Pumps & Systems staff spoke with Wilo USA managing director and president Tim Ruppert about the state of the industry for 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?

As witnessed by the high profile hacks we have seen in the past few years, the threat is real. As digitization becomes more integrated into how we do business, the more the threat becomes an issue. All of us need to be more diligent in our awareness of the issue this is becoming.

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?

Changes in the workforce are evident everywhere, but we have really seen it go beyond an age difference. The pump industry has drastically changed how workers are trained; 20 years it ago it was comprehensive, and now we are seeing that a lot of training is done through e-learning. It is where digitization is taking us, but we are always looking for people that are passionate about learning through their previous experience and utilizing previous relationships and accomplishments. That goes a long way towards building a valuable and stable workforce, regardless of how they are trained or whether they are just out of college or 15 years on the job!

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

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 nation’s 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.

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

Oil and gas are definitely drivers of the economy, and it is likely that we will see an upturn in demand which will hopefully stir up a good deal of job-related activity.

What keeps you up at night?

My biggest concern is that we will continue to ignore the problem of an aging infrastructure and pass the issues down to the next generation, as we have for the past 25 years.

What are you most optimistic about in 2018?

Industry growth! Also that demand will overcome any resistance to that growth.

What else should the end users who read Pumps & Systems know about the year ahead?

Wilo USA acquired Scot Pump and Weil Pump in March of 2017, so next year we will be in full swing as one united family of companies. Each name brings a reputation of quality and customer service, so together we are at the top of the game in the industry. With facilities in Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida and headquarters in Illinois, we are primed for even further growth. We have a stable team on board and a lot of exciting things coming up around the corner. Keep watching us!

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

Ultimately it is all about customer satisfaction and providing system solutions, rather than just a piece of equipment. As the market as a whole continues to change, so do the suppliers to that segment. Digitization is driving change, and Wilo continuously is looking at ways we can change to meet the demands of the market.