Pumps & Systems caught up with Jack Creamer, market segment manager, pumping equipment, Schneider Electric for a look at the state of the industry heading into 2018.

What should end users know to be up to date on IoT/cyber security? If you did a SWOT analysis how would you describe the industry’s readiness to deal with this issue?

In a word – Everything! There is a great buzz around IIoT now and a strong awareness of the concept, but we are still in an infant market. Early adopters have started making investments and, more commonly, others have started putting their toe in the water. But we are still awaiting to see this market really expand to its potential.

Many are still learning and exploring, while others are more concerned about the challenges – like cybersecurity – and dragging their feet. People need to understand the opportunities for efficiencies within their respective processes and how that would benefit their bottom line. They need to explore the data that can be mined from their machines and how that can be leveraged to optimize their process. If they explore IIoT from these aspects, the answers to the potential benefits to their specific operations will motivate them to action.

Are changes in the workforce affecting your company? What are you doing to try to mitigate issues related to the skills gap? What are you doing to attract millennials and younger workers to the field/your company?

We, like many other companies, are seeing our seasoned employees retiring and a number of younger employees starting with the company. This new group is bringing a digital knowledge and perspective that helps to keep us innovating – unfortunately, they still need to learn and gain real-world experience. We put a premium on employee training and require everyone to meet annual training requirements, regardless of level or departmental function.

We also recognize that training is no substitute for experience. New staffers often have little experience in front of customers and this is the true gap. This is not a knock on the employee, but part of the learning curve that all companies experiencing this trend need to address.

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 Being bogged down in the traps of outdated thing, like “It costs too much” or “I can’t scrap my whole process” or even “I’m retiring in 5 years, I’m not going to rock the boat.” People with those attitudes don’t 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.

What are you most optimistic about in 2018?

We are excited about growth in the coming year across a range of end markets. We have seen some decline in recent years and modest growth in others over the same time. In the coming year, we expect a larger growth trend that will benefit us all. Oil & gas has been the greatest challenge over the past few years and they are poised for strong growth. Mining is also strengthening and Water is positioned well as investments in infrastructure increase. New projects will have a greater focus on connect products as customers have kept up with recent technological innovations, even if they have not able to invest in them until now.

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

We saw the “Smart Pumping” concept take hold in 2017. In 2018, we expect it to drive growth as we move forward. The best part is that this push is not dependent on new installs, like many other industries. We expect to see more people focusing on the efficiencies within their own plants and making adjustments and reasonable investments to realize those efficiencies. More often, customers realize that small steps – adding sensors, adding modern VFDs, or replacing failing equipment with modern, connected technologies – can have a measurable impact on their bottom line.