Hydraulics At Work

Why Plumbers Are Paid More Than Hydraulic Technicians

Once upon a time, a hydraulics technician was called in to fix a problem with a giant corporation's hydraulic system. Engineers had been working around the clock to get the system back online, to no avail. When the technician arrived he asked a few questions, then walked over to the hydraulic power unit and tapped it three times. The system was instantly restored. The master technician submitted an invoice for $100,000.

Even though his intervention had saved the company millions, the head of finance was aghast at the size of the bill. He asked the master technician why he charged so much for work that only took a few seconds. The technician replied, "I charged you $1 for tapping and $99,999 for knowing where to tap."

You may have come across this little gem of wisdom before--but likely not with a hydraulics technician as the protagonist. I adapted it here because one of my Hydraulics Pro Club members from the UK recently lamented to me that where he comes from, a plumber gets better paid than a hydraulics technician.

Why is this so?

There are a couple of plausible explanations. And they aren't unique to the UK. The first is, plumbing is widely acknowledged and accepted as a specialist trade and profession. Whereas hydraulics is generally not. Secondly, plumbing, or a least certain aspects of it, like gas-fitting, is regulated - meaning the practitioner has to be licensed. Whereas in hydraulics you don't.

Of course, even when combined, these two factors still don't guarantee every plumber running around is competent. But the perception of expertise is created. And so are barriers to entry.

No barriers to entry means anyone can have a go. Which means finding a 'body' to work on hydraulics is not that difficult. But, as WE all know, finding a competent person to work on hydraulics is another matter entirely. And whether we like it or not, the largely unlimited supply of people willing to get oil on their hands can have a devaluing effect on the highly specialized know-how we possess.

HOWEVER, this doesn't mean you can't (and shouldn't) be handsomely remunerated for what you do. But for this to happen, your hydraulics expertise must be less in the 'tapping' and more in the 'knowing where to tap' category. In other words, you must position (and keep) yourself at the top of the heap. To this end, getting and reading "Six Costly Mistakes Most Hydraulics Users Make... And How You Can Avoid Them!" is a good place to start. It's available for free download here.

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