesburg, Mich., provided a $15,000 grant to KC Ready 4s, a non-profit that aims to provide high-quality early childhood education in Kalamazoo County, Mich. And according to an Ethisphere report on the most ethical companies, Eaton was selected as one of the 145 companies worldwide that were honored.
More news of note:
• As of March 15, 2012 World Wide Metric has become an active member of the International Fluid Power Society.
• Sauer-Danfoss Inc. introduced the LDU20 U-Style Transmission, a complete hydrostatic transmission package for turf care machines, compact utility tractors up to 22 kW (30 hp) and agricultural vehicles.
• Eaton Corp. announced that Daniel F. Koehler has been named director of market intelligence and strategy for the Hydraulics Group. Koehler will be responsible for the analysis and communication of market data, leading the annual strategic planning process for the global hydraulics business, and coordinating the strategy deployment and communication activities across the product divisions, regions and functions.
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