What's your game plan for 2009?|
I arrived at Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort in Canada last month, a couple of days after they opened their new Peak 2 Peak gondola. It connects the top of Whistler with the top of Blackcomb Mountain, 4.4 kilometers away.
When you ride on it you can't help being impressed. But with a price tag of $52 million and given the two mountains are already joined by a common base, I also found myself wondering: Why did they do it?
I mean, the resort has been rated the number one ski destination in North America on numerous occasions. An honor they won again this year, according to Conde Naste Traveler magazine.
The fact they are hosting the winter Olympics next year probably has something to do with it.
But the main reason for them has gotta be about staying number one.
So for me, the 11-minute, gravity defying sky ride between the two mountains was also a dramatic reminder that if you're not constantly investing in and working at staying at the top of your game, you're likely going backwards.
And this is something worth thinking about as we begin the new year - regardless of what your 'game' is.
For most of us this translates into a commitment to lifelong learning; regular reading; acquiring more knowledge and skills - to make us more valuable and marketable in the workplace. It's a strategy that's worked well for me over the years and one that's going to be especially important in 2009.
As I always tell anyone who asks, hydraulics knowledge is a valuable string to add to your bow. With the complexity of hydraulic equipment increasing all the time, the chronic shortage of skilled people and a generation of experienced professionals approaching retirement, opportunities in this specialization are pretty much guaranteed.
And carving out a niche for yourself by combining your existing skills and experience with hydraulics know-how can be very lucrative.
For example, back in 1990 when I arrived in Aberdeen, Scotland broke and fresh out of diving school, I quickly discovered diving work was almost impossible to find. But it didn't take me long to realize there was a shortage of dive technicians - the people responsible for keeping the diving systems and equipment, much of it hydraulic, up and running.
Necessity is the mother of invention. So still broke, I re-invented myself as a dive tech by combining my diver training with my mechanical and hydraulics know-how. The phone started to ring and didn't stop.
The moral of this story is: combine and niche your skill set. If your work experience is in paper mills for example, kick your hydraulics knowledge up a notch and then position yourself as the go to guy for paper machine hydraulics. Specialize, don't generalize.
That's one game plan. There are others. But the main thing is to make sure you have one - to ensure YOUR success in 2009.
Remember, hope is not a strategy.
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Problems and dangers of contained fluids you should be aware of|
If you were tuned in last month, you know about my lucky escape when a support tower snapped on the Blackcomb gondola. A great number of members sent their good wishes in response. So many in fact, it was not possible for me to reply to them all individually. And although it's largely inadequate, I'd like to acknowledge and thank those members here.
A few were quick to point out the failure wasn't anything to do with hydraulics. Actually it was. Not fluid power hydraulics. But the failure was hydraulic in nature.
The support pylon was a hollow cylinder or tube - designed to be hermetically sealed. But water leaked into the cylinder - and froze. The expansion in volume as the water froze created enough hydrostatic force to cause the tensile failure of a butt-weld joint - effectively jacking the top off the tower.
The fluid power hydraulics lesson to take away from this is very well summarized by one of our members who's used to working in freezing conditions:
"It seems that hydraulic principals and Mother Nature led to the failure of the tower. It definitely shows the raw power of a contained fluid under pressure in an enclosed cylinder and the effects of temperature on fluids.
We have seen a similar problem occur in our Snowcat fleet that happens when a tiller is brought in from the cold and removed. If the tiller is left in the warm shop and some hydraulic oil is not drained via the quick couplers, pressure rise caused by expansion of the warming fluid can ruin the motor seals, coupler seals and on a couple of occasions has split one of the motor cases."
Although not related to thermal expansion, another problem associated with contained fluid and which can arise in cold conditions is pressure intensification.
If the cap end of a double-acting cylinder is pressurized and fluid cannot escape from the rod end - due to the oil being so cold it is below its pour point (or any other reason) this potentially dangerous phenomenon can result in catastrophic failure of the cylinder.
To demonstrate why pressure intensification can be so dangerous - and why we normally use meter-in flow control to control the extension speed of double-acting hydraulic cylinder, I've made a 6-minute video of a simulated model. It's explosive. Watch it HERE
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Plant Maintenance Resource Center
Six hydraulic mistakes you definitely wanna avoid this year|
If you haven't yet read Brendan Casey's report:
'Six Costly Mistakes Most Hydraulic Equipment Users
Make -- And How YOU Can Avoid Them',
complimentary copy today
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