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A talk about change.

"Someone once said, 'The ability to adapt is the truest test of a person's intelligence.' With that thought in mind and a new administration in Washington, we'll all get the chance to prove our intelligence."

These words, delivered by AFS Immediate Past President R. Conner Warren at the Sand Division Dinner, summed up the critical predicament foundries are facing and confirmed that how they respond is central to their survival.

Noting new events in social systems, politics, education, society, regulations and taxes that position this generation in a strange time in history, Warren discussed the forces of change and how foundrymen can turn the challenge of change into opportunities.

"We can't cry over spilled milk but must look forward and play the cards we've been dealt," he said. "To some, the future will bring hardship and even failure. But for those willing to be creative and flexible, the future will be tough--but successful."

Warren said there are three areas foundrymen must master to succeed in the coming years. They are the changing role of the foundry manager, the need for an absolute handle on product costing and the need to get involved in government affairs at all levels.

Changing Role of the Manager

"What we need in the foundry industry is more leaders and less managers," Warren said.

He pointed out that University of California Professor Warren Bemis said leaders are people who do things right and have both a mission and a vision. Bemis said companies should look for five characteristics in leaders: technical competence, people skills, conceptional skills, judgment and character.

Warren added that U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf says an organization can't get any better unless its leaders admit there's room for improvement. "The mentality, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' does nothing to strengthen an organization," Warren said. Leaders must allow people to speak up when something is wrong.

Warren also agreed with the definition of leadership as "doing the best with what you've been given and helping others do the best with what they've been given."

Many experts believe flexibility is the key to coping with change, he said. Companies must use information to ensure a flexible approach in coping with rapidly changing forces, and shift the focus from products to customers.

Not only does this mean flexibility in production processes as Japan has mastered, but also training employees to master change. "Remember," Warren said, "the only thing that goes up in value over time is your employees."

Accurate Cost & Profit Management

The second focus for foundry industry officials, besides quality and delivery at the lowest price, is generating accurate product costs followed up by profit management through pricing. Warren said his company has an extensive program that includes constantly refining production standards to ensure accurate costs and pricing to achieve desired margins and profits.

Without active, ongoing programs to verify weight, yield and production standards, accurate costs can't be obtained. Without accurate costs you'll never arrive at an intelligent price. He added that when targeting profit margins, front office managers must realize the difference between running at capacity and running "full."

"When you raise prices, you always run the risk of losing work," Warren said. "But if you do, you'll have the opportunity of replacing it with more profitable jobs."

Governmental Affairs Involvement

"It's more important than ever for us to stay in close contact with our state and national officials on any legislation that is going to hurt the industrial base in this country in the long run," he said.

The basic belief in Washington is company managers throughout the U.S. are greedy and don't care about their employees or the environment.

Warren stressed the need to look your congressman in the eye and tell him that we are not criminals and we do care about our employees. Foundrymen must educate congressmen and their staff--face to face--or else continue to see an acceleration of legislation that in the long run will hurt our ability to provide jobs, he noted.

He concluded: "We have a fighting chance to survive well into the future if we, as managers, show leadership, listen to our customers, demonstrate imagination and flexibility, seek accurate information, invest in our employees and get involved with government at all levels."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:CasteExpo '93: 97th AFS Casting Congress, Chicago
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:A year of difficult decisions.
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