Many industry leaders answered key questions about the pump marketplace in 2017. The Pumps & Systems editorial team selected excerpts from their responses to help you prepare for the new year.

Editor's note: For more content from selected industry leaders, click on the orange highlighted names below.

What should end users know to be up to date on IoT/cyber security? How would you describe the industry's readiness to deal with this issue?

IoT changes the traditional model of internet communications from machine-to-machine to machine-to-object. In IoT, anything living or inanimate can be an object. IoT enables the control, monitoring and access to the object. Today, IoT can monitor your blood sugar levels, heart rate, steps taken and the quality of your sleep. Moving forward, IoT technology will be used in preventative maintenance, diagnosing pumping issues, and help save plants millions of dollars in repairs and plant outages. George Harris President, Hydro Pump operators should be thinking about two areas: the platform, and the killer applications that will sit on that platform, which will make a difference in the management of a plant and a fleet of equipment. We believe the platforms will continue to evolve over the next several years, but end users should start investigating the applications that can create real value for them while the platform market develops. Many applications can run on a platform or on a stand-alone basis. The winning platforms will need to be open to the killer applications to gain significant traction. Robert Miller Director of Prognostics, Reliability and Service, John Crane Users will continue to benefit from the unique insights that new digitization platforms are providing into their businesses. These insights are assisting in the rapid development of strategic leadership directions for producers and their customers. It is improving the delivery of products and services that meet their challenging demands and new applications. We will see users who have invested into these platforms start outperforming their peers who have not. Michael Robinson National Marketing Manager, Projects, Solutions and Services, Endress + Hauser

Are changes in the workforce affecting your company?

With unemployment at a low level, we are finding it more and more difficult to find new people with the skill set to work in our factories. What we have done to alleviate this problem is develop a ˜learning cell to run our machines. New employees work as apprentices for six months where they are rotated through various machines every six weeks. We also work closely with local high schools where we have open houses throughout the year and the area vocational schools to give tours and find the top prospects. We have been fortunate in filling professional positions such as engineering, sales and marketing staff. Even though there appears to be fewer candidates, the open positions are being filled. Kevin Jagielski Director, Sales and Marketing, Graco, Inc. I think brain drain is a concern for every company in our industry. As a result of the mass exodus of baby boomers departing the workforce into retirement there is a vacuum of ˜tribal knowledge that is in jeopardy of exiting with them. Attracting younger employees combined with a continually scheduled ongoing training program (in house as well as external) and maintaining a centralized location of easy to find data is a must to have any chance to not only grow but to preserve current business. Industrial distribution especially with a focus on pumps, motors and gearboxes is not always the sexiest industry to recruit potential millennial employees to and a lot is done through industry associations, word of mouth, educational/school outreach or even headhunters. Mike Pulley National Sales Manager, Bartlett Bearing Company, Inc. Like most manufacturing companies, ABB is impacted by: an aging workforce, changing skill sets, low unemployment, a pipeline of talent focused primarily on mid-career/experienced hires , a lack of interest in working in manufacturing. In the past, we would have looked to public and higher education to make sure they knew our challenges and were addressing them with their curriculum, training and recruitment strategies. We have a much different perspective today. Instead, we are taking the lead, in partnership with public and higher education, to fill our pipeline of talent, focused primarily on high school students. We will do so through K-12 outreach, enhancing career and technical education facilities and technology and exploring the use of apprenticeships to ensure our pipeline is prepared with real world learning opportunities. These efforts will ensure that our business grows and we stay ahead of our competition. Jason Green Vice President Human Resources, ABB Motors and Generators Business Unit

What are you doing to try to mitigate issues related to the skills gap?

Today, we employ several of the training and tracking techniques used on our manufacturing floor to the sales and engineering ranks to make sure we are filling our bench with knowledgeable pumping experts. Gone are the days where companies can afford learning by osmosis. Speed and technical superiority have never been more important to the future of our industry. John Kalka CIO, CIRCOR Pumping Technologies

What are you doing to attract millennials and younger workers to the field/your company?

I am increasingly passionate about millennials and it is a subject I think industrial companies better wake up to, and if they do not they will lose. Millennials are said not to do or be many things, but here is what I do know millennials to be: they represent nearly 50 percent of the workforce today so if you are not taking them seriously you are asleep at the wheel and will eventually crash. They are entrepreneurial and open minded and do not like waste­”how can that be a bad thing? They know what they are talking about and are on track to become the best educated generation in history. They love to communicate, but you need to learn how to communicate with them effectively rather than mock how they communicate”thats called being disrespectful and what I thought we used to teach our kids not to do”but I see people do it all the time. They need to be motivated and understand the ˜why before you request the ˜what that you are asking them to do. And when they get it, they make it happen. When it comes to retaining millennials in your organization ”that is if you have been able to attract them in the first place”your onboarding process is absolutely critical and how you effectively communicate their purpose on the team and big picture of what you/they are building is the cornerstone how you will be successful with them and they with you. Learning how to recognize your millennial staff is also important, just as understanding how their needs are different to someone who is approaching the sunset of their careers. But in the end it is not about deciding to have a team full of baby boomers or millennials. The current workplace is evolving. It is not only multicultural but also mutigenerational, and understanding where individuals are and helping them get to where they are capable of reaching is what we as leaders need to be doing. Andrew Yeghnazar President, Blacoh Industries

How can pump professionals help with infrastructure issues? What aspects of infrastructure in the U.S. need the most attention?

Total cost of ownership (TCO) may be one of the most under-considered aspects during capital-investment planning. Every processing industry company must be competitive and most must be globally competitive; therefore investments in infrastructure and processing assets should be analyzed and measured in years of efficiency and uptime, years of meantime between failure and meantime to repair and years of productivity. Just understanding that the first cost for an investment of a new motor usually only represents 1 to 2 percent of the total cost of ownership of that motor during its 30 year lifespan, should drive companies to analyze investments differently upfront. This is why motor performance and precisely controlling that motor is so important, and this is why data is so important to provide the ability to lower TCO through preventative and predictive maintenance and analytics. Doug Keith Large Drives Business Unit Lead, Siemens Process Industries & Drives Division, U.S., Siemens Highway spending has high visibility because it is obvious, and as we live our daily lives it has a large impact on us. However, the infrastructure that is not as visible, but we expect to always function, is the infrastructure we need to focus on. Just as the nations highways and bridges are crumbling from age and overuse, so is the pipe, valve and pumping systems that we cannot live without. The way pump professionals can help with these infrastructure issues is to continue to bring them into focus and try to influence funding and planning sources so that financial support can be properly allocated. Otherwise we face the reality that when we need these critical systems they will not be there for our use. Without fresh water and sanitary systems we go back a hundred years, and none of us want to face that. Tim Ruppert Managing Director and President, WILO USA Stay actively engaged with the engineers and end users in all markets. Focus on TCO support, including service capabilities. All aspects of infrastructure require attention and are getting support. Upgrading existing infrastructure across all markets is the most difficult challenge. Michael Blundell Managing Director, KSB

What are you most optimistic about in 2018?

We are optimistic that we have found the future of maintenance, today. The transformation—whether its called the IIoT, Industry 4.0, or the new industrial revolution—is rapidly underway. Today, few can outthink/out-dream technology. Its transformation is at hyper-speed. Technology has decided that there are no barriers. The time has come for the maintenance and reliability world to reap the rewards of decades of investment, labor and pain. Kevin Clark Director, Global Service and Alliances, Fluke Accelix, Fluke Corporation In the power generation industry, were seeing a continued global shift away from coal-fired plants, towards natural gas power plants. Legacy coal plants require a tremendous amount of water for the cooling applications. But natural gas plants need far less water to generate electricity, and they are almost 40 percent more efficient. This is why almost all of the new power plants being built in China, India, Africa and other parts of the developing world are standardizing on natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) techniques. Also, we are optimistic about a return to stability for prices in the oil and gas markets. Although geo-political issues may continue to play a role on a small scale, the general trend in the industry is moving towards greater stability”which is critical for planning, and green-lighting new projects. Axel Bokiba Vice President of Product Management, Pulsafeeder

What were the biggest lessons learned in 2017, and how will they impact the industry moving into 2018?

Municipalities are looking for value, and this will likely continue moving forward. Budget constraints, funding challenges, and general market knowledge suggest that initial purchase pricing will play a larger role moving forward, where true life cycle costing shows the real impact on costs to the owners. Robert Montenegro Executive Vice President of Water Utility, Grundfos The can keeps getting kicked down the road. When people turn on the water or flush the toilet and it works, they dont think about it. The capital investment that is required to keep things running is getting pushed. The service business and the aftermarket business is critical. If youre positioned as a company to serve that need, youll be successful. Im optimistic about meeting the needs of the country. Jim Torony President, HOMA Pump Technology One of the biggest lessons learned in 2017 is how extensive the use of non-biodegradable wipes and rags “ currently being flushed into the sewers “ is and how damaging that can be to pump stations, both permanent and temporary. I believe that as awareness increases, the industry will continue education efforts discouraging the disposal of such products, while­”in parallel”creative solutions providers will develop mechanical solutions to combat the negative impact of such products within our sewer systems. Gino Mersino President, Mersino No matter if the market is down as it was in previous years or in recovery mode as we have experienced in 2017, we need to keep investing in our people, new technologies, manufacturing capabilities but most importantly making it easy for our customers to do business with us. Caio Langsch Vice President of Industrial Motors, WEG Electric Corp

What keeps you up at night?

What really keeps me up at night is inaction. Those that see the promise of IIoT and smart pumping, but feel that the benefits are unattainable. Being bogged down in the traps of outdated thing, like ˜It costs too much, or ˜I cant scrap my whole process or even ˜Im retiring in five years, Im not going to rock the boat. People with those attitudes dont really understand IIoT or have a real working knowledge of smart pumping. They are missing out! The people that dig into the topics, recognize the benefits and bring them to their companies will be rewarded. Jack Creamer Market Segment Manager, Pumping Equipment, Schneider Electric

What should we expect from the oil and gas industry in 2018?

Regardless of whether it is onshore or offshore, downstream or upstream, oil producers and refiners are facing many challenges while striving to optimize their production, maintain safety and meet strict regulations. I think we will see innovations develop that address tougher to treat waters, but also innovation that helps to protect assets and improve operation. With oil prices being what they are, we will see existing wells looking to optimize their operations to get the most product from their investment and capitalize on opportunity crudes. Kevin Cassidy Global Business Leader “ Engineered Systems, SUEZ “ Water Technologies & Solutions Pioneer Pump expects the oil and gas markets to be relatively stable in 2018 with a continued modest increase in North American upstream activity. Global market dynamics are changing in a variety of ways and we continue to watch them closely for both risks and opportunities so we are able to adjust accordingly. Steve Everton President, Pioneer Pump

What the outlook for the food and beverage industry this year?

The downturn in oil and gas from a few years ago has had a flip side in the food and beverage industry. The biggest expenditure in food production is energy”transportation, cooking, processing, packaging. We have seen a boost there. As companies have spent less on energy, they have made more capital equipment investments. We expect that to continue. Mike Dillon President Emeritus, SEEPEX

How do you see the current political climate affecting things?

Without using bad words, it's a mess. We're still a strong country, however, currently we have two divided parties that can never come together. Talk here at WEFTEC (in Chicago in October) is that municipalities dont know where they're going to get their funding for next year and are they going to get it. Projects are being put on hold indefinitely. Mike Lassas Vice President, Administration, Proco Products, Inc.

What do you see as the biggest issue facing the pump industry in 2018?

The major challenge in the water and wastewater industry is the lack of proper infrastructure coupled with decreasing budgets. The latest American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report card rated the US water infrastructure at D and our wastewater infrastructure at D+. Currently, our utilities suffer from 240,000 pipe breaks annually with an average of nine leaks per 100 miles. Leaks account for over six billion gallons of non-revenue water per day. Water and wastewater utilities are also faced with capacity constraints to store adequate amounts of drinking water and combined sewer during rain events. Walt Erndt Vice President & General Manager Municipal Market, CRANE Pumps & Systems

What else should the end users know about the year ahead?

The booming processing sectors and continued growth in gas and oil industries will boost the pump industry and allow for more competition and growth. This will fuel more innovations and support further expansion in the industries that the pump industry supports. Further economic resurgence will support demands of the U.S. infrastructure improvements, which will leverage the pump industry. Suzette Pascal Marketing Coordinator, BJM Pumps, LLC IIoT is real and it is going to be here sooner than later. End users will be inundated with various predictive devices from a variety of manufacturers. Keeping up with them will be virtually impossible, so picking a savvy distributor to help sort through the array of new smart products will be critical. Randy Breaux Senior Vice President of Marketing, Distribution & Purchasing, Motion Industries, Inc.