Ask Someone Who Knows

Sept. 9, 2004
Casting industry suppliers, and their stake in the casting industry

We set aside our August issue every year to spotlight the Casting Industry Suppliers Association. This is not because these companies are unknown to our readers — indeed, they should be very familiar to you — but rather because they have important stories to tell. We hope that perhaps you’ll learn a bit more than you knew before about the members of this organization, and we expect this issue will be a helpful reference for the next 12 months, a “who-what-where” to help you locate the technology and service you need.

The technologies used in foundries today are obviously complex and evolving, but more important is that they are critical to survival. No foundry can succeed and grow without aligning itself to the ideas, the science, and the service that will give casting buyers what they need.

And, while it’s right that successful foundries get credited when these plans work out right, it’s also worth recognizing that the companies that supply these foundries help lay the foundation for the industry’s progress. Advances in emission control, in melting efficiency, casting quality, and innumerable other areas, are very often the product of research by equipment builders and system designers.

A number of the very best of these companies are profiled in this issue. The phrasing used so often to describe their role in the industry usually reflects some aspect of “partnership.” No doubt that reflects a genuine sentiment, but readers should know it also describes the stake these suppliers hold in the casting industry.

This is a difficult, and cost-intensive, way to do business. While metalcasters scraped and struggled to achieve profitability in the past several years, their supplier companies have been through the same cycle. It’s another reason to give them not just your business, when available, but also your attention. Besides technical expertise, they have insights not always available to foundry operators and managers.

Not long ago I was sent the results of the 2004 GlobalSpec Industrial Indicator Survey of Engineers, which indicates that the U.S. economy is in the starting stages of a robust expansion, one that may not be entirely “jobless,” as many detractors contend. GlobalSpec is an electronic newsletter aimed at engineers that annually surveys its readers on a range of issues, to gauge their outlook on business conditions.

This year, the survey showed that 30% of the engineers’ employers had added staff in the first half of 2004, an increase of 200% over the same period of 2003. Twenty-five percent of the companies have plans to increase investment for research and development, an increase of over 150% that said they’d be increasing R&D spending last year. Roughly 41% of these companies are expanding their sales initiatives into new markets (over twice as many that reported the same in 2003), and more than half the companies in the survey expect to raise their purchases and contract-services spending in the second half of this year.

Keep in mind that these results represent the past six months, but more recent reports confirm the outlook.

The Institute for Supply Management’s national factory index in July rose on data showing strong factory orders and production levels to match. It was the 14th consecutive monthly expansion in the ISM report. An increasing number of analysts are convinced that manufacturers’ investments will begin to take the lead from consumer and government spending, which have been buoying the economy in the past year, and drive a broader economic recovery. As employers add more workers consumer spending will be refueled, and so on.

It makes sense that designers and engineers would have a sense for this kind of thing, so just in case you remain skeptical of analysts and their data, try something else: Find a casting industry supplier. Ask someone who knows.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)