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Fluid Power Engineers and Maintenance persons

Fluid Power Engineers and Maintenance persons

Fluid Power Engineers and Maintenance persons

I find very few people in industrial or mobile facilities in my part of the world that are trained to design, maintain or trouble shoot Hydraulic or Pneumatic equipment. There are college trained Electrical Engineers and Apprentice programs for Electrical Maintenance persons and these people are only responsible for electrical work in their plants.

My question is, Why are there practically no Fluid Power Engineers or Maintenance persons in the U.S.?

I find practically all plants, large or small, depend on the Fluid Power distributor or an independent consultant to design, start up, trouble shoot repair and do any serious maintenance work on their Fluid Power equipment. In between it runs with minimal attention and is expected to produce at 110%.

If someone in a plant knows much about Fluid Power their knowledge comes from a Distributor or Fluid Power manufacturers traing book or school and the "College of Hard Knocks". The schools may be as long as two weeks and give a lot of information but hardly qualify a person to be an expert on the equipment they work with. On top of that, after getting a 3 day seminar, many times the student doesn't get to work on a Fluid Power circuit for six months or more.

The second part of my question is: Will industry ever recognise the need for trained Fluid Power Engineers and Maintenance persons who are responsible for designing and maintianing Fluid Power equipment or will they continue as before and change everything they can to some other method that is backed up with trained and experienced people?

I would be interested in feedback, especially from persons in the plants who deal with these situation on a regular basis.

Bud Trinkel CFPE
fluidpower1 @ hotmail.com

RE: Fluid Power Engineers and Maintenance persons

I've argued the same thing for many a year in our company and beyond to no avail.  
We had a tremendous amount of both hydraulic and pneumatic equipment with pneumatic being predominant.  Like you say we were forever try to get hold of a tech rep or counterman at the parts store hoping they could help with a problem or part, it was always a new part not a component.  Pity us if the part label was missing.   If a multiport valve went out because of an O-ring we got a new valve.  I argued and argued this was a very expensive practice as all we needed was a $1.00 worth of O-rings and someone having the skills to disassemble and reassemble the valve.   The answer was always we tried that before and the valve still wouldn't function.  But if you saw the way people treated O-rings you had a clear picture of the problems.  If you did get a mechanic that was interested in learning, we had several over the years that were very capable,  there was no place to learn other than a few brochures and pamphlets with a book or two from our library.  
Then came getting a place to work on control valves and such was another problem.  We had instrument shops, valve shops, electronic shops, motor shops, and even an impact wrench shop, but no pneumatic or hydraulic shop.   If they didn’t have a spare part in stores they would give it someone and put him on table in a shop where everything was going on except cooking to see if he could get it working.  
One other aspect of maintenance of said systems was “Not in by Backyard”.  The mechanical group didn’t want it because it had wires, the electrical group said that it was more mechanical than electrical, and the instrument group said if the other groups don’t want it we damn sure don’t.  
It was the same way with engineering, we had no one well versed in the art and skill required to design a functional system with any degree of complexity.  We always relied on outsourcing even though we had over 50 engineers on site that had the basics to carry out the design.   

Management needs to look at the trash pile and see what there inactivity in the area of air and oil and see what it’s costing on real time basis.  I just talked to a friend that deeply involved in all the current maintenance schemes on site and queried him on the subject.  His response was very lacking in substance.  They are using one of the largest software systems available for maintenance management and they still don’t look at air and oil like it should.  They still are considering it mostly as cost of doing business expense item as every one knows that pneumatic and hydraulic equipment is expensive to own and operate.   

A little off topic but because you are in position to disseminate a safety tip/warning here goes.

Since we have had a lot of extra hydraulic equipment in our area since Hurricane Ivan I have become appraised of 3 people suffering from the injection of hydraulic fluids into hands and arms resulting in very serious injuries with the possible loss of hands or arms.  One was lucky he only lost a finger.  
The cause was people “Checking for Hydraulic Leaks with Their Hands”.   
In my working career this makes a total of five injection from hydraulic fluids and 3 from hyper pressure water (35,000 psig).   

RE: Fluid Power Engineers and Maintenance persons

Thank you for the comment.  It seems odd to me that industries that would not think of having anyone but an electrician work on the electrical systems will hire someone off the street, hand him a wrench, and have him go "fix" the fluid Power system.

As members of the Fluid Power Society, people like Bud and me need to do a better job of educating industry leaders as to the need for good fluid power training.  It is available and there are eager instructors willing to teach.  There are now 15 levels of Fluid Power certification available through the Fluid Power Society to qualify people at every appropriate level.

Check out www.ifps.org. It will be helpful.

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