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58th Southeastern Conference draws over 500 to Nashville.

The bus, one of several, hurried past the rural Tennessee countryside carrying its load of foundrymen to nearby Spring Hill to tour the foundry section of one of the large stand newest auto mobile manufacturing facilities in the world: the giant GMC Saturn plant. It is here at this ultramodern, million-plus sq ft plant that General Motors will build its Saturn automobile, the car that is meant to carry GM's fortunes for the next decade and beyond.

This look at the manufacturing plant of the future was one of the highlights of the 58th annual Southeastern Regional Foundry Conference hosted by the AFS Tennessee Chapter at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

The Saturn plant seemed to sum up all of the energy implied in the conference theme, "Competing in the World Market Through Manufacturing Excellence." Bruce McMellon, Vulcan Engineering Co, put the meeting into perspective when he said that the American foundry industry "has a window on the world for the next few years because it is doing things not being done in many countries. Our technology gives us an edge, a head start, and those who use it well and aggressively can get a long-term piece not only of the European Common Market's casting business, but also of the unexpected and huge potential offered now in Eastern Europe."

According to Chris Hetzler, Eureka Foundry Co, chairman of the Tennessee Chapter, over 5OO foundrymen, suppliers and wives attended the conference to hear a field of experts detail some of the requirements foundrymen must have to gain their share of the global market. Their common theme was that foundries need to take the initiative in personnel development and technological application to contend effectively in world competition.

Leading off the list of speakers was Fred Kohloff, AFS' environmental control engineer, who gave an overview of what the foundry environmental/safety situation for the next decade will be. It was grim. He warned foundrymen that compliance with all EPA and OSHA regulations is extremely important and that noncompliance can be ruinously expensive.

Ignorance of these regulations is no excuse, Kohloff stated, adding that no one will solve waste disposal problems in the foundry except individual foundry managers themselves. He cautioned that any foundry faced with disposal problems or needing a capacity variance for an extension of time to find a waste disposal site should call Jo-Ann Bassi, EPA, Washington, 202/475-6673.

John Wittman, North American Royalties' Wheland Foundry Div, spoke of the necessity of blending people and technology to win and not just compete. He stressed that high technology is the key to the foundry of the future and necessary for success, but that people will be even more important.

Guy D. Briggs, GM's Saturn Corp, in his keynote address stressed the need to know one's marketplace and accept that it is fiercely competitive. He said that it was not good enough to be first or best; it is imperative to be both, noting that GM learned the hard way as its share of the auto market slipped from above 50% down to 30%. He urged that foundrymen refine and implement new technologies to efficiently execute new products and challenged his listeners to emulate the Japanese in this respect.

Briggs remarked that it has taken five years to get the Saturn plant up and running, unlike the Japanese who can get a new car into production in as little as 23 to 30 months. Timing is critical, he said, noting that greater production discipline and shorter design periods are opportunities for the casting industry.

He also spoke of the need for cooperation among management, unions and suppliers as integral parts of the flexibility required to get to the market fast with a good product. He cited his plant's extensive use of expendable foam pattern casting as a production process enabling Saturn to reduce costs and speed product delivery.

Worship your production schedules, Briggs said, and keep your processes as simple as possible. In a world where market segments are shrinking, the race will surely go to the producer who is quick and precise in his market response. me
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bex, Tom
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Previous Article:Lessons of the '80s set stage for competing in the '90s.
Next Article:Manufacturing in a fishbowl.

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