Pumps & Systems staff spoke with Mike Sandlin, Global Product Marketing Manager, Process Division, Graco Inc., about the major trends to anticipate in 2017 and how the landscape of the pump industry and related markets will change.

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?

As more and more long-term, experienced maintenance technicians are leaving the field we see the skills gap increasing quite dramatically. Many of the new maintenance technicians excel with electronic and software-related products, but do not have as much practical experience with legacy mechanical products.

This gap also branches beyond end users and includes local industrial product distributors who have been viewed as product experts throughout the years for industrial plants. With the combined loss of knowledge at both the end-user and distributor level, more time and effort is required than ever before to get industry professionals up to speed on the various industrial technologies.

To bridge this gap, we are developing content tailored for end-users and distributors to answer many common questions—specifically, troubleshooting and configuration—to aid in understanding of industrial mechanical products.

What are the most important innovations for 2017 in instrumentation, controls and monitoring?

IIoT is driving manufacturers to develop and integrate smart, automated solutions to control and monitor industrial equipment. Through PLC and SCADA integration, equipment can now be monitored and controlled in real time and from remote locations, increasing plant efficiency and reducing the risk of unplanned downtime.

Another driving request from the market is a need for predictive maintenance technology, allowing technicians to develop and schedule preventative maintenance programs to protect equipment from catastrophic failure.

What can end users expect to see in 2017, and what should they do to prepare?

End users can expect product innovation targeting communication and energy efficiency. System monitoring via PLC, SCADA and DCS require products capable of delivering real-time information to increase production efficiency and provide a clear view into current process conditions. Additionally, manufacturers are tuning equipment to operate more efficiently to reduce energy consumption at the plant level.

To read more Q&As from industry leaders, click here.