by Eric Lanke, CAE
CEO, National Fluid Power Association

This is my third time attending the combination of industrial trade shows that is known as Hannover Messe. Here’s a recap of some of my thoughts and experiences there.

No NFPA Pavilion?

NFPA has been an active participant in this show since 1991, hosting an exhibit pavilion in the odd years, when the Motion, Drive & Automation (MDA) show is included in the mix. This year, we decided not to.

It’s not because Hannover Messe isn’t a remarkable show. It is. The things you see on the show floor are not to be missed. And its 23 exhibit halls—seven each dedicated to the Industrial Automation (IA) and MDA shows—are chock full of every important company and product in the power transmission and motion control industry.

NFPA decided not to host a pavilion this year because doing so sends the wrong message about the size and scope of the U.S.-based fluid power industry. Walk the halls and you’ll see immediately what I mean. Our core members—fluid power manufacturers headquartered in the United States—are already a huge portion of the show. Eaton and Parker Hannifin, the big guys are there, but so are many of our mid-size companies—Sun Hydraulics, Hawe Hydraulics, The Oilgear Company, and HYDAC, to name a few—as well as dozens of smaller companies—Deltrol and Clippard are just two I visited personally.

These companies don’t need an NFPA logo over their heads in order to demonstrate the quality they bring to the market. Their products, and the products of many dozens more, speak for themselves. And rather than being grouped together off on the side in a pavilion—like a lot of the smaller companies from countries like China, Turkey and Italy are—they want to be front and center, demanding the attention they deserve of the trade show attendees.

There was a time when the NFPA exhibit pavilion at Hannover Messe served an essential purpose. Twenty years ago it helped introduce NFPA members to an important show and eased the burden of launching a presence there. Today, our members and our industry are better served by calling attention to all the U.S. manufacturers that dominate major portions of the show. And that’s actually easier to do if a handful aren’t grouped together off on the side in an NFPA pavilion.

Energy Efficiency a Common Message

As I walked the show floor, one message was loud and clear—energy efficiency. Just about every exhibitor—NFPA member and non-member alike—addressed the subject in one fashion or another, some of them with specific advertising and booth displays that demonstrate the energy saving potential of their products.

I asked one exhibitor if it was something his customers—the system integrators and machine builders that need fluid power pumps, valves and connectors to serve the motion control needs of their customers—were asking for. Absolutely, he said. It’s becoming a real differentiator in the marketplace. You have to have an energy efficient message in order to win some pieces of business.

It’s good validation of the energy efficient research direction NFPA is helping to lead. By engaging our academic and research partners in pre-competitive projects, we hope to spark an energy efficient revolution for fluid power.

An International Gathering

I also had the opportunity to participate in two gatherings of international fluid power association professionals—a meeting of the International Fluid Power Statistics Committee—which continues to collect and report data on the world-wide fluid power industry—and what’s come to be known as the International Fluid Power Summit.

A dozen or more countries were represented— France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Taiwan, Turkey, and United Kingdom, to name a few—and we all shared information about what was going on in our home countries and some forecasts about the growth of the fluid power industry.

That data supports a lot of what we already know—that the global fluid power industry is a study in contrasts. The United States and China are strong, with sales—especially exports—at or near all-time highs. But Europe is a different story. Of all the countries in Europe, only Austria was forecasted to exceed the world average for economic growth in 2013—and that world average was pegged at only 2%.
Hopefully, Europe will turnaround and they’ll have more positive news to report in March 2014, when NFPA will be hosting the next International Fluid Power Summit at our IFPE trade show in Las Vegas.