We need to change that perception of non-investment that has long been a belief of many

In this issue’s cover story that accompanies the front cover there are two telling statements and I quote:

“In the face of unparalleled challenges and opportunities, business must find a way to adapt and navigate to remain competitive. Foundries producing metal castings, have faced significant challenges due to a lack of technological advancement. Foundries have had to close their doors because they failed to keep up with technological innovations.”

“Foundries that fail to invest in new technologies, such as automation, advanced materials, and efficient production processes, often struggle to remain competitive and may ultimately be forced to close doors.”

These statements are very true and will never change no matter what industry or environment you are in, not just in the foundry industry. During the 24 years that this magazine has been published it has been a constant gripe that our foundries are operating with old and ageing equipment and owners were not prepared to invest. This was certainly true in the early 2000s and continued to be so up until about 2015.

I wrote in my Editor’s Comment in 2001: “The South African foundry industry is in the early stages of change and change it must, if it is to retain its stature of being a major player in the engineering sector of our economy. Long years of import tariff protection and politically based restraints on trading have shielded our foundries from feeling the power of modern technology, skills and huge economies of scale. The “closed” economy resulted in an industry that has fallen well behind the levels of technology and skills embodied in the imports we are trying to keep out and the export markets we are trying to penetrate. Import tariffs and political restraints have created a technological divide that must be overcome for the future health of the industry. The state of our industry and the story of Rip Van Winkel bear some concerning similarities.”

There was one exception though. At the turn of the century Eclipse Foundry East Plant, which was owned by Gary Zulberg’s Ozz Industries at the time, invested in a Sinto green sand high-pressure moulding plant. There was no significant investment like this one for many years. Nevertheless, there comes a time when the capital investment decision has to be made otherwise you start to lose clients because of late deliveries and poor quality. Add to this the pressure of trying to be price competitive with old technology and equipment, and you soon realise you are fighting a losing battle. Maybe it’s part of our national DNA but South Africans love living on the edge.

However, I am pleased to say that our foundry owners have changed and have been investing significantly in their equipment and processes in recent years. Now, in my opinion, we can be proud to say that one foundry can easily be rated the number one foundry in the world because of its determination to invest in the latest equipment and processes to become a Smart Foundry. In this issue there are stories of more investments in equipment and there are some exciting equipment installations currently taking place and others due to start shortly.

But we need to change that perception that has long been a belief of many – South Africa’s foundries have not embraced innovation and technology. Because we are.