Foundrymag 456 84148brookspng00000056433 0

Next, please

April 14, 2009
Even accounting for all that we know, we must allow for new facts to emerge before assuming too much about the future.
Robert Brooks, Editor

This has been a long winter. The calendar says April, but the gray skies and cold wind seem more like February, and this dismal year has dragged on so that I could be convinced it’s next January. Being one who equates the gloom outside with the grim news we hear every day, I believe instinctively that our dire financial circumstances are made worse by these long winter months.

But, there is a trick to keeping facts or feelings from clouding the forecast, and it has to do with perspective. Writers and reporters know the trouble that follows once we draw general conclusions from our personal experience. Intuitively, we know that we must consider alternative views, but there’s an instinct to make straight-line predictions from current perspectives. In other words, for all that we know now, we must allow for new facts to emerge before assuming too much about the future.

So, while these have been stormy months there are reasons to be upbeat about the future — and upbeat in particular about the future of the metalcasting industry. In this issue we’re presenting a series of profiles of people who are making a difference to this industry. They are operators, executives, and researchers whose skills, insights, and enthusiasm portend success for them and the organizations in which they work. And, they’re all under 40 years old. They’re shaping the future of metalcasting.

It’s a curious detail that this project was conceived as a response to a different sort of crisis than the one we all recognize now. We wanted to present an alternative view to the widespread belief that foundries and diecasters face a shortage of talent. It’s commonly observed and taken for fact that there are not enough young people dedicating themselves to replace the experience and capabilities of metalcasting’s present leaders.

I think it’s more accurate to say that the way foundries and diecasters, and manufacturers generally, have done business (and prospered) in the past cannot be maintained, or revived. And, that how the new ways to do things will be identified and proven remains unknown. We worry about the future because we cannot fully understand what’s happening now. Against the economic gloom, it seems like a crisis.

Cast products will continue to be produced, as they have been for thousands of years, but of course there will be changes. There must be changes. The individuals we profile in this issue prove how much talent is already in place to make it happen.

It’s also true that demand for cast products will not disappear, and that a revival in demand is more or less inevitable.

What’s not inevitable is that the metalcasting industry in North America will have the resources and opportunities to respond to that demand in the most effective ways. Our “next generation” reveals the breadth of ideas and the depth of commitment that are available to create those resources and to shape those opportunities.

Equally encouraging is the enthusiasm of the people who introduced this “next generation” to us. As I’ve written before, metalcasters are familiar with failure. They understand that facts and values have to be proven over and over again. The praise they offer (note the subheads to our report) for the next generation is evidence not merely of the confidence they have in these individuals. It shows they recognize the great possibilities that lie ahead for metalcasting.

Their enthusiasm supports the idea that one can do the opposite of generalizing: one can recognize great potential even if a result remains unclear. What is clear is that the “next generation” is proving that they can carry forward the strengths and values that are their legacy.