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Competing in the global foundry market stressed at Northwest regional.

Competing in the Global Foundry Market Stressed at Northwest Regional

Captain George Vancouver probably wasn't thinking much about the ramifications of global competition and its impact on the foundry industry when he sailed from England in 1792 with orders to take possession of the territory that later was named British Columbia.

For two years, Capt. Vancouver surveyed the coastal area, which became known as Vancouver Island. Others followed in his footsteps and helped to establish the city of Vancouver as we know it today: a picturesque city and tourist mecca.

The city also proved to be the ideal setting for the 38th AFS Northwest Regional Conference, held Mar 2-4, 1989, at the Hotel Vancouver and sponsored by the Society's British Columbia, Oregon and Washington Chapters. Some 260 registrants and guests turned out for this year's program and listened as conference chairman Brian DeBeck, Mainland Manufacturing, set the tone for the meeting.

In his opening remarks, DeBeck stressed the importance of metalcasters competing in the global market by making a commitment to both research and development. "Our industry cannot be concerned solely with the domestic competition; we must be cognizant of the competing forces elsewhere in the world," he said. "We need to face the fact that traditional casting markets have been penetrated by new materials/processes, such as plastics, ceramics, powdered metals and composites.

Skilled Workforce is the Key

"As foundrymen, we need to implement new approaches to how we plan to compete. The key to our success rests with people. We need leaders who recognize that the best decision on marketing policies, capital programs and R&D efforts have little value unless our people are trained and committed."

This challenge was reiterated often during the meeting as technical speakers stressed the importance of remaining competitive in the global market by planning ahead. Many agreed with DeBeck that the lifeblood of metalcasting competitiveness lies in carefully executed R&D activities.

The role of quality in the manufacturing equation also was touched on by AFS immediate past president Timothy Hitchcock, Hitchcock Industries, during his luncheon presentation on day one of the conference. His talk, "Where Are You on Quality?" painted an optimistic picture for the future of the foundry industry. However, Hitchcock cautioned those present to continue paying special attention to enhancing quality in their own operations. He said that foundries, like many other American industries, no longer are satisfied with even marginal allowances for mistakes.

"There are many areas in our lives where we tolerate nothing less than perfection," Hitchcock said, noting that achieving perfection 99.9% of the time would allow two unsafe landings a day at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and 500 incorrect surgical procedures nationally each week.

Still, Hitchcock and other industry leaders are realistic about the long-term potential for the industry's current good times.

As part of his presentation, Ken Kirgin, International Metalcasters Council, Inc, traced the changes that have occurred in the North American foundry industry since the end of World War II. He noted the post-war boom and the subsequent technological expansion that followed, citing the rise of ductile iron, stainless steel and investment castings. Kirgin also described how the emergence of offshore competition in the 1970s took its toll on the industry and contributed to its decline in the early 1980s.

On a more positive note, Kirgin predicted continued growth for several market segments, including ductile iron, where widespread exporting to Third World nations continues. He also projected strong gains for nonferrous metalcasters who are banking on the anticipated expansion of aluminum and magnesium casting markets during the decade ahead. Despite the inroads being made by such materials as plastics, ceramics and composites, Kirgin forecasted growth for the North American foundry industry through 1994 based on: * favorable currency exchange rates; * promoting exports and reducing imports; * continuing productivity enhancements; * employing aggressive export strategies.

Other subjects addressed the first day included a look at sand reclamation by Paul Carey, Ashland Chemical Co; an examination of several issues confronting the foundry industry by Dr. W. R. Roberts, Foseco, Ltd; the advantages of small, medium and large nonferrous heat treating equipment by Scott Crafton, Consolidated Engineering Co; marketing castings by Dr. R. D. Warda, QIT-Fer et Titane; and the latest wheelblast technology by John Pokorski, Wheelabrator Corp.

Apprenticeship Awards

The presentation of 1988-89 AFS Northwest Regional Casting Apprenticeship Awards was another highlight. Those recognized were Peter Rychtowski, Globe Foundry Ltd, nonferrous casting; Tim Sturgess, Thompson Foundry, Ltd, iron casting; Lucky Bains, Highland Foundry, Ltd, steel casting; and Glenn Watson, Dependable Industries, patternmaking.

The competition, which began more than 25 years ago, is open to foundry industry personnel with less than four years of actual metalcasting experience. Entries are accepted each year from British Columbia, Oregon and Washington. These entries are then judged as part of a regional apprenticeship contest and the winners are recognized at the Northwest Regional.

Sessions on day two included presentations by John Mortimer, Inductotherm Corp; Richard Groen, Elkem Metals Co; Colleen Meylor, Foseco, Inc; Bill Edison, George Fischer Foundry Systems, Inc; Larry Rogers, Quality Management Institute; and Peter Frazier, Acme Resin Co.

During lunch, attendees heard from John Jansen, minister of international business and immigration for British Columbia, and AFS executive vice president Chuck Jones, who presented an update on AFS programs and services. His report also included a summary of the Society's direct involvement in numerous R&D initiatives.

PHOTO : Four British Columbia metalcasters were presented with apprenticeship awards in

PHOTO : conjunction with the recent 38th AFS Northwest Regional Conference held in Vancouver.

PHOTO : Pictured with the Society's immediate past president, Timothy Hitchcock (right in all four

PHOTO : pictures), Hitchcock Industries are: (top l to r) Glenn Watson, Dependable Industries; and

PHOTO : Lucky Bains, Highland Foundry, Ltd. Also recognized were (bottom l to r): Peter

PHOTO : Rychtowski, Globe Foundry, Ltd; and Tim Sturgess, Thompson Foundry, Ltd.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Merens, Norwin A.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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