NFPA is Addressing the Needs of the Fluid Power Industry
by William G. Gorski
CFO, Bimba Manufacturing Company
In June of this year, the NFPA Board of Directors held its annual strategic retreat where we talked about many of the challenges faced by the fluid power industry and what NFPA is and should do to help our members address them. It was an exciting and productive meeting for me, knowing that, as the new Chairman of the Board for our 2014-15 fiscal year, it would be my responsibility to shepherd those outcomes determined by the Board.
There was much discussion about our customers, the competitive environment, and our ability to meet their needs. Our industry is challenged by an increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer base, that is ever more reliant on its suppliers to solve its engineering challenges, and which seeks to provide efficient, productive, reliable, compact and attractive machines to its customers.
As a result, we see NFPA members as increasingly focused on their capacity for innovation. Additionally, in order to achieve that innovation, our members look to the NFPA in order to help hire the top talent, stay networked, continue education, invest in R&D, keep abreast of new technology, increase their creativity, and improve their responsiveness and agility to their customer base.
NFPA’s mission is to strengthen the fluid power industry, and to fulfill that mission, we have been focused on three areas of strategic priority:
- Workforce: Building and connecting our members to an educated fluid power workforce.
- Technology: Promoting fluid power technology and fostering and innovative environment for the fluid power industry.
- Inclusiveness: Serving as a forum where all fluid power channel partners work together.
These priorities are well aligned with the needs our members have expressed. As the Board reviewed progress the association has made over the course of the last year—much of which has been significant (see sidebar)—we identified several on-going challenges associated with each area of priority, including:
- Increased awareness and interest in fluid power technology, the industry and careers.
- Increased fluid power education at schools.
- Member involvement with schools and students in their local communities.
- Determination of NFPA’s role in technology development.
- Support an innovation platform for the industry.
- Promotion of fluid power technology vs. the competition.
- Determine the appropriate bounds of technology for the association.
- Increased access to voice of the customer information.
- Increased member engagement in association leadership and activities.
To better address these challenges in the future, the Board has begun a more targeted discussion around the specific outcomes the association will seek to achieve. The adoption of some new terminology to better describe these outcomes will be drafted with a series of “ends statements”—descriptions of the world we will seek to create for the benefit of our members—and, for each ends statement a list of “success indicators”—metrics by which we’ll know that we’re making progress towards each identified end.
Eric Lanke, NFPA’s CEO, and his staff are our key partners in this regard, as they work collaboratively to both describe the ends statements and the success indicators, and to adapt the programs and activities of the association to exert positive leverage on the metrics.
A draft of this new strategy agenda will soon be shared with the membership. To be successful, we will need both your feedback into its design and your participation in its execution.
I look forward to a very impactful year as your Chairman, and please feel free to contact me through the NFPA office if you have any questions. I would strongly encourage your personal involvement in any or all areas of strategy that interests you.
Success Highlights from the 2013-14 NFPA Strategy Agenda
Each year, the NFPA Board of Directors, with the support of its CEO and his staff, sets a strategy agenda that includes specific objectives and program goals intended to advance key areas of strategic priority. Success highlights from the fiscal year just completed include:
- Completed the Education Roadmap and began to use it to create a regional strategy for the prioritized development of fluid power educational resources.
- Signed a memorandum of understanding with IFPS to keep the workforce development activities of both organizations aligned in a unified strategy. Also worked in partnership with the CCEFP to keep its workforce development activities aligned with the same strategy.
- Hired a new staff position and launched a new subcommittee of volunteers to focus on growth of the Fluid Power Challenge and similar activities. Based on these efforts, the number of classrooms using Fluid Power Challenge materials has doubled, and we expect the number of Challenge events to double in the 2014-15 school year.
- Added six new 2-year technical schools to NFPA’s membership.
- Launched a new teaching laboratory grant program for 2-year technical schools through the NFPA Foundation. Four applications have been received for initial award, with a funding decision expected soon.
- Awarded nine more teaching grants through the NFPA Foundation in 2013-14, and increased our promotion of the impact these awards are having on fluid power education.
- Awarded our second teaching laboratory grant to a 4-year school (MSOE) and launched efforts to connect universities with NFPA members to keep all labs fresh with updated materials and equipment.
- Increased the number of upper management decision-makers and engineers attending the IFPE trade show, and dramatically increased the number of OEMs and end-users attending the IFPE technical conference.
- Sold out the exhibit space available at the IFPE Fluid Power Zone co-located with the MDA North America and IMTS trade shows.
- Produced two new reports on customer market technology trends, presented them at the 2013 Industry and Economic Conference, and made them available to all NFPA members.
- Produced the first-ever annual report on the fluid power industry designed specifically for the public and public sector audiences.
- Confirmed a new partnership model for the NFPA and the CCEFP that provides for growth of both industry participants and research institutions.
- Selected the recipient of the third research grant from the NFPA Foundation—this one focused on improving the use of recycled exhaust gas in pneumatics to increase efficiency.
- Launched a new “ambassador” recruitment program that is resulting in the addition of targeted distribution companies to our membership.
- Launched a new member engagement tracking system and used it to target non-engaged members in the activities and leadership opportunities of the association.
- Designed and produced an updated set of membership marketing materials, including video testimonials.
- Set supply chain diversity targets for NFPA conferences and increased attendance from targeted groups.
- Dramatically increased the number of member conversations and member prospect appointments at the NFPA Booth at the IFPE trade show.
- Improved the U.S. Forecast Service through a new, negotiated agreement with our vendor.
- Hosted the 2014 International Fluid Power Summit at IFPE with more than 60 international association and business leaders in attendance.
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