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How Are We Going to Do This?

Shannon Wetzel, Managing Editor

I will guess that many (most?) of you have thought or said that phrase before in your business. It’s what Michael Hudson, quality and business process improvement manager at Vermont Castings, said when his company embarked on a radical change to how they loaded their outgoing product to be transported to a sister assembly facility (see the full story on page 20). As often happens, what seemed radical eventually became doable and then it was the norm.

Metalcasters are puzzle-solvers. With the variety of processes, materials and tests that are involved in every piece of cast metal produced, puzzles abound in this industry. How should a casting be gated? How will the core be placed in the mold? How can we gain efficiency in our compressed air system? What caused that defect? Which casting order should be scheduled first this shift?

The amount of puzzles waiting for a solution can seem staggering, but it turns out it’s also a big advantage for the industry. As a way to steer the uninitiated to a career in metalcasting, AFS started asking those working in the industry what they love about it. The answers are posted on the AFS website at www.afsinc.org/we-love-metalcasting. They have a common theme.

“Every job is interesting.”

“There is no average work week for me. I take pride in getting projects out the door 100% correct.”

“I can act as a metallurgical detective.”

 “I learn something new every day.”

“Every day presents new challenges to improve quality and efficiency.”

“I am never bored.”

“It consistently challenges me.”

Sounds like hard work, and you love it. But the puzzles go beyond the production, sales and accounting in your business. Right now, the industry faces two difficult challenges that will require a huge amount of effort, ingenuity, and tenacity: ensuring sand casting facilities are compliant with the new OSHA silica standard now in effect, and attracting and retaining a stable workforce.

Collaboration and shared information will be key. AFS offers a number of resources on silica compliance, including success stories, which are highlighted in this issue on page 50. But it is also important for sand casters to speak to each other and their suppliers to figure out effective and affordable ways to meet the standard. Jean Bye writes in her From AFS Column on page 46, “This isn’t about American foundry against American foundry. This is about making the American foundry industry strong. And to do that we need to work together, network, and bring our collective talents together to tackle the challenges.”

The same goes for filling the skills gap. This puzzle will require multiple-faceted solutions but the effort is imperative. Check out Rich Jefferson’s Marketing Mind column on page 48 for some inspiration on being an “unbalanced force” for change.

Sometimes, the solution to the two problems seems far out of reach. The question, “how are we going to do this?” sounds defeatist. But when examining them through the lens of metalcasters as puzzle solvers, however, I picture someone clapping their hands and rubbing them together determinedly. “So, how are we going to do this?”

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