NFPA Board Meets, Sets Strategic Vision for the Future
by Ray Chambers, Chairman, CEO & President, Muncie Power Products
As has been necessary for many other successful organizations, the NFPA Board of Directors held its annual strategic retreat in June 2020 virtually, connecting over a series of online meetings to both review NFPA’s performance over the past fiscal year and to make strategic decisions for moving the association forward into the future. As the new Chair of the NFPA Board, it was my honor to chair many of these discussions.
The past fiscal year, which ended on June 30, was a very successful one for NFPA. As I hope most NFPA members understand, we measure our success against four high-level strategic objectives that describe the outcomes we seek to achieve on your behalf.
Effective Forum is what we call our objective of bringing our membership together in ways that allow them to find new business opportunities and advance their collective interests. Here, we maintained our traditionally strong retention rate among members, which this year was buoyed by data from our biennial member satisfaction survey that showed high levels of satisfaction with NFPA. This diverse forum of fluid power suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors came together in near-record numbers at our numerous education and networking events, including our successful Annual Conference in Miami, our new Executive Leadership Program in partnership with the Kellogg School of Management, and in our many leadership and standards-setting committees and activities. Our members were joined by an increasing number of OEMs at our regional conferences, which have temporarily but successfully transitioned to an online format.
Industry Statistics is what we call our objective of providing our members with the market data and intelligence they need to improve their business decision-making. Here, we grew member participation in most of our key data programs, and especially in our Stats Toolkit, which is allowing more members than ever to combine their company data with our market trends and leading indicators to better understand the future of their businesses. Last year’s Industry and Economic Outlook Conference was a strong success, with plans now confirmed to conduct this year’s program on a virtual platform that can deliver both the content and networking opportunities our members expect from this event.
Promote Fluid Power is what we call our objective of providing our members with opportunities and resources to promote themselves and their technology. Despite numerous challenges, our IFPE trade show was safely and successfully held in March 2020. While attendance was down, the quality of the leads gathered there was as strong as ever. To help better spread the word about key advances in our industry, we launched the Fluid Power Forum podcast and have seen its listenership grow since its first bi-weekly episode in August 2019. Our reach on social media also increased significantly in the past year, growing the number of positive messages about fluid power that are available and being shared in this increasingly relevant domain.
Educated Workforce is what we call our objective of increasing the number of fluid power-educated students and connecting them to careers in the our industry. Both of our key workforce development programs saw significant growth in the past year. We now have two Fast Track Hubs up and running, one in Wisconsin and the second in Illinois, each promoting fluid power to middle school students, providing high school students with real fluid power education, and directing them into two-year degree programs at designated technical schools. Our members are beginning to hire these students. We also named our first Power Partner University, recognizing its deep commitment to fluid power education on its campus, launched nearly a dozen undergraduate fluid power clubs around the country, and oversaw a record-breaking Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge. Despite the need to hold its final competition event virtually, more students than ever participated, and more NFPA members than ever connected with them by serving as judges and mentors.
This track record of success provided an excellent platform for the Board’s next task, which was laying out a future vision for our association. In discussing that future, we focused on two important questions of scope. Recognizing the many changes occurring in our industry and in the larger world, positioning NFPA correctly in terms of its geographic and technological focus will be key to securing its ongoing influence and relevance for our members.
For its geographic scope, we determined that NFPA will stay focused on North America, but will seek to broaden its international reach, especially in ways that provide heightened value or service to our U.S.-based members. Issues of shifting global supply chains and trends in the off-shoring or re-shoring of manufacturing were pivotal in our discussions on this topic. Increasingly, our members need help understanding and navigating the forces that are reshaping our world, and NFPA will work to build more of that understanding into our programs and events.
For its technological scope, we determined that NFPA will stay focused on fluid power, but we will formally recognize that complementary technologies in the Internet of Things and electrification domains are increasingly and irrevocably part of modern fluid power systems and therefore part of the technological scope of our association. Embracing these technologies will mean greater outreach and connection to the broader motion control and power transmission industries, and we will seek ways to incorporate those stakeholders into many of the forums and activities that we convene.
Our Board believes that maintaining our focus on our four key strategic objectives – Effective Forum, Industry Statistics, Promote Fluid Power, and Educated Workforce – is what is needed to continue serving the needs of our members, but now each will have to be reinterpreted through the strategic lens of the geographic and technological scope decisions we have made. Working in tandem with our excellent staff, that process has begun, and you should expect to see future updates and announcements on our progress.
This is a time of tremendous change and challenge. But I and my fellow Board members are excited by the opportunities ahead, both for NFPA and the industry it represents. My thanks to all of the dedicated professionals who serve on our Board and help shape our organization’s future. We invite questions and comments from our members as we work to bring new value to you. If you’d like to connect, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.