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A tale of two countries.

On the surface, Poland and Mexico might seem to be in about as far apart as two countries can get. Geographically, economically, culturally and in language, these two diverse societies provide a fascinating study in contrasts. At the same time, the situations in which both countries find themselves provide more common ground than probably either would ever have imagined.

The 58th World Foundry Congress in Krakow provided the reason to visit Poland in September, and Fundi Expo '91 in Monterrey was the purpose of a trip to Mexico in October. And while a week in each country may not have been long enough to reach any in-depth conclusions about the foundly industries in either, it was long enough to come away with some strong impressions-impressions about the casting industries in each of the countries and the globalization of the foundry industry.

The Polish foundry industry is well established with about 600 foundries that in 1989 produced nearly 1.8 million metric tons of castings. Mexico, on the other hand, still falls into the category of a developing nation. Its foundries in 1989 produced an estimated 900,000 tons of cast products. Both nations want to be players in the global foundry community.

Poland, like all of Eastern Europe, is struggling to regain a sense of open markets and competitiveness. For four decades under Soviet control, the market for Polish castings was captive and carefully contrived. As the country races to privatize its industries, it faces significant roadblocks.

In his opening address to the World Foundry Congress, Zbigniew Gorny, director of the Foundry Research institute in Krakow, pointed out that, since World War II, development of foundry technology in Poland was done in isolation. "As a result," he said, "we were in principle deprived of access to the new trends and solutions." So, in their pursuit of new technology and modern equipment, Polish foundries are looking for help. They need resources. Resources that are scarce and for which they must compete with other Polish industries as well as other Eastern European countries that find themselves in the same predicament.

In a visit to the Krakow Fittings Factory, a totally integrated foundry, machining and finishing facility, the operating director made it quite clear that he would be very interested in any joint venture or other working agreements. The transition from operating in an antiquated bureaucratic system to doing business in a dog-eat-dog environment will not come without pain.

The prospects for Mexican foundries, on the other hand, appear far more promising and immediate. While metalcasting there remains largely a cottage industry, foundries like CIFUNSA, Nemak and the American transplants along the Maquiladora corridor are changing the face of the Mexican foundry industry.

With the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada looming on the horizon, foundries and other Mexican industries are gearing up to meet the expected increase for Mexican products. But like a lot of American businesses, many Mexican companies are fearful of the new trade rules.

During a panel discussion at the foundry exposition in Monterrey, many of these fears were expressed and questions asked. "What will happen to the small- and medium sized businesses? Will they be put out of business by the Americans and Canadians?" "Will the cost of labor go up because of the growing competition for talented workers?" "Where will we get the money to modernize our plants?" "Will we be forced to clean up our facilities?" "Will we be robbed of our Mexican culture to do business with our North American partners?"

A panel of Mexican government and industry spokesmen attempted to answer these and dozens of other questions posed during the three-hour meeting. "No, you do not need to be a big firm to reap the benefits of the FTA." "Yes, the cost of labor will rise." "There are programs being set up to offer loans for modernization programs. "Yes, environmental regulations will become stiffer and stiffer." "No, we do not have to give up our Mexican heritage to do business, but cultural changes will have to take effect if we are to compete-no more manana!"

The foundry industries in both Poland and Mexico are clearly facing their own unique set of challenges. But their goals are the same-survive and prosper. The same is true for American foundries.

So why is it important to know what's going on in foundries in Poland and Mexico or in other parts of the world? Because one of the most basic fundamentals of running a successful business is to know your competition. With the changes taking place worldwide in the foundry industry, you can no longer just look at Old Joe's Foundry down the block. It is becoming increasingly clear that worldwide competition is here to stay. To ignore it is economic suicide.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Poland and Mexico
Author:Kanicki, David P.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Previous Article:Product showcase.
Next Article:25th census of world casting production - 1990.

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