MAUMEE, Ohio—Scott Campbell, Eaton P.L.C.'s marketing manager for specialty hose and connectors, remembers going through school in the 1970s and 1980s, and lessons focused on how the U.S. soon would convert to the metric systems.
“Here we are in 2014, and it hasn't happened yet,” said Campbell, who is based at Eaton's Maumee location.
And that has become an increasing problem in industry, he said, as companies in the U.S.—the only industrialized nation not on the metric system—often must deal with both English and metric systems. That is especially true in the hydraulics industry, where with consolidation and globalization, it often means that suppliers of hose, tubing, ports and connectors either must offer components in both measurements or offer some sort of adaptor connection system.
“What we have in the U.S. is this mixing and matching of metric and English measurements,” Campbell said. “There's been a lot of work done in the U.S. to accommodate both types of systems, but the U.S. really hasn't gone over cold turkey to the metric system yet, and to be quite honest with you, I can't see it happening in the near future.”
In the rubber and plastics industry specific to hose and tubing, the problem is that manufacturers use multiple types of connections, depending on where they are located. “When we look at equipment that companies in Europe or China manufacture, it's mainly metric,” he said. “And we are seeing a lot of equipment that's produced in China, Japan or Europe moved into the U.S. or Canada, and a lot of that equipment has metric connections on it and not necessarily the inch connections everybody's used to in the U.S.”
With consolidation, some foreign equipment makers are putting transplant operations into the U.S. but using the same design from their headquarters country, resulting in more metrics on equipment being produced domestically.
Because of that, those firms supporting transplants must be able to offer metric connections along with traditional inch connections, according to Campbell.
For example, most automotive plants operate on the metric system in the U.S. and have machinery brought in from foreign countries. “When it comes time to repair the equipment, the local distributor who services those plants has to be able to accommodate connections,” he said. “You have to offer more part numbers because metrics are not as popular (in the U.S.) as inch connections. We have to guess at times as to what you need to have on your shelves. It makes the manufacturers do more legwork and understanding of what those part numbers need to be for us to be put on the shelf at anytime.”