Don’t risk getting stuck in the ‘Iron Age’

WOW!! Is how one exhibitor described this year’s GIFA/GMTN 2019 exhibition and I could not agree more. The adage that it would be more or less of the same as the previous exhibition held in 2015 was dispelled within the first hour of walking the halls in the GIFA section. Then in our first press conference we were hit with the statement: ‘Maturity of conventional technologies – the potential to optimise Die Casting is more or less exhausted’. This was a statement by Jonathan Abbis, Managing Director at Bühler Die Casting in his presentation to the media.

Once analysing this statement you cannot take it in its isolation but have to take it in the broader context of what Abbis was presenting about the future of die-casting and the technology that will be associated with die-cast manufacturing. With what we observed on the various stands at the exhibition and the associated talk around the implementation of the new ‘digital’ technologies in manufacturing, Abbis was not wrong. More importantly this statement does not just apply to die-casting, it will apply to most manufacturing situations. Read about this development and others in the report on GIFA/GMTN 2019 further on in the magazine. Adopt or adapt to the new digital age technologies or you risk getting stuck in the ‘Iron Age’.

This year, a separate workshop on the metallurgy market in Africa was held for the first time within the framework of METEC. It was initiated and organised by africon, an independent German consulting company with its sole focus on sub-Saharan Africa, in close cooperation with Messe Düsseldorf and the VDMA (The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association in Germany). Representatives from various African countries and companies in the industry gave insight into the challenges and opportunities of the African metallurgical market in presentations and panel discussions.

The first session focused on the needs and expectations of German/international metals production, metals processing and metallurgical machinery sectors when looking into doing businesses in Africa (e.g. technology, education & training, competition).

The second session focused on what the African markets can offer to and need from German/international metallurgy, steel casting and metal companies willing to start business in Africa (e.g. market potential, financing, local support).

There is a report being compiled on the proceedings and hopefully we will be able to publish it in the future. However, the belief that South Africa is the only country on the African continent that the rest of the world focuses on must be dismissed. Representatives from Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya were all invited to give presentations at the workshop. A great pity we did not have the time to attend the workshop but we eagerly await the report.

Another development through the VDMA is their Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA) initiative, which is an open interface standard that defines the mechanisms of cooperation in the industrial environment. It enables the industry to integrate its products and its production by information and communications technologies (ICT). In future machines and factories can be redesigned as required by plug and work, irrespective of which manufacturers the machines and components originate from.

Another noticeable change and mostly revealed at the exhibition was the number of supplier cooperation agreements that have been put in place.

This was one of the most exciting GIFA/GMTN’s that I have attended – my seventh – and as expressed by other South African visitors there have been quantum leaps taken forward in the foundry industry and GIFA has exposed us to the start of the process of the ‘future of the modern casting’ process.