Adapting to a Changing World

Aug. 14, 2013
Still making neat stuff Industry full of hard-working, dedicated, engaged people

My father, Walt Bade, was a lifelong foundryman, 38 years in the business all at one specialty foundry in Sandusky, Ohio.  I remember going into his foundry as a teenager.  Neat stuff: big spun-cast paper machine rolls, some up to 60 tons in cast weight.

At the time, I had no idea this was a foretelling of things to come.  I joined Allied Mineral Products, Inc. in 1985, and began calling on foundries in earnest.  These foundries were located in such unassuming places as San Angelo, El Campo, Eastland, Port Arthur, Lufkin, Tyler, and Ft. Worth.  I look back now and wonder, “How did I do it without a cell phone, laptop, or Garmin?”

Today, many of these foundries are no more, done in for a variety of reasons.  Regardless, it was tough on the foundrymen, their families, and the suppliers who supported their efforts.  Many “unassuming places” will never be the same.

There are many enduring foundries, however that have adapted to changing casting demand, new opportunities, or a new reality.

I visited one recently, a small iron foundry in Houston.  I shook hands with John, who I first met in the late 1980s.  He is still making iron castings every week, just like he has done for over 40 years now.  And John is not done making castings yet!

My father’s old foundry is surviving, too.  They don’t make as many paper-rolls anymore, not in this new Internet age, but they are still making neat stuff. It’s just different “neat stuff.”

Adapting, growing and surviving in an ever changing, and now global marketplace.  Participating actively in associations like the American Foundry Society (AFS), or the Casting Industry Suppliers Association (CISA), has never been more important.

The AFS presents numerous learning and networking opportunities relating to technology and innovation, best practices, government affairs, and EH&S.  These are excellent programs with benefits to both foundries and foundry suppliers. 

The Casting Industry Suppliers Association is the only trade association in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the companies that make and supply the diverse machines, furnaces, and the vast array of consumable products required by metalcasters.

CISA too is a survivor, and it is adapting to the changing world.  Our focus is to serve metalcasters: our customers.  How do we do that?  By being a learning organization. By understanding, supporting, and matching their efforts at sustainability, benchmarking, best practices, innovation, engagement, networking, and safety. By engaging and working with Gen X, Gen Y, human resources, management, … by establishing and strengthening relationships, and most important, friendships.

Our industry is full of hard-working, dedicated, engaged people.  This was true during my father’s 38-year career, and it’s been true as well during my 34-year (and counting) association with metalcasters.  We are an industry of alliances and friends … foundry-to-foundry, foundry to supplier, and supplier to supplier.  We rely on each other. 

Together, metalcasters and suppliers can continue to plant the seeds for our companies’ and industry’s enduring sustainability, by our continued active participation in associations such as AFS and CISA.

When I “retire” my hardhat, greens, and steel-toes, I will miss this special industry of friends, just like my father before me.

James M. Bade

President, Casting Industry Suppliers Assn.

Jim Bade is the vice president of Sales Administration for Allied Mineral Products, a global manufacturer of monolithic refractories and precast shapes. Allied offers a variety of refractory system designs that can be supported globally by its sales and service networks.