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A better position than the industry perceives

WFO President for 2022 and 2023, Dr Carsten Kuhlgatz, former CEO of HA Group, tells Foundry Trade Journal about his vision for the industry and the World Foundry Organization as it braces itself for a new phase.

We are living in challenging times, for more than two years the Covid pandemic has defined our daily lives. It not only affected us as human beings, but also brought the global economy to a temporary stop. We are still feeling the effects today. And now the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have been added to the mix. Global supply chains have been disrupted even more. Raw materials and finished goods are unavailable or are late to consumers. Further halts in production are the result, as we are seeing right now in the automotive industry due to the chip and raw material shortage. Prices for energy and raw materials are rising to dramatic levels and at a speed that no one expected or calculated for.

The situation is different when it comes to the challenges our foundry industry is already facing today. The transformation of the automotive industry from combustion engine to electric engine is challenging the business model of some large foundries. The pace of digitalisation may be difficult for many small and medium-sized foundries to keep up with, and of course climate change is demanding a shift in production and products to CO2-neutral processes and raw materials.

However, the foundry industry is an important and active part of transformation and sustainability.

  • Without casting housings for the electric motor and tubs for the batteries, the transformation of automobiles to e-mobility would not be possible.
  • Our expertise in the production of rotor hubs and other components for wind turbines is in high demand.
  • We enable the increased generation of electricity from regenerative sources.

Recycling and complete material cycles are also nothing new for us, rather have been lived in practice for centuries. Whether it’s melting down scrap and remelting aluminium, recycling greensand, or regenerating moulding and core sands: our know-how provides the basis for optimised resource conservation. To position our industry optimally among stakeholders, we need global co-operation and the exchange of know-how. This is what the World Foundry Organization (WFO) stands for. Networking is the main task of the WFO. Video conferences are useful and helpful. They have made it possible to maintain at least two-dimensional contact. However, they cannot be used to capture the mood of the other person and replace face-to-face professional relationships. Nevertheless, video conferences will continue to be a big part of our daily work in the future. Speaking about the future. Those in charge at the WFO – namely the team of general secretaries, the executive committee, and myself as president – are finally looking to get back on track. This year, in October, the World Foundry Congress is to be held in Korea. There, I hope to welcome many people of the foundry family in person. The organisers have put together an interesting program.

This year‘s World Foundry Congress is also important for the WFO for another reason. The long-planned change in the team of general secretaries will take place there. Andrew Turner will hand over the baton to José Javier González, who has been working his way into this position for several years now. He is well prepared and ready for the new role. Fortunately, Andrew will be involved with the WFO for some time to support José Javier, for which we are very grateful. This will ensure that we do not lose contact with our member associations. In order to fulfill this task, we want to continue to improve communication with the member associations. We are planning quarterly meetings. The current situation in the individual countries will be presented there. General questions and wishes for the WFO and its member associations are to be addressed. Our strategy has long been to collect important key statistics from the foundry industry and publish them regularly. Not just once a year. We want to increase this again, knowing that the relevant figures are not known everywhere. Even the smallest statistics are valuable for others.

Coming back to the main task of the WFO. Networking is what we offer at our conferences. The young scientists are our future. They develop the new technologies. What could be more obvious than to organise a special congress just for young scientists. However, we do not want to hold this congress in person, but digitally. The best presentations will then be awarded prizes at next year‘s GIFA. Despite all the challenges, I am optimistic that the foundry industry will also master this change. After all, casting has been existing for more than 5,000 years for good reasons and will still exist in 1,000 years. I am sure, in many areas, we are in a better position than we sometimes perceive ourselves to be.