Category: Blogs February 8, 2023
Michael Michaud, executive director of North America’s Hydraulic Institute (HI), talks standards, training, energy efficiency, the challenge of recruiting technical talent, and the importance of pumps.
Can you tell us about the Hydraulic Institute and who you represent?
Hydraulic Institute was founded in 1917 when several leading pump manufacturers decided to develop a common methodology to test pumps and streamline procurement. The pump test standard was the first, and HI now has 36 ANSI/ HI Standards. Membership has grown as well. From the dozen or so manufacturers in 1917, HI now has over 120 corporate members: members that manufacture pumps and pumping systems, associate members who supply components like motors, drives, seals, bearings, etc. In addition, HI has a growing group of partners who are not manufacturers but align along our core interests. Standards partners include engineering firms that design and specify pumping systems and end-users like municipal water and wastewater or chemical processing facilities. Training partners include end-users and other organizations which both contribute to, and consume training through Pump Systems Matter, HI’s training organization. Today, HI is where pump manufacturers, designers, end-users, etc come together to advance the mission to drive all pump system stakeholders towards a sustainable future.
As executive director, what is your role within the Hydraulic Institute?
When I joined HI seven years, ago, HI was in build mode. We built and launched several programs to prepare the market for changes in the regulatory environment. These include the HI Energy Rating Label and public database so utilities can incentivise the purchase of more efficient equipment; the Pump Test Lab Approval Program to ensure pump testing meets the standard, and Pump System Assessment Professional certification for individuals who want to demonstrate their understanding of systems. HI also expanded the suite of web-based tools, calculators and resources for pump users. Part of my role is to identify the types of programs that will benefit the industry and line-up the resources to make them happen. HI is very fortunate to have a strong team that includes staff and industry volunteers to do this. The other big responsibility is to advocate for the industry. Everything from regulatory discussions to championing pumps – on Capitol Hill, in the upcoming legislative agenda, with other trade groups and by reaching out to universities and technical schools.
What are the biggest challenges that the North American pump industry is currently dealing with?
HI conducts a quarterly CEO poll, and a top concern consistently revolves around workforce issues. Recruiting, training and retaining top talent is the biggest long-term challenge our industry faces. When it comes to recruiting engineers and technical talent we are up against some pretty strong competitors with dot-coms and start-ups. Increasingly, however, people want to work for companies – and industries –that contribute to society and make a difference. We started the World Without Pumps campaign to shine a spotlight on just how important our industry is today. We wanted to bring pumps out from behind the scenes and get folks thinking about the real role pumps play in modern life. We hope to attract young people who may never have considered it before as a career choice. HI is also working closely with schools and universities to encourage more pumping in the curriculum and is expanding our suite of programs through Pump Systems Matter to help those looking to transition into the industry. I think the diversity of opportunities in our industry is hard to match in any other. When you think about it, pumps are not only used in virtually every industry, they are also used in virtually every geography. This means that people seeking a career that is compatible with a particular lifestyle will likely find the perfect opportunity in our industry.
Across the world, many industries are grappling with shortages of specialized labor and supply chain issues. Are these also pressing concerns for Hydraulic Institute members?
Absolutely. On the labor front, HI is focused on expanding our supply of qualified technical workers. Our industry needs a range spanning from knowledgeable operators to seasoned engineers with everything in between. HI launched a career center this year profiling different job types in the industry with pointers to the different knowledge areas required for that job. On the supply chain side, this will continue to be a focus for a while as the industry repositions its supply chains globally. Factors such as tariffs and different international trade policies will play a big part and HI will continue to track these for the industry and try to influence them when possible.
How are Made in America Laws and the Buy American Act impacting your members?
Covid and China’s zero-Covid policy really affected how many manufacturers looked at their supply chains. The domino effect of plants being shut down, then ports, then transportation delays, highlighted just how tight supply chains were. Then, when you add tariffs on iron and steel coming from China and trade restrictions on top of already stretched supply chains, things got even more complicated. Luckily, China is now relaxing its zero-covid policy and most of the ports and transportation issues have been returned to pre-pandemic levels. New Build America, Buy America (BABA) rules will bring additional challenges this year however and will add another layer to an already complex environment. It may ultimately bring some new manufacturing capacity to the US, but in the short-term manufacturers will continue to look for new ways to serve their customers. They always do.
To what extent have climate change and environmental concerns changed the industry over the last decade?
The shift towards more energy efficient pumping systems has been one of the more significant changes. Manufacturers have focused a great deal on this over the last seven or eight years. New efficiency regulations from the US Department of Energy (DOE) certainly helped push the industry in this direction, but manufacturers and HI have embraced this, in some cases even
beyond the DOE. Take circulator pumps as an example. While on the DOE’s radar for some time, the regulatory process was stalled during the Trump administration. This didn’t stop the industry from introducing more efficient designs or stop HI from expanding its Energy Rating label to include circulators and encourage public utilities to provide rebates for those more efficient pumps. When you incentivise owners and installers to purchase more efficient pumps you achieve real savings. One could argue that this type of incentive system is actually more effective than regulating product off the shelves and can
produce more energy savings in a shorter time frame.
How is the Hydraulic Institute helping to make the pump sector more environmentally sustainable?
Raising the awareness of pump system efficiency is a key component. Pump systems are everywhere. Twenty-five percent of the electricity in the US is used to drive pumps. If we can showcase how more efficient pumping systems can save system owners money and reduce their operating costs, then everybody wins. Continued outreach to public utilities to incentivise their ratepayers to install more efficient pumps will help get us there quicker. This is where the Energy Rating label will play an even more important role in the coming years. There is still a lot of work to be done to educate all the different players in the market.
How do you see pump technology developing over the next 5–10 years?
Pumps have been around since Archimedes, but there is still a lot of room for innovation. Some of the biggest improvements are on the intelligent side of things. Pumps today are much smarter than they used to be. Many have integrated sensors and controls which can adjust the speed of the pump automatically as the system requirements change and enable pumps to operate closer to best efficiency point (BEP). Data feeds can send information to owners who can monitor their systems and track performance and energy use. For owners of large or complex systems, there is a clear case to hire specialists to monitor and conduct formal assessments of their pumping systems to ensure they are optimised. This is one reason HI developed the Pump System Assessment Professional (PSAP) certification I mentioned earlier.
What does the future of pump manufacturing in North America look like?
We are starting to see more investment in North America. Some say that the new BABA requirements have encouraged some of this new investment, but I think the real driver is because the North American market forecasts continue to look very good in the coming years. Companies see this sustained growth path and want to be here as a long-term partner and supplier.
What lies ahead for the Hydraulic Institute?
HI will continue to develop valuable programs for the industry. The newest HI Standard, the “Pump Industry Fundamentals Body of Knowledge” enables a common approach to training and education across the industry. The recently published (and free) resource will help people prepare for jobs quicker and will help pump manufacturers, system designers and end-users have a common vocabulary and understanding of pumping systems. Next year we will be taking this one step further by launching a level one certification and so that both employers and individuals can test/ demonstrate their understanding of pump fundamentals. Of course, we will also continue to drive more awareness of energy efficient pumps in new markets. We recently did a study of Ag/ Irrigation pump system efficiency which we are sharing in Washington DC to encourage federal support such as tax credits for farmers who install more efficient pumps and irrigation systems. The good news is that pump systems are everywhere, so the work will never end!
Did you know?
HI has more than 120 corporate members.
This blog was originally posted on WorldPumps in January/February 2023.
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