People who work in the metalcasting business, or indeed in most manufacturing businesses, have a distinct advantage over most other people whose daily interactions have them dealing with less tangible matters: their work is defined by specific physical and empirical guidelines, and while this factor is of course limiting it is also clarifying. This point occurs to me frequently in my own work, which gives me a window to the manufacturing sector, and particularly to the work of foundries and diecasters, and the designers, developers, engineers, and other suppliers whose efforts comprise much of the innovation and technological progress that happens there.
I stretch to make this point because I think most readers whose work is grounded in the business of designing or producing cast parts, or in supplying information or systems or materials to those who do, must overlook it or may not fully appreciate its significance. Certainly, there must be some monotony in melting and pouring metal all day, or in forming and filling molds, or grinding and finishing cast parts. For the managers and executives in these businesses, it surely must be frustrating to know that last month’s improvements have become the new baseline, and that the customers expect more of this and less of that. Or, that the regulators have changed their standards and now everything must be adjusted accordingly.
But, if these frustrations are yours consider again the value of definitions, of rules, and of standards. Without them, there is no structure at all. In such a case, the work you do can have no value because there is no way to compare and measure its results. Thus, the effort you make is wasted, and there is no reward — neither in financial terms nor in personal satisfaction.
In fact, the rules and standards that shape metalcasting and all of manufacturing are not rigid and inflexible, but are changing all the time, and these changes happen because individuals test the physical and empirical limits set by science or industry, or human understanding. We know well enough the results of these changes. Castings produced today are more valuable to buyers and more reliable to users than similar products made even five years ago. They incorporate more reliable designs, accommodate more (and more frequent) design changes, and exhibit new commercial applications that had not been possible previously.
Your view of all this may be limited by your particular experience, or by the tedium you’ve endured in the course of these changes. Your window on the metalcasting business may not give you all this perspective, but if your view is limited by the guidelines, consider some of the alternatives.
I take my view of manufacturing from the business sector generally described as “the media.” Everyone, it seems, despises the media, and there are very many good reasons for this. The media is always opportunistic, often unaccountable, frequently unreliable, and typically self-congratulatory. It is a stretch to describe the media as an industry or a sector; over the space of time that has seen manufacturing become more reliable, more responsive, and more innovative, and generally more adept at responding to customers’ requirements and expectations, the media has dissolved into indefinable ether. The main purpose for this cloud of confusion is distraction, the better to sell access to your attention to anyone who can devise a profit from that. And while the media once consisted of institutions (newspapers, journals, radio and TV), none of these operate in the way they once did, defining their value by their success at delivering information and gaining trust. Today, there is no accountability, and because there are no standards there is no foundation from which to challenge and improve the situation as it is.
But, in these pages we are able to draw some inspiration from the manufacturers we know. We hope you’ll see their example reflected in the work we present to you. People working in manufacturing should appreciate that they operate in an atmosphere of accountability and reliability, and that their efforts and success give the rest of us reasons for hope.