Zemarc Corporation has been delivering fluid power solutions for nearly 50 years. A distributor of hydraulic, filtration, lubrication, electro-mechanical, and fluid connector products, the California-based business delivers a custom fit for every application and boasts an experienced staff of engineers to fully support each customer.
In 2021, Manufacturing in Focus profiled the company’s comprehensive solutions, all-woman engineering team, and commitment to diversity. This month, we checked back in to learn more details on Zemarc’s response to industry challenges.
Zemarc is at the forefront of maintaining—and sharing—industry information. This has become increasingly important in recent years. “A very big challenge that we see is the dying industry knowledge,” says Marketing Director Lucy Chen. “People are retiring at a much quicker rate than they can teach a new generation. That industry knowledge has so much value.”
In tandem with this phenomenon comes a trend toward fewer educational opportunities. “30 years ago, a lot of the manufacturers did provide, at no charge, in-house training at the manufacturers’ facilities,” says Fresno Branch Manager Ron Richards. “It was nice to have that available to you, to send employees out for training on the product lines that they sell. Now it’s a little tougher to do. There aren’t many vendors offering that service.”
This in-person training has largely been reduced to one-size-fits-all online tutorials, but Zemarc is countering this lack of educational opportunity with its comprehensive Hydraulics 101 initiative. “We are offering training once a month on various aspects of hydraulic systems like pumps, filtration, motors, power units,” Richards says.
“Accessibility to information is very important,” Chen adds. “That’s why we provide the Hydraulics 101. It is a virtual training, but we’re trying to provide content that isn’t just the canned, out-of-the-box, ‘read this definition’ type of content.” In fact, the information is so comprehensive that the company utilizes it for its own employees. “We provide that externally to our customers, but we do internally train our team on the same content,” says Chen. “We’re trying to be a guiding light. We’re trying to be a good mentor to the industry and show direction and show how we can think outside the box and create that safe space for everyone to do that.”
This commitment to maintaining and disseminating industry knowledge is crucial as many of the industry’s most experienced engineers are no longer available as a resource. “A lot of older engineers are rapidly retiring,” says Elizabeth Meyer, Principal Systems Engineer. “They’ve left the industry, and there hasn’t been as much of a backfill in general in the industry. You don’t have as many younger engineers or even mid-level engineers filling in. That’s definitely something that Zemarc has been very proactive in. We’re trying to make sure we are filling in those gaps.”
Textbooks and articles don’t always cover the information adequately. “I read a lot of textbooks just to make sure I keep up, and I find that a lot of textbooks are really outdated,” says Meyer. “I’ll read textbooks and articles that don’t talk about technology or it’s such an outdated form of technology that, if you don’t know the right lingo, you would think that specific hydraulic components like proportional valves were nowhere as useful as they actually are. And there hasn’t been a lot of upkeep in the industry to update that knowledge.”
People who turn to AI for help may also find misinformation. “That is definitely a concern, because I’ve tried using AI to understand hydraulic concepts or just to double check, and I was getting answers that were wrong,” she says. “If you’re someone who’s learning hydraulics, that’s going to be a problem, finding ways to verify information when you have less and less resources. So that’s where pushing for training and getting better material out into the world is important right now. That way, we keep engineers and technicians informed on best practices and how they evolve, because hydraulics is an ever-changing industry.”
Many of the younger generations in the industry simply haven’t had the opportunity to learn hydraulic systems firsthand. “A lot of times, customers who use hydraulics don’t actually have an understanding of hydraulics because these were processes implemented 20, 30, 50 years ago,” Meyer says. “Now they’re left hanging and are having to reach out to companies like Zemarc to help fill in the gaps. It’s to the point where I’ve dealt with customers who didn’t know how to install things that were very basic hydraulics, where we’re having to go and help explain or help install items for customers that, 30 years ago, would have been unthinkable to ask [for help with]. That knowledge has died out. And because of that, we’ve had a lot of customers reaching out to us from all across the industry, anywhere from agriculture to aerospace, asking as if we can train their people.”
Zemarc will not only train customers on general industry topics, but will tailor customer training to the specific application that Zemarc customized for them. This individualized approach to training is important because the team wants to make sure customers get the most out of their equipment. “We should be empowered to know what it does and how to alter it to our needs because it’s there to serve us,” Chen says. “We’ll help you figure out [best practices].”
Committed to remaining at the forefront of the industry, the company has an exciting new product, the Zemarc Power Unit (ZPU), coming out this fall. “We’re seeing there’s a large need for hydraulic power units right now,” Meyer says. “Any hydraulic system is going to need a hydraulic power unit; otherwise, your fluid does nothing. So, we’re looking at providing this as a solution to customers who need a very simple hydraulic power unit.”
The ZPU is capable of 2 to 10 gpm, up to 3000 psi, features a gear pump and pressure compensated axial piston pump options, reservoir options of up to 30 gallons, and up to 20 hp motor options.
The ZPU is a quick-ship solution, built in-house at Zemarc’s Fresno Hydraulic Service Center to ship to customers in as little as two weeks. This ability to source a hydraulic power unit quickly is crucial in today’s industry. “We [want] to make sure you get your system up and running,” Meyer says. “Right now, industries are moving fast, and we want to make sure that we can provide solutions to our customers that are just as fast.”
The team is well-prepared for this fast turnaround. “We’ll be stocking the components here in Fresno—the various tank sizes, the lids that accommodate the tank, and then the various motors to go along with it,” says Richards. “It will be the basic units, but then we can do some more elaborate systems or circuits depending on the application. We have the capability here in Fresno to do that.”
As the team looks ahead, they will maintain their focus on delivering industry-leading technology and support, as well as preserving the industry’s knowledge base for the long-term good. This requires an ongoing commitment to “age and generational diversity, which is actually one of the larger areas of diversity that hits industries,” Chen says. “And it usually is the one that people don’t see the most. It hits us the hardest, and it’s also the most invisible.”
Zemarc is both supporting the older, experienced generations to ensure that this traditional knowledge base is preserved, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the future in order to provide the most up-to-date solutions. The lasting result will be win-win for the customer, the company, and the industry as a whole.