The Indian Institute of Foundrymen (Western Region) (IIF) hosted the 4th BRICS Foundry Forum at the Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar near Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, India. The forum preceded the 62nd Indian Foundry Congress and the Indian Foundry Exhibition (IFEX), coupled with the Cast India EXPO, which was held from 5 to 7 February 2014.
Official representatives from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which make up BRICS, reported on the state of the foundry industries in their respective countries as well as challenges and opportunities facing industry in general. The forum is aimed at driving change in the foundry industry with a view of maximising learning between the various participating countries.
Other issues that the forum focuses on include sustainable approaches to foundry industry development, technique refinement, practical approaches to the reduction of pollution, foundry clustering and occupational health and safety. During this year’s forum relationships were strengthened once again between the BRICS countries by discussing the comparative advantages of the countries to the benefit of the BRICS foundry industry.
The focus of the discussions was on aluminium high pressure die casting and global foundry trends. Each country provided feedback on a national foundry level and had to complete a survey on aluminium high pressure die casting foundries in each country.
The 4th BRICS Foundry Forum was held at the Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar near Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, India
The South African Institute of Foundrymen (SAIF) CEO John Davies was invited to join the delegation from several foundries and other stakeholders travelling to India with assistance from the National Foundry Technology Network, to represent South Africa at the forum and to attend the congress.
The BRICS member countries produce almost sixty percent of the total world production of castings, which in 2012 exceeded 100 million tons for the first time (Source: Modern Castings / Dec 2013 / 2011 World Production data.). China (42,5 million tons per year) is the only country to experience growth with the other member countries experiencing a contraction in output. South Africa’s output remains small by comparison at 375 000 tons (excluding grinding media) in the same period, but has also contracted.
India is ranked 3rd in world production with 9 344 400 tons per year, Russia is ranked 6th with 4 300 000 tons per year, Brazil is 7th with 2 859 898 tons.
The official BRICS delegates met first to report on the state of the respective foundry industries after which a full plenary session was held, focussing on the aluminium high-pressure die casting industry, skills development, training and education as well as other national trends.
Mr Mark Krieg, Executive Director of AFSA delivered a presentation on behalf of South Africa.
Some interesting comparisons between the national information supplied is as follows:
- China boasts 5 800 aluminium foundries, with others such as Russia (430), Brazil (334) and South Africa lagging behind with (62) aluminium foundries. The local foundries produce approximately 23 000 metric tons annually, with seventy percent production using low-pressure technology. This is in comparison to 520 000 tons in Russia, 550 000 tons in India and 4 450 000 tons per annum by China
- Energy (electricity and gas) continues to present challenges in cost and quality of supply to all the members. The two main sources of energy to aluminium foundries in the countries are natural gas and electricity, however India uses renewable energy sources such as wind and hydro energy extensively due to the high number of hours per annum the country suffers power outages. It could be as high as 800 hours per annum. Brazil uses more hydroelectric power with the others increasing the use of renewable sources. Input costs however, do not vary greatly from each other. South Africa may even have a slight advantage over India at present
- The public sector is the main provider or training through training centres and universities. Artisanal training is not fully developed in India or Brazil, with their industries being increasingly focussed in the automotive sectors (In India seventy percent of all die casting production is consumed by the two-wheeler and automotive sectors). Significantly, China has 205 universities offering foundry degrees compared with six in South Africa
- Unattractive wages, a “3D” (Dirty, Dark and Dangerous) working environment and a lack of appropriate training are shared constraints by most of the countries
- Only Russia indicated favourable rates, taxes and duties for their foundry sector
- Privately owned companies are in the majority with a trend towards government direct or indirect ownership. Listed public companies are few and far between
- The automotive sectors are driving the demand in aluminium casting consumption in each country
- On the export side only South Africa indicated a figure of as high as 40%. This is compared to China 10%, India 8% and Russia 4%
- The average age of the primary furnace indicated in the survey is Russia 28 years, South Africa 27 years and China six and a half years
- The average number of days per annum that the foundry operates is Russia 230, India 300, China 210 and South Africa 240
“It was notable that all BRICS presentations anticipated future growth to emanate from the automotive sector,” said Mark Krieg.
“The Russian presentation included information of metallurgical developments. With the automotive industry in mind, they talked about developing an aluminium alloy that would combine the benefit of a 3 series alloy with the strength characteristics of the 6 series alloy. This was achieved by seeding with Zirconium.”
“The authorities require car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. In response car manufacturers are putting their vehicles on diet. In the US fuel efficiency is required to double by 2025,” continued Krieg.
India is ranked 3rd in world production with 9 344 400 tons per year, Russia is ranked 6th with 4 300 000 tons per year, Brazil is 7th with 2 859 898 tons
“Big news in this regard is Ford’s decision to build their biggest selling F150 truck with aluminium body panels. Similarly, the new Mercedes C-Class assembled in East London is aluminium bodied, and the next BMW 3 Series is announced to follow a similar path to achieve light weight,” explained Krieg.
“Many cast components (drive train, suspension, wheels) are already well established in aluminium, but there are many more items that will be produced as aluminium castings, for example seat frames.”
“In his presentation Andrew Turner, General Secretary of the WFO, showed that global casting volumes have only recovered now to 2008 levels. Much of the growth took place in Asia while European output reduced. Five foundries in the UK closed over the past six months. Turner believes the automotive industry bottomed out in 2013 and anticipates growth in 2014 and 2015.”
“In his conclusion he highlighted the importance of continued investment, citing the example where the UK aircraft renewal program was put on hold and today they have an aging fleet (with reliability suffering and is not fuel efficient) that will be costly to replace.”
“Graham Cooper, a consultant with Inductotherm, addressed post-recession growth with some words of advice to the audience. He said the automotive sector is the largest user of castings with China in the lead and the US a significant player. But, he said, both US and European companies source significant quantities of castings from China and India. He continued to say that actions that would influence growth in future would be bureaucracy, energy and the availability and cost of raw materials.”
“Cooper continued by emphasising that to gain a competitive edge and to succeed you need people, that your business is only as good as the people who work there, and that you need an involved and motivated work force, a management team dedicated to succeeding, a training program that ensures your workers and management are aware of your goals and ensures they have access to the most up to date information and equipment relative to their jobs,” said Krieg finishing off.
“In terms of productivity, South Africa has the lowest conversion efficiency and this is where our future attention should be directed, by focussing on skills development, training and education, increased use of computational design and simulation technology, plant layout and design as well as recapitalisation of productive plant and equipment,” said John Davies
“One foundry group in India will commission four new foundries this year of which at least two will have very high levels of automation. This is a quality driven decision despite low wage levels and high capital funding costs,” continued Davies.
For further details contact the SAIF on TEL: 011 559 6468 or visit www.foundries.org.za