Interview With Patricio Gil, CEO of Blackhawk Mexico and New President of AFS


Congratulations on your new position of AFS president! Being that you are originally from Mexico, how did you first get involved with the AFS and how did this evolve into becoming AFS president?
AFS is a North American organization so even though we are located in Mexico, AFS is always our best reference for technical information, congress, courses, exposition, etc.

I started working in the foundry industry 32 years ago and my first contact with the AFS was as a visitor to an AFS CastExpo approximately 20 years ago.

Then in 2004 I was invited by the Ductile Iron Society as a speaker at a congress in Philadelphia, and my presentation was a Cost Comparison of Producing Castings in Mexico vs the U.S.
After that initial participation in a congress in the U.S. I received more invitations to talk at different AFS congresses, and one day in 2008 I received an invitation to join the Foundry Educational Foundation (FEF) Board of Directors. FEF is a very important organization linked to AFS where I met some of the key executives leading the foundry industry in the USA.

After that, I received an invitation to join the AFS Board of Directors from 2009-2014 and after that I was appointed as 2nd Vice President in 2015 to be AFS President for 2017–2018.

What does this new position mean for you personally, and what would you like to see accomplished during your time as AFS president? 
The AFS was founded in 1896, 121 years ago; and I have the enormous privilege to be the first president who is not a citizen of the U.S. 

Since I was invited to join the AFS Board of Directors back in 2009, I felt very excited with the opportunity because I was the first Mexican ever to be invited to join the Board of Directors, so as you can imagine, being assigned AFS President is a great responsibility and honor for me and very important achievement in my professional career.

These are some of the main challenges I would like to see accomplished or at least moving towards them during my term:
Continue offering support and guidance to universities and research labs regarding the needs of the foundry industry so they may align their research resources accordingly.
Develop tools and material to support the new generations of foundry people so we may continue developing and attracting technical talent for our industry.
Permanent voice and presence with the government trying to influence new regulations regarding environment and safety with the intention to avoid unfair competition with other regions of the world who may export to North America.
Work together with other North American technical associations related to the foundry industry in order to make a more efficient use of our resources and the time and talent of all the people involved.
See other Mexicans participating and contributing to AFS so the opportunity for more Mexicans on the Board of Directors and eventually another Mexican president continues.

During times of political uncertainty, how do you think American foundries will develop in the Trump era?
I believe the main challenges for the foundry industry currently are how to attract and retain talent, how to remain competitive, how to influence overregulation from government and how to fulfill current regulation.

One of the main problems with governments is the uncertainty because if we do not see a clear and consistent message it is difficult to anticipate actions and almost impossible to define long term strategies. I believe President Trump is more a businessman than a politician so I believe he will promote and support manufacturing and it will be good for the foundry industry. I believe he will not do anything that may harm the foundry industry.

How do you judge the chances for additive manufacturing in the U.S?
I think additive manufacturing is a great technology, still underutilized for the foundries and casting users but it will put an increasing pressure to reduce the life cycle of products.
For several decades the foundry industry in general plays a very passive role in terms of casting design. Foundries produced castings based on designs, drawings and specifications provided by customers so the possibility for the foundries to participate and improve casting designs was very limited because the link between the casting user and the foundry almost does not exist.

Additive manufacturing is allowing customers and foundries to see casting prototypes and models before big pattern investment is done so users and foundries may work together to improve casting designs and also provide more versions to customers for specific applications.

This technology is increasing the variety of products in the market and as a consequence is reducing the production volumes per piece because now we have much more options and versions of products.

As we all know, “each new solution brings new problems,” so this new technology implies for a given foundry to increase the number of patterns to keep the same level of volume and to develop design, machining and testing skills to be able to make proposals to customers. No passive foundries anymore. The foundry of the future needs to be near the customer offering casting design solutions and high flexibility in terms of volumes, materials and value added operations. 

What is the future of E-mobility in America and what does that mean for the American Foundry?

I believe E-mobility is a world trend so we will continue see a steady growth on the market share for electric vehicles in America as well in the rest of the world.

Electric vehicles are eliminating or dramatically modifying some traditional subsystems of the vehicles such as the engine, transmission and drive train but at the same time is creating opportunities for new type of components and materials used on the new vehicles.

E-mobility is creating opportunities for light materials such as nonferrous alloys as well as new lighter materials currently being developed using nanotechnology. AFS plays a key role among the users, the foundries and the research centers.

How has the foundry industry in Mexico developed, and what do you think the future holds for this industry in your country?
One of the most important markets for metal castings are the automotive and commercial vehicle industries and those industries are growing a lot in Mexico over the last years and the expectations for the coming years are also very positive.

Additionally, Mexico has free trade agreements with more than 40 countries plus its great geographic location and availability of people and resources. All of these combined help a lot to consider Mexico as the right place to export to other world regions.

As a consequence, a lot of companies are building production plants in Mexico and foundries are not the exception; since foundries are growing and increasing capacity the level of technology installed in the main Mexican foundries is technically updated and very competitive.

One of the main challenges the Mexican foundries are facing is the development of skilled people and specialized talent because demand for good people is high. One additional challenge is the environmental control because regulation is more difficult every time as it is in the rest of the industrialized countries.