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Looking Forward for Metalcasters

Doug Kurkul

Regardless of the results of the upcoming Presidential, Senate, and House elections, the next several years will bring significant changes to the metalcasting industry. The American Foundry Society (AFS)—led by President Jeff Cook of Eagle Alloy and an engaged Board of Directors, and ably supported by more than 800 volunteers and an excellent professional staff—is working aggressively to lead the industry through the changes.

Ours is a $28 billion industry, built mostly around small and mid-size businesses (both foundries and suppliers). The regulatory environment is unfriendly, as OSHA, EPA and other agencies continue to generate unnecessarily burdensome new regulations. That makes policy advocacy even more important.

As an industry, we employ more than 200,000 people in the U.S., and many more across North America. Many longtime metalcasting workers from the baby boomer generation will soon be retiring, taking with them vast amounts of knowledge and experience. That makes talent acquisition and development even more important.

Metalcasters are experts at making complex metal components and offering them at reasonable prices. In a dynamic marketplace, customer expectations in terms of light-weighting of metals, casting design and performance, and pricing continue to evolve. That means innovation and technical advances are even more important.

Those three priorities—advocacy, education, and innovation—form the three pillars of the AFS vision.

In the area of advocacy, AFS has a Washington office fighting for your interests on more than 25 policy issues. Not the least of those issues is OSHA’s scientifically unsound silica rule. AFS has taken OSHA to court, and hopes, at the least, to win changes in the rule. Enforcement is slated to begin in June 2018. A court decision is not expected until mid-2017, so in the interim, AFS is helping metalcasters understand their obligations. A recent silica webinar set a new AFS record for participation, and a two-day compliance workshop is slated for Nov. 9-10 in Schaumburg, Illinois.

AFS is also advocating for the industry by helping purchasers and designers realize the value of castings. The Metal Casting Supply Chain Summit in February and the Metal Casting Design and Purchasing magazine are channels for this work. AFS is helping educators and students understand the industry through Foundry-in-a-Box and the new Melting Point magazine.

In the area of education and workforce development, the AFS Institute has introduced 38 newly designed classroom courses. AFS also now offers unlimited access to a growing curriculum of metalcasting-related e-learning modules at special introductory rates. Further, a highly informative Human Resources and Labor Relations Conference is planned for Feb. 1-3 in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

To foster innovation, AFS is working to bolster the impact of its research endeavors, boost participation in technical committees, build on the success of the Casting Connection engagement community, provide the best technical publications, and consult with metalcasting businesses on technical issues. Some owners and managers tell me they view today’s challenges as opportunities to shape a better future and be ready when the market for castings becomes uniformly stronger. I have been pleased to see the level of determination to persevere on the part of many industry leaders. This was evident at the Foundry Executive Conference in Utah, where attendance was up 25% and the Environmental, Health and Safety Conference in Milwaukee, where attendance also increased.

That determination to achieve success is also evident each month in the pages of Modern Casting, where readers are exposed to stories about metalcasters achieving success in a changing marketplace. I trust you will enjoy this month’s issue, and I welcome your suggestions regarding Modern Casting and AFS.

Click here to see this story as it appears in Modern Casting