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AFS: Building Value Through Industry Connections

Jean Bye

The foundry industry continues to face rapidly evolving challenges. We are dealing with recruiting and talent shortages, the new silica standards, competitive pressures, and the need for automation, as well as figuring out how to best utilize manufacturing data and evolve toward smart factories, all while keeping an eye on transformational change coming in the way of additive processes. It can seem overwhelming with so much unknown in front of us.

And yet, it can be exciting, as well. The tired, old, dirty foundry of 50 years ago is evolving into something unrecognizable with automation, process controls, robotics, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence.

How do we move past seeing it as an overwhelming volume and speed of change and into seeing the exciting potential it brings? I believe the answer to that question is AFS. AFS brings us connectedness and collaboration. It brings the opportunity to learn from one another and to innovate our way to a strong American foundry industry. Any one of us alone will struggle to navigate these challenges. But we can harness the power of working together to continue being the industrial powerhouse that is our heritage.

Certainly, AFS plays a role in offering education and innovation and advocating for us. But more importantly it brings us together—to talk, to learn to support one another, and to grow together.

If we look at the talent void, AFS offers classes and collaborates with FEF (Foundry Educational Foundation) to reach students at all levels. But AFS alone cannot create the industry image needed to draw students into our field. That takes every foundry working locally and in partnership with AFS to build the visibility that will draw talent to our industry.

The silica issue is a perfect example of foundries drawing together to support a common platform and to impact the final interpretation of the regulations by working directly with lawmakers and staff.  

This past year we had a fire at Dotson. We were unable to produce for five weeks. It is by far the largest challenge our company has faced in its 142-year history. The connections we had through AFS played an integral role in our recovery. Even before our recovery was complete, we were able to pay it forward to assist another foundry through their challenges.  

Some might question that rather than support one another, we should let some foundries die. I challenge that thought and offer that we need a strong American foundry industry to support strong manufacturers and suppliers in America. 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.  

Membership in the American Foundry Society provides the forum for developing industry connections and collaboration. I would strongly advocate the idea that all of us in the industry have both the opportunity and the obligation to get involved, to show up, to be an active participant in not only supporting our individual foundries’ interests, but in helping build a strong American foundry industry.  

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