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Education Takes Different Forms

Doug Kurkul

Education is central to the metalcasting industry. When your team members are well trained and equipped with the right skills, you see the difference in your processes and in your finished products.

As a foundry-skills training provider, the AFS Institute (formerly known as the Cast Metals Institute) has a bird’s-eye view of education trends. Over the past four years, we have seen much of our training evolve from classroom settings to digital settings such as courses offered live via Zoom. And over the past 14 months, we have seen a mammoth increase in our Foundry E-Learning product, which has grown from 54 subscribing plants to more than 85 plants.

Another evolution is the role of suppliers in providing training. Some suppliers continue to provide world-class training to foundry personnel. But whereas suppliers were the No. 1 provider of training as ranked in our 2017 Workforce Development Survey, by 2023, the AFS Institute had risen to the No. 1 ranking, well ahead of community colleges, suppliers, and other education providers.

For this month’s column, however, my focus is on another form of education: It is the buyers, specifiers, and designers of castings––in other words, your customers.

The individuals that your customers employ in these roles play a very important role, yet often they have been in the industry for a relatively short time, with little in the way of education and training. Every foundry has an interest in seeing these individuals succeed, since repeat orders and new business will depend on their companies being satisfied with the castings they have procured or designed.

That leads to the natural question: How can foundries best help their customers become well-educated casting purchasers?

The goal is, of course, to become more than a parts supplier but rather to become their go-to source of knowledge. The more they understand what you do and how you do it, the closer a relationship you can have, leading to an optimal business relationship.

The American Foundry Society can assist in several ways.

First, our other magazine,Casting Source,has an audience of more than 10,000 casting buyers and designers. The mission of the six-issue-per-year publication is to educate engineers and procurement specialists on effective ways to design and source high-quality castings. Recipients enjoy articles about casting conversions, award-winning castings, and columns by experts such as Dave Charbauski and Jiten Shah. If you want us to send issues of theCasting Sourceto customers, contact us to set up a free subscription. And if you are looking for new business, Fabio Cavalieri and Jim Grozek from our staff can walk you through some very effective print and digital advertising opportunities to reach casting buyers.

Second, AFS offers a Buyer-Designer track each year at the Metalcasting Congress, which this year is April 23-25 in Milwaukee. These sessions are prepared especially for the more than 100 casting purchasers and design engineers who will attend. The show floor is open on April 24 and half of April 25, and at least 30 foundries will be exhibiting, up from recent years. Casting of the Year award winners will be on display, as well.

Finally, the AFS Institute offers a number of courses that are popular with OEMs. These too can help you provide meaningful education to your customer.