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Suppliers learn of new business.

According to Casting Industry Suppliers Association (CISA) President Charles Fowler, we are "in a time when traditional ways of doing business in the foundry industry may no longer be acceptable." With this in mind, 152 metalcasting suppliers gathered at the 74th CISA Spring Conference March 4-8 in West Palm Beach, Florida, to hear ideas on international markets, newfound roles of suppliers, economics and newest trends in metalcasting materials.

Global Competition

Ray Witt, CMI International, Inc., spoke about how to take advantage of the profit opportunities left by the elimination of the struggle against the Soviet Union. He said that due to a significant growth of privatization, a slowing growth of new debt, increasing cooperation between governments and an explosion of communications technology, foundries can look forward to an extended period of economic growth and a changing marketplace.

Witt said that to survive, foundries must realize that no matter how well a piece of equipment performs or how good a service rendered is, it can always be made better by continuous improvement.

"Our goals should be better quality, lower cost and improved profitability," he said. "Constant benchmarking and a total quality management system in running your business can result in a restructured organization and put you in a class above the competition."

Witt compared the American foundry industry's situation to the ideal that a runner runs faster against a strong competitor. "You have good profit opportunities in the long term, providing you make the structural changes required in your companies to survive in the new way of doing business--as global competitors," Witt said.

Looking to Suppliers

George Mathews, Intermet Corp., described the effect international changes have on U.S. firms. In this global economy, free trade must be defined and trading alliances developed, he said.

Besides Europe, Mathews stressed the other world markets that need to be given closer attention in the '90s. "It's time to take a new look at our neighbors to the south," he said of Mexico. In addition to its interest in free trade with the U.S. and Canada, Mexico is moving ahead in relationships with Venezuela, Chile and Paraguay.

The Far East also is a key area for many opportunities in the future. Although the market is protected, pressure applied today will result in future modifications, Mathews said. With the two Koreas coming together, this area is becoming stabilized and its proximity to Japan makes it an important one.

Mathews also touched on the role suppliers play as the U.S. becomes more involved in international business. "Because of smaller engineering staffs, we can no longer buy equipment and redesign it to work for us," he said. "Foundries need to think about the impact suppliers can make and with good communication, suppliers can help develop low-cost methods and provide technical help."


Updating the attendees on the latest economic conditions was Richard Petersen of Continental Bank. He said three factors--high debt, corporate restructuring and population downsizing--are the driving forces behind these interesting times.

Petersen expects a decent amount of recovery during the next year and a half--maybe as much as 3-4%. He also said that current interest rates are about as low as they will go. "We'll see a slow but steady recovery," Petersen concluded.

Material Changes

R. Conner Warren, Citation Corp., provided an overview of the future of the foundry industry. While addressing global markets and foreign competition, management and the impact of state and federal legislation, he highlighted the fact that foundry materials and methods used may take quite a turn. He said aluminum usage will continue to grow while gray iron will continue to shrink, and that aluminum cylinder blocks and heads will replace 60-70% of the automotive iron blocks and heads by the year 2000. He noted that ductile iron will continue to take market share from steel castings, fabrications and forgings.

Warren also believes the expendable pattern casting process will settle into its own niche within the next three years as producers become more proficient and learn more about the process and its applications.

He also pointed out that it seems the industry is more concerned about what the government is doing to them than what the competition is doing to them. Warren concluded by stressing that foundry managers at all levels must be careful in making sure they don't "maneuver their companies into positions from which they can't recover."
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Casting Industry Suppliers Association Spring Conference
Author:Kanicki, David P.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:May 1, 1992
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