The January issue of Pumps & Systems features our State of the Industry report and “Executive Insights,” an opportunity for top-level leaders to share knowledge about our industry's health. Even in a turbulent economy, this year's expert panel conveyed optimism through candid analysis and specific strategies for 2009.

Just to recap, this year the critical themes included the economy, energy efficiency, the water crisis, rebuilding vital infrastructure, addressing the engineering skills shortage and globalization. Strategies for attacking these issues included building a greater focus on customer service, forming partnerships to provide customized solutions and improving productivity, reliability, response time and technology.

Four months later, we wanted to know if the strategies, trends and optimism remain intact given the global economic circumstances.

I was given the perfect opportunity to re-examine the topic when asked to speak at the Fluid Sealing Association's annual spring meeting in Savannah. While my FSA "State of the Industry" presentation focused on the sealing industry in particular, I discovered similar optimism—although tempered with realistic caution.

“The only trends I see and feel are fist-tight, controlled spending, wait-and-see maintenance, repair-don't-replace operations and scale down/back wherever possible until we are sure the light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train barreling down on us,” says Thomas Brown, managing director of Advanced Sealing International.

Still, there is optimism. “I believe that if we continue to provide high quality, engineered products and outstanding service, the business will continue to develop,” Brown says. “Thus far, this strategy has been successful . . . do what you do very well and keep doing it—no matter what.”

Just as it is impossible to predict success in a good economy, it is perhaps even more difficult to hold on to hope in a difficult one. However, “While we find the current seal market challenging, it is bringing us new opportunities, as well,” says Ray Poltorak, marketing manager for EagleBurgmann. “In these challenging times we find that it is even more important than usual to get closer to the customer and focus on the basics the customer values most.”

P&S will continue to explore the State of the Industry and related topics throughout 2009.