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Expectations for Growth

Doug Kurkul

As the American Foundry Society rolled out its annual economic forecast in January, the numbers were more encouraging than in recent years. AFS is projecting sales growth of 4.7% in 2018, followed by another 1.8% growth in 2019, for the overall market. Coming on the heels of an estimated 2.7 percent growth in 2017, the industry is looking at its strongest three-year period of rising sales in quite some time.

Auto sales are generally projected to back off slightly from recent high-water marks, which has implications for metalcasters whose business is primarily auto-related. But many other end-markets for complex castings are in upward trends. The AFS-backed tax reform law should drive more business investment. If Congress increases infrastructure investment, that too could be a welcome shot in the arm.

Concurrent with sales growth, it’s a good time to grow the skills base on your foundry floor. Recent AFS surveys show the skills shortage remains a major challenge. Vacancies can be difficult to fill. Some applicants fail drug tests, or quickly lose interest in the job. Therefore, each employee who shows up on time and demonstrates an ability to do the vital work of the foundry is increasingly valuable.

If an employee understands there is potential for career stability and growth, and that the employer is willing to invest in training, the employee is much more likely to make your company a long-term place of employment. With improved training, casting defects go down, and productivity goes up.

Training from the AFS Institute is no longer hours and hours of lecture. All Institute courses are now highly interactive and skills based, meaning your workers return more skilled and more confident. Moreover, the same skills-based principles are at work with e-Learning from the Institute—in English and Spanish.

In addition to investing in your company’s human capital, take some time to invest in your own growth. Metalcasting Congress 2018 in Fort Worth, from April 3-5, offers just such an opportunity.

Keynote speaker Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation was a senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign in 2016, and was deeply involved in policy discussions that shaped the new tax-reform law. He is in a unique position to deliver insight on the economic opportunities and risks that lie ahead. Jean Bye of Dotson Iron Castings is poised to become the first female president of AFS in April. She has guided her company through the recovery following a serious fire, and thanks to AFS and its Iron Division, she will share what she and her company learned through this experience. Dan Oman of Haley Aldrich, who has spent most of his career equipping clients to navigate environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks, will deliver the Hoyt Memorial Lecture.

Metalcasting Congress will also feature exhibits from premier suppliers, and dozens of technical sessions that are certain to capture your imagination and enhance your success. Two marketing experts who have never before addressed Metalcasting Congress will be speaking, and there will be compelling programs from Future Leaders in Metalcasting, Women in Metalcasting, and the HR Committee. The AFS Institute will be offering courses, as well. We look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth!

Click here to see this story as it appears in the February 2018 issue of Modern Casting