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Four Trends to Watch in 2019

Doug Kurkul

Happy New Year to all Modern Casting readers. At most foundries, 2018 was a strong year and planning for 2019 began months ago. Here are four trends for metalcasters to carefully watch as 2019 unfolds:

Economic Strength
The past year saw the strongest U.S. economic growth of the current expansion, as the 2017 tax-cuts law spurred robust growth, strong job creation, and modestly higher business investment. Today, the economy still looks strong, though the recovery is perhaps a bit long in the tooth. Respected economists say that a combination of skills shortages, tariffs, rising interest rates, and concerns about a change in leadership in the House of Representatives could slow the economy sharply in 2020. This threat warrants close attention. For metalcasters engaged in long-term planning, the 2019 AFS annual Metalcasting Forecast and Census which is published in January provides invaluable information about casting sales and projections. It is a free benefit to AFS Corporate Members, and available for sale to others. You owe it to your business to pick up a copy.

Marketplace Trends
The electrification of the auto industry is advancing faster than many observers expected. This is just one of the marketplace trends with enormous implications for many foundries. Light-weighting, additive manufacturing, conversions from other forms of production to castings, exporting, and reshoring are other marketplace trends that warrant the continued sharp attention of Modern Casting readers at this pivotal time.

Shifting Political Agendas
For months, the media highlighted a perceived split between Trump backers and traditional Republicans. Now, it’s the Democrats whose divisions are about to appear in the spotlight. Some newly elected members of the House majority want to eliminate coal and natural gas from the economy so recklessly that even their party leaders are alarmed that these policies would cripple the economy. The Administration’s regulatory reforms at EPA will receive increased scrutiny with Democrats controlling the House, but they will be safe from reversal for at least the next two years. The real question in Washington will be whether the President and both chambers can come together on commonsense, bipartisan initiatives such as infrastructure investment, workforce readiness programs, and policies conducive to continued capital investment. With many new lawmakers and staff arriving in the nation’s capital without backgrounds in manufacturing, it’s important to introduce them to our industry. AFS is advancing its policy agenda on Capitol Hill and encourages all metalcasters to participate in the Government Affairs Fly-In on June 11-12.

Workforce Demographics
Nearly 30 years ago, a blue-ribbon commission chaired by William Brock predicted the manufacturing skills shortage. Today, as a generation of reliable employees retire, worker shortages are the new norm. Forward-thinking foundries are watching demographic trends while tapping into a variety of alternative sources of employees, including apprentices, recently laid-off workers, returning veterans, immigrants, even recovering addicts. Meanwhile, to prepare our talent and culture for the future, consider attending the AFS Metalcasting Management and Development Summit in Charleston, South Carolina, on Feb. 7-8. Visit afsinc.org to register.

All of us at Modern Casting look forward to seeing you at industry events in the coming year. Let’s make it a great year!  

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