Pumps & Systems staff spoke with Mike Pulley, Bartlett Bearing Company Inc.'s Product Support Manager, about workforce challenges and the major trends to anticipate in 2017.

How is departure of longtime, knowledgeable employees due to retirement, etc., affecting your company, and what steps are you taking to fill the resulting employee skills gap?

Fortunately it has not directly affected our company just yet and the knowledge still remains, but beginning in the next year and over the next half-decade there is no doubt a vacuum of knowledge and expertise leaving the company. To combat this, in some cases, we have already established a succession plan and actually invested in hiring replacements early to work closely with the outgoing staff to have this knowledge passed down and make the transition as smooth as possible. On the technical side, ongoing training is crucial to our business model and the value we bring to our customers. Technical training is provided on a regular basis to our staff, which is scheduled weekly or bi-weekly, either internally by these outgoing experts or by outside resources brought in to conduct training.

What are your predictions for the oil and gas market in 2017?

Unlike coal, the oil and gas market will rebound by a fair amount as a result of the slowed production in 2016. It does not have much more room to go down with current demand. Price per barrel of oil is already climbing slightly but it will not reach the over-inflated prices that we have seen in previous years. Increases in fracking are not anticipated to be extremely positive, but I believe the bleeding has stopped and that trend will not continue in 2017.

What general business trends/challenges do you foresee for the future?

The overwhelming biggest challenge as a distributor is the continued erosion of market pricing for components in the electro-mechanical repair industry. The strong dollar and sunsetting of anti-dumping for certain products has opened the floodgates for gray-market goods and global pricing. To read more Q&As from industry leaders, click here.