Foundries need to modernise

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Director General Lionel October

Director General Lionel October

Government pledges support to expand demand for South Africa’s foundries as the sector continues to decline

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was expanding supply-side support for local metals and components manufacturing, according to Director General, Lionel October.

In addition, October said South African metal casting businesses needed to transform in terms of human capital, innovation and sustainability to arrest the decline of the sector and compete on a global scale.

A total of 25 foundries have closed in South Africa since 2010, shedding 1 600 jobs. About 170 foundries remain in operation, directly employing about 9 500 people.

The statistics emerged at a Metal Casting Conference held recently in Johannesburg, which included the World Foundry Organisation (WFO) Technical Forum as well as the 7th BRICS Foundry Forum.

In his address at the conference, October said the Government’s next Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) emphasised 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,” he maintained.

The conference included a number of national and international industry presentations, academic papers and technical papers. Metallurgy, technology and processes were covered in industry and technical presentations as well as academic streams, while 28 exhibitors participated in the exhibition.

John Davies, CEO of the South African Institute of Foundrymen, said: “Foundries need to embrace and adapt to new manufacturing technologies of the fourth industrial revolution by being informed of the latest research and developments. While there are challenges, ultimately there is a need to modernise for sustainability.”

Some of the challenges faced by foundries include the cost of complying with new regulations, such as air emissions standards, which put a strain on the budgets of small and medium sized businesses.

Additionally, foundries also have to deal with a lack of off-take agreements and high levels of capital investment requirements due to ageing infrastructure and capital equipment.

“The foundry industry in South Africa is mature and many foundries have the capacity and capability to produce for designated sectors, including those that export,” said Ashley Bhugwandin, Manager of the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN).

He said that through the DTI, the NFTN aimed to make funding available for recapitalisation and to address low utilisation through technical and regulatory support, engaging with local buyers and developing the industries’ collective capacity and capabilities.

Collaboration emerged as an important factor in success for foundries. To this end, discussion sessions were held that focused on information sharing to collectively address common issues and improve knowledge on new technologies.

One common issue identified was the shortage of young people in the industry and the need to improve skills. Accordingly, the Foundry Forum, in conjunction with the World Foundry Organisation, hosted a collaboration workshop with international and local industry players to find practical and immediate actions to drive the growth of the global industry.

 

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