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Shipments, Exports Down in 2020 Due To Pandemic


Shipments of U.S. fluid power products ended 2020 at $18.2 billion. Of that total, 75% of shipments were hydraulics products amounting to $13.6 billion. The remaining 25% were pneumatics products, which shipped $4.6 billion worth of goods.

Those figures were down from $22 billion in U.S. shipments in 2019, of which $16.9 billion were hydraulics products and $5.1 billion were pneumatics products, according to the Industry Brief.

The 2020 reductions in exports and shipments of fluid power products were the result of the COVID pandemic, NFPA president and CEO Eric Lanke told Fluid Power Journal.

“Based on the data we’ve seen,” Lanke said, “the drops in exports and shipments seen in the updated report were largely created by issues related to the pandemic, such as supply chain issues and general uncertainty, which caused delays in production and shipments and limited international orders.”

He said that NFPA and other economists expect that the worst of the pandemic-related downturns are behind us.

“The latest NFPA data as well as information from our speakers at the recent Industry & Economic Outlook Conference show that growth is expected overall through 2021 and moving into 2022,” Lanke said.

Economic impact

As an industry, fluid power has a downstream impact on the U.S. economy, the Industry Brief said.

“Key industries that depend on fluid power include construction machinery, agricultural machinery, automotive (including light trucks), class 4-8 trucks (including vocational trucks), material handling (including conveying), industrial machinery, and many more,” the report said.

Based on 2019 figures, the Industry Brief reported that 26% of hydraulics sales were from the construction machinery market, 14% were from agricultural machinery, 11% were from automotive markets including light trucks, 9% were from material handling markets including conveying, and 5% were from oil and gas markets. Those five markets represented 65% of all sales of hydraulics products in 2019.

The top five markets for pneumatics products in 2019 were automotive including light trucks, food processing, packaging machinery, medical equipment, and semiconductor. These markets represented 32% of all pneumatics products sales in 2019.

Based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019, the Industry Brief estimated that the industries that use fluid power products “employ 847,634 people with an annual payroll of at least $60 billion,” it said.

“These fluid power-dependent employers reside in nearly all 50 U.S. states. The ten states with the highest number of employees are Michigan, California, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Iowa,” the report said.

The Industry Brief estimated that at least 744 companies manufacture fluid power pumps, motors, valves, cylinders, actuators, and hose fittings. Those companies employ 64,936 people with an annual payroll of at least $4.4 billion, according to the Industry Brief.

The figures point to fluid power’s significance to the global economy, Lanke said.

“Fluid power has a huge impact on the world as we know it,” he said, “both economically speaking from all of the industries that it touches, but also in the diverse applications of fluid power technology that are everywhere around us.”

The Industry Brief shows “that the industry is a resilient one that is well equipped to grow and thrive moving into the future,” he said.

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