More than 1,500 fluid-power engineers and professionals from across the country participated in the Hydraulics & Pneumatics 2016 Salary and Career Report, providing insight about changes in the industry, compensation, and overall job satisfaction. The average annual salary increased by 3%—which has been the average income increase since 2014, according to consulting firm Towers Watson—for a final amount of $95,167. While 49.4% of respondents report an increase in salary since last year, 37% said theirs stayed the same.
Nearly 90% of respondents recommend fluid-power engineering to the young professional. Some claim that fluid-power skills and knowledge are in high demand in various industries from mobile equipment to aerospace, and will open opportunities for technician, engineering, and sales careers. Others recognize it as a niche industry where skilled workers will most often find a role, but should only pursue one if they have a passion or affinity for fluid power. Only 74% think that the potential for salary advancement is as promising as it was five years ago.
Others recommend that fluid-power engineers develop skills in other areas that are becoming increasingly integrated into fluid-power systems. These include skills in industrial electronic controls, PLC programming, and BUS/Ethernet communications. One design and development engineer says, “Instead of just recommending hydraulic components, a big part of my job is designing and developing the control software to work with the hydraulics.”
The survey also measures the industry’s participation in the Internet of Things (IoT), in which machinery and components may output continuous data for monitoring or collaborative behavior with other machines. Although more than a third of respondents say their companies are replacing older devices with interconnected ones, only 34% of this sample looks for engineers that can help develop products for the IoT. Half say their company hires systems engineers, and a quarter says their company hires digital specialists. In addition, only 33% of companies that adopt interconnected devices provide training for IoT systems, which may feed into one of the longstanding challenges of engineering: staying current on new and emerging technologies.
Nearly half of respondents say their company currently outsources work, mostly because they lack in-house services and want to make use of existing engineering resources. Three quarters of respondents say their companies participate in onshore outsourcing, while a quarter reports outsourcing to India, and 11% to China. The most outsourced work is manufacturing and assembly, followed by CAD/CAE, and software engineering/development.
The sample is split into thirds when it comes to optimistic, pessimistic, and neutral outlooks on the health of the economy. "Election year brings uncertainty with company spending. I think it will be a harder year for companies to invest in machinery until a clear path is known from the government on taxes/spending," says one commenter.