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Goodbye

What Stands Out Most from a Long Career

Dec. 9, 2019
Hydraulics & Pneumatics Editor Alan Hitchcox says goodbye.

After nearly 33 years on Hydraulics & Pneumatics, I plan on retiring at the end of this month. I’ve known for a while that Dec. 2019 would mark my last Editor’s Page, so you’d think having all that time to come up with a topic would’ve made this one of the easiest. It didn’t.

So where do I begin? I thought about recapping how much fluid power technology has changed. Even though fluid power is a “mature” technology, it certainly isn’t stagnant. The biggest news is the growing trend to power mobile hydraulic systems with variable-speed electric drives instead of internal combustion engines. Pneumatics is encompassing more diverse applications than ever, thanks, in part, to wireless and remote monitoring and control.

I also thought about covering how much the industry has changed. Mergers and acquisitions have reduced the number of manufacturers offering hydraulic and pneumatic components. But as proof that fluid power technology is not stagnant, many new companies and new technologies have hit the scene. Just look at how many members NFPA has—the highest ever. And who knows what the future of 3D metal printing will bring?

There have also been many memorable moments. I’ve had the privilege of going on plant tours and to entertainment venues to cover fluid power technology working behind the scenes. One visit that especially stands out was to a machine-tool builder in a city located in the former East Germany. I can still see in my mind’s eye when the company’s marketing manager told us how proud they were that they could ship a complete machine in only five weeks from the time of order. He probably knew that visitors weren’t all that impressed, so he explained that it took five years to complete an order when the company was part of East Germany. Score a big one for free enterprise!

This example serves to introduce the most indelible aspect of my career: all the great people I’ve met and worked with. Some of them were truly brilliant. Others came up with a great idea and saw it to fruition as a new product. Still others had ideas that were just as clever, but for one reason or another never caught on. Regardless, this career has been so rewarding because of all the nice, personable, articulate, and influential people I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing.

Being influential is what probably stands out the most because it can leave such an impact that you adopt a similar philosophy. In my case, the most influential has been Dick Schneider, my predecessor as editor of H&P. Dick retired from Hydraulics & Pneumatics close to 20 years ago. But I still get together with him (and Joe Bak, our former publisher) once or twice a year.

Dick was not the kind of boss who tried to tell you how to do things. Instead, he led by example. Time after time I had to read his material to check for any typos or other revisions needed. I found few, but I soon realized I actually enjoyed reading his material. Sure, I learned a lot about fluid power, but there was something about his writing that made reading seem effortless. I asked him what his secret was, and he seemed clueless, as if it came naturally to him. It probably did.

I kept reading Dick’s material, and after a while I began writing the way he did. I discovered how important a lead paragraph is to set the stage for the rest of the piece. I also learned how to incorporate transitions to make sentences flow, one to another. Otherwise, writing can be choppy and laborious to read. Through his example, Dick taught me that just because we write primarily about technical subjects doesn’t mean the text should read like a technical paper.

But I’ve always adhered to advice given to me at my very first job in technical writing: Business-to business editors write for the busy reader, so we must provide content that stays on the point to help readers in their jobs. I hope that’s been the case all for these years.

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