John Davies, CEO of the South African Institute of Foundrymen, and his team organized an international metal casting conference for the 7th BRICS Foundry Forum, WFO technical Forum and South African metalcasters.
The conference included a number of national and international industry presentations, academic papers, and technical papers. The 291 delegates heard emphasis being given to new markets and strategies, as well as leaders for the future in the plenary sessions. Metallurgy, technology, and processes were covered in industry and technical presentations as well as academic streams.
Twenty-eight exhibitors participated in the exhibition.
South Africa has about 170 foundries which directly employ about 9,500 people. Mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, a total of 25 foundries have closed in South Africa since 2010, shedding 1,600 jobs.
“Foundries need to embrace and adapt to the new manufacturing technologies of the fourth industrial revolution by being informed of the latest research and developments,” Davies said. “While there are challenges, ultimately there is a need to modernize for sustainability.”
In addition, South African metal casting businesses need to transform in terms of human capital, innovation and sustainability to arrest the decline of the sector and compete on a global scale.
Some of the challenges faced by foundries include the costs of compliance with new regulations, such as air emissions standards. They put a strain on small and medium sized foundry businesses, which are also dealing with a lack of off-take agreements and high levels of capital investment requirements due to aging infrastructure and capital equipment.
“In the next Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP), we are emphasising the importance of supporting the metals and casting industries to modernise and grow. This requires support in terms of research and development, human resource development and supply-side support in the form of incentives for the metals and agro-processing industries. Along with demand-side initiatives, such as local procurement designations, this support will help to grow demand,” said October.
“The foundry industry in South Africa is mature and many foundries have the capacity and capabilities to produce for designated sectors, including those that export,” said Ashley Bhugwandin, Manager: National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN). Through the DTI, the NFTN aims to make funding available for recapitalisation and to address the low capacity utilisation through technical and regulatory support, engaging local buyers and developing the industries’ collective capacity and capabilities.
Taking a look at the impact of the foundry industry on manufacturing in South Africa, Henk Langenhoven, Chief Economist: Chamber of Mines of South Africa, said that it is not manufacturing that is declining, but rather manufacturing is declining as a percentage of the economy.
“If one looks at GDP growth in correlation with physical tonnage of castings produced in the country, it begs the question of whether we are giving away too much market share in imports. Or is our domestic base too small? In the 1990s, there were massive investments in infrastructure and in the economy. This has subsided and now the consumption part of our economy is driving the demand for castings.”
Collaboration emerged as an important factor in success for foundries. To this end, sessions were held that focused on information sharing to collectively address common issues and improve knowledge on new technologies.
One common issue is the shortage of young people in the industry and the need to improve skills. The 7th BRICS Foundry Forum, in conjunction with the World Foundry Organisation working group for Human Capital Development, hosted a collaboration workshop with international and local industry players to find practical and immediate actions to drive the growth of the global industry.