Who says our foundry industry is not dynamic and progressive?

I am in the fortunate position to be the editor of two magazines that have metal part formation, metal part preparation and metal working as the primary focus of the editorial content. As a result I do get to find out what is happening in the metal manufacturing industry before most, and find out about the new processes and the broad range of machinery, equipment, products and services involved in the metal processing cycle, as well as the processing of metal, ferrous or non-ferrous, into an end product that is used in our everyday lives.

The progress of equipment and related services used by companies in the industry over the last 20 years has been nothing short of phenomenal. However, as one wonders how there can be more improvements and solutions to manufacture components or products faster and more cheaply without losing quality or functionality, innovation takes over and has suppliers and manufacturers scrambling to keep up with the technology.

Two stories in this issue resonate with the fast pace that happens in industry. In our everyday lives we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology both in the work environment and in our private space. Whereas before our cellphone connected us to family and friends where there was no landline infrastructure, smartphones are now keeping us connected in more ways than one. To become a Smart Factory, adopting the latest developments of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are going to be key drivers in a company’s culture – those that want to stay ahead of the competition, while also improving the bottom line substantially, simply have to adapt.

Just a couple of issues back I reported how Atlantis Foundries – one of the biggest foundries in South Africa – had adopted the new technology and incorporated it into the company’s manufacturing processes. Now in this issue I can report how Pressure Die Castings implemented the system across all aspects of the company. The biggest challenge for these companies is to build the skills so that they can survive the ‘fourth Industrial Revolution’, as early adopters.

While researching the articles I found that there is very little reported about other foundries moving forward with this wave of new technology that is sweeping across all kinds of businesses. So kudos to these two South African foundries for thinking progressively and showing the rest of the world that we are not a ‘third world country’ in our approach and mindset.

However, our foundry industry cannot be described as dynamic and progressive just because a couple of foundries are being participative in the new technology. Gathering the information for this issue revealed that there is plenty happening in the industry. The cover story reveals how equipment manufacturer Endeco Omega have been extremely busy in supplying existing and new foundries with equipment. In another story High Duty Castings discloses how successful they have been in recent years. They have been able to do this because of innovative thinking in coming up with production methods and processes that will not be found in any other foundry in the world. Reports are also emanating from the other local equipment manufacturer – Lauds Foundry Machinery – that they are also busy.

I have not done official interviews nor has there been an official press release sent out by the company so I cannot put the stories in the magazine yet, but I am reliably informed that the Scaw Metals Group has been broken up into three entities and are negotiating for these to be sold off as three separately focused businesses – cast products, grinding media (ball plant) and the rolled and wire products. It is interesting to note that for a long time Scaw were the only company manufacturing grinding media in South Africa. They have now been joined by Autocast Mining, which is part of the investment holding group IEP and has been since 2014, Yellow Star Manufacturing and Naledi Foundry. There is also a strong possibility that a foundry that closed down recently will be reopened to manufacture balls/grinding media.

I have also come across a number of other interesting stories in our industry. Once I have concrete facts I will publish them.