The majority of all manufacturing businesses use castings as input components, and these components are produced by foundries. Foundries can be qualified as the back bone of the manufacturing industry and are strategically and economically critical to Africa for employment and a multiplier in the manufacturing value chain.
The foundry industry is expected to play a major role in supplying the massive infrastructure for governments development programme, it is for this reason, among others, that The Department of Trade and Industry’s IPAP and IPAP2 has identified the metal industry as a sector vital to sustainable economic and employment potentiality.
South Africa has 175 foundries ranging from large mass production to SMME jobbing foundries. More than half of all the foundries are located in Gauteng and 65% of these foundries are located in Ekurhuleni because its historical command of the mining and metals sector. The present reality is that Foundries are struggling international competitiveness, and local production volumes are decreasing. In recent years many foundries have closed or retrenched staff due to the pressures of import leakage.
Within the South African context, foundries are not supplying lower volume parts at the right price, quality and speed as required by the customers such as the valve, pump, general engineering, mining, truck and rail as well as agricultural markets.
The foundry industry is predominantly still an SMME industry, with limited resources and financial means to:
• Perform current process assessments and identification of improvement opportunities
• Scanning, searching and evaluation of new technologies
• Experimentation and research and development
There are various other government initiatives and legislation changes to assist and support foundries such as:
o NFTN – National Foundry Technology Network, Technology implementation Unit
o MCTS – Metal Casting Technology Station, Technology Transfer Partner
o Designation of products - Valves
o Scrap Metal Legislation
None the less, the South African Foundry industry is under severe pressure, and without a solution for the competitiveness and sustainability problems, South African foundries will become non-existent.
When finding foundry solutions, too often the focus is only on the technical aspects. Foundry Concepts believes the main reason for the un-competitiveness is that the foundries do not match their internal capacity and capability with the Customer requirements.
Developing solutions will require a concerted effort not only to develop and adopt new technologies and systems but also to develop business models suitable for the South African conditions, namely, medium to low volumes of quality and price sensitive products; Flexibility and Agility aligned with customer demand; More complex parts; Environmental Pressures; and People Friendly Factories
For South African Foundries to survive and stay competitive, CHANGE is inevitable, this change requires changes in the way we do business; in Processes, systems and technology Changes; and in the way we work with people.
In finding solutions for foundries we must realise that the world is changing and is becoming increasingly interdependent – the fourth industrial revolution is no longer at our door step but is instead seated comfortably at our dinner tables.
It is for this reason that The Innovation Hub has established the Industrial Innovation Unit, which has endeavoured to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of near obsolete industry. These objectives would be achieved through the promotion of industry 4.0 innovations applicable for the enhancement of industrial foundry processes through innovation and design.
Even though silos of speciality do exist, the sustainable development of foundries require a multidisciplinary approach to find the best solution. In this breathe The Innovation Hub has partnered with various stakeholders from across a diverse range of industry, such as the South African Institute of Foundrymen (SAIF); the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN); and finally the Process, Energy & Environment Tech Station (PEETS)