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Program focuses on NAFTA, quality.

The ramifications of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) generated considerable interest among the 374 foundrymen who gathered in Chattanooga's Marriott Plaza Hotel at the 61st AFS Southeastern Regional Conference.

The theme of the February 3-5 meeting, "Profit through Quality," was an apt one in that a point of controversy over the trade pact has been casting quality and cost.

These concerns voiced by foundrymen throughout North America and the tandem effects of potential job and market losses were addressed by the conference's keynote speaker, Manuel Suarez-Mier, minister of economic affairs at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Admitting to short-term difficulties in adjusting Canadian and Mexican trade with the U.S., he said the American economy is so great that spotty dislocations of jobs that may occur would be inconsequential--considering the huge potential market that Mexico represents for virtually everything made in the U.S. and Canada.

A decade ago, after Mexico lost its ability to expand its debt, severe economic pressures precipitated radical political change, Suarez-Mier said. The result was that the country has had a fiscal surplus for the last three years.

The problem, he explained, was government ownership of key industries. It owned 1155 corporations, two-thirds of the country's steel capacity, valuable oil and gas rights, all communications systems and electric power generation. Almost all are now privately owned.

He pointed out that in 1956, U.S. exports to Mexico totaled $4.6 million. In 1992, they climbed to $45 billion--and continue to rise. Mexico is the third-largest market for U.S. goods and services, trailing only Japan and Canada.

To those who question NAFTA, Suarez-Miller said opportunities for investment in Mexico's expanding economy have already attracted $21 billion in new U.S. investment, wages are rising rapidly as his nation consolidates its economic changes and Mexico is gradually expanding its open trading policies.

Safeguards built into NAFTA--including conflict resolution, rules of origin and environmental protection regulation--make the treaty economically attractive to the three countries, he added.

Keys to Quality

Ray Witt, president of CMI International, Inc. and AFS, said product quality must sustain the U.S. foundry industry's vitality. He reminded conferees that manufacturers such as themselves create national wealth through productivity.

Grouping them with mining and agriculture as the main producers of the nation's wealth, Witt said every effort should be made to unburden these three industries from unwarranted government intervention.

He urged industry to strive for error-free work, establish production teams, educate employees, improve all aspects of worker/customer communications, recognize superior performance and take corrective actions as needed.

Bill Traeger, Pangborn Corp., said total quality management (TQM) has a direct relationship to profit--the cost of a quality program is the cost penalty extracted for not "doing it right the first time." His company uses both internal and external quality standards, with decisions made as the result of experience, facts and analysis.

Traeger said strategic quality involves people, methods, materials and machines as they relate to customer requirements. The dollar cost of prevention, intervention and failure of a quality system is the sum of the lost opportunities for profit, and conformance and nonconformance costs.

Greg Strutz, Ashland Chemical, Inc., reviewed recent developments in coldbox production lines. He reported that the combination of an acrylic binder, phenolic resins and an S|O.sub.2~ gas yields a cured binder that is the fastest system available. The combination of the flexible epoxy and the stiff acrylic forms the most ideal coldbox binder system. Benefits of the system include: constant bench life and flexibility; immediate availability of cores; good shakeout characteristics; no |N.sub.2~ or |H.sub.2~O; dimensional accuracy; no phenols, isocyanates or amines; and less waste sand.

Art Marcantonio, Foseco, Inc., also addressed the pressing need for improving quality in all aspects of foundry production. He said TQM, which prevents defects, must be a total company commitment that has no end. Many quality programs are ineffective because they search for solutions before the correct quality and production questions are asked, he said.
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Title Annotation:AFS Southeastern Regional Conference; proposed North American Free Trade Agreement
Author:Bex, Tom
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:672
Previous Article:Conference focuses on foundry industry future.
Next Article:The next challenge: change.
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