Checking our pulse.
In the last few months, I have taken advantage of my perspective to check the pulse of our industry--from both the foundry and supplier sides. While earlier this year I would have been hard pressed to register a pulse for either group, today's measurement is approaching 50 beats per minute and appears on its way up to a healthy and stable 70.
The reason for this optimism? Because the fire in the belly that drives the metalcasting industry is starting to burn a little hotter.
While this heat can be directly attributed to an economy that is starting to shake off the dust, it also is due to the passion for industry-wide advancement and success that motivates many metalcasters. To understand where I am coming from, take a look at the Letterbox department on p. 12 and the "GIFA '03: Unveiling New Technology, Advancements" feature on p. 38.
Letterbox relays portions of some of the responses MODERN CASTING received to the June issue's editorial question, "Why do you like this foundry stuff?" Reading these responses was like taking a glimpse into the souls of the authors as the passion dripped from every word that was written. To quote one of the responses:
"Casting metal has mysterious beauty ... The foundry produces the most mundane objects, the most critical components of high technology and beautiful objects of aesthetic expression. This diversity, which all comes from the soil and the heat of the foundry, fires the imagination of those enlightened few that know castings and foundries."
These aren't the words of an industry ready to give up in the midst of a hard downturn. These are the words of an industry filled with passion and a pulse that is ready to set the pace for the rest of the metalcasting world to follow.
The GIFA '03 report is a recap of the world's largest metalcasting event that drew more than 40,000 metalcasters to Dusseldorf, Germany. While attendance was down compared to the last event four years ago, my focus isn't on attendance--it is on the suppliers. Despite the pains these suppliers have felt the last three years, they rallied to develop unbelievable levels of new technology and advancements to improve the efficiency, productivity and profitability of every area of a metalcasting operation.
One North American foundry manager commented to me at the show, "I can't walk five feet without seeing robots and other automation solutions completing some type of casting operation." According to this foundryman, the growth in economical "smart" technology has made these automation solutions a must-have for every size foundry to eliminate the dependence on labor that keeps our casting prices from becoming more competitive in the global market.
For suppliers, these are the words they must hear. Many are banking their future on the developments they have made the last few years while their sales and profits were drying up. The suppliers didn't lose their faith in the industry or their pulse. All they need is the action by the foundries.
At this point, the industry forecasts still show a more than 5% increase in casting shipments for 2003. Beyond that, forecasts still expect continual yearly increases in casting demand through 2009. Does this mean that all the stars are aligning for our industry? Maybe.
With foundrymen dedicated to their passion of producing castings and suppliers providing more efficient and advanced technology to do it, pulses and hearts soon could be racing at the sound of full-scale production for the entire industry.
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|Title Annotation:||metal casting industry|
|Author:||Spada, Alfred T.|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2003|
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