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A tripartite team navigates a global course

Whilst people are at the very heart of the World Foundry Organization (WFO), an ability to listen to genuine industry needs is cited as the most important attribute, says the man who will soon be the chief administrator of the world’s leading authoritative body for the foundry sector.

“We know this organisation will soon be celebrating its first 100 year-anniversary, a really long period where it has evolved accompanying the changes in the world and the industry, as it will continue to do in the future,” Jose Javier Gonzalez tells Foundry Trade Journal. “Regarding the most relevant skill here, I believe this is to be able to listen to the industry. The Executives and the rest of the WFO stakeholders offer a connection between the organisation and the situation in the sector, identifying in our business strategy the next steps to be taken for the WFO to advance side by side with global foundry companies. Our different working groups are also a powerful tool for us to identify and meet very real industrial needs.”

Gonzales is speaking as he and his fellow secretariat team embark on the latest version of the WFO’s strategic plan – a plan that is revised and updated regularly to ensure the organisation meets the needs of those “at the sharp end” in foundries, supply companies, academia and member organisations in all parts of the world and all sectors of the cast metals industry. This is a pivotal time for the WFO, as general secretary EurIng Andrew Turner takes a further step back enabling his successor Jose Javier Gonzalez, to transition into the role at the head of the organisation. Turner is keen for the move: “Like any organisation, change occurs steadily over a period, and in the last five years we have been working with a talented secretariat team. This has meant we have seen big changes and significant improvements within the WFO. But it is time for a new leader from within that team to instigate fresh ideas and lead the integration of those into the structure of the WFO.”

A three-fold secretariat team of Turner (UK), Gonzalez (Spain) and Jerry Call (USA) have worked in unison in recent years, alongside a dynamic and supportive executive board, working groups and the general assembly, representing all the WFO’s national membership organisations, to ensure the organisation remains focussed on the global industry’s needs and, above all, ‘relevant’. Gonzalez explains: “The WFO is a worldwide organisation representing more than 30 countries, we work to ensure a proper co-ordination in our strategies, engaging our members and listening to our stakeholders. Our secretariat team is very much at the core of this complex relationship and business model, trying to act as an antenna which listens to the global needs and amplifies the results. That is why having an enthusiastic and collaborative secretariat team is so relevant for us. “This is a passionate industry, and we need a very good level of engagement with all our stakeholders to have this shared passion at the core of our activity. The proactive role of the national foundry associations inside the organisation is key. Our previous strategic plans have also made the organisation evolve, creating new tools as a response to the requests from the global representatives. A good example is the World Foundry Summit, which enables our global leaders to connect with each other and to update some strategic knowledge that complements the technical scope of our other global events.”

The WFO has continued to evolve in recent years and has grown somewhat from the organisation Turner went to work for in 2000, but he is delighted with the response from industry and the support from those within the WFO and in companies around the world. “I think the biggest development in the 20 years that I have been working within the WFO has been the use of information technology and social media,” he says. “The ability to interact in real time with the 30 diverse countries that we are proud to have as members is something that was not so easy at the end of the last century. Information is key to services that the WFO provides and the greater ability now to gather and distribute this has been vital in our development. “We have also in the last few years achieved a working partnership, with the executive board, that means we can leverage the knowledge and contacts of this incredible team of international business leaders and academics, to the benefit of the wider organisation.”

Indeed, the manner in which the WFO communicates with members, the global industry and the wider industrial landscape has been revolutionised in recent years. Jerry Call has been instrumental in driving a co-ordinated traditional and digital communications strategy and is delighted with how this has been received. “Our social media engagement with the industry has provided guidance for future development in this medium to which members of the foundry and supplier community increasingly turn for news and information,” he tells Foundry Trade Journal. “Going forward, the WFO will focus social media on key topics identified by our followers as having the greatest impact on their businesses in the future. The shift to greater integration and leveraging of additive manufacturing (AM) by our industry and how foundries can realise maximum benefit from AM, the rapid development of E-mobility, pressure to move more rapidly to renewable energy, and attracting and retaining youth to our industry, top the list of priority topics.”

The digital revolution at the WFO is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the past couple of years and Call says member associations and the companies they represent have responded well to the organisation’s endeavours in this venture: “Our working groups, headed up by Jose Javier of the secretariat team, are active and providing great value to the participants as well as the companies they represent. Members of the working groups have seen the value and synergy resulting from these virtual meetings that have expressed a desire for more opportunities to interact, exchange information, and collaborate virtually.”

Early adoption of a wide range of communication methods has meant that whilst the WFO remains committed to its technical dissemination objectives, it is also able to offer smaller soundbites to support its reports, technical papers and statistical messaging. This has never been more relevant than in this past year of social distancing and lack of physical gatherings and events. Call enthuses: “The WFO seized upon virtual meeting capabilities to stay in close contact with our member associations via global-regional meetings with representatives from each association participating, as well as the annual general assembly, which is normally held in conjunction with the WFO Congress or Technical Forum. In 2021, we will build on those successful experiences by offering educational and informational webinars, hosted by the WFO. These will feature technical, material, process, and training developments that can enhance the competitiveness of members of the metal casting community, as well as showcase the products and services of our lifetime legacy sponsors, whose support enables the expanded outreach and service of the WFO.

“We are pleased to announce that the WFO website is currently being redesigned with many enhancements that will make it the hub of the organisation’s news, information, publications, events, and activities. The redesign will be completed, and the relaunch announced, before the end of the first quarter of 2021.” The past year has been a challenging one for the entire sector, and the WFO has of course felt the effects of this, however, armed with a new-found confidence in its digital network capabilities, there is much to be excited about in terms of taking some positives from having to re-think activities. “Operationally, we had to re-schedule some of our global meetings with the industry for safety reasons, now we are facing the need for new ways to connect and to transfer knowledge,” says Gonzalez. “The adoption of new digital tools for enabling virtual events, even exhibition fairs, will be significant not only for the near future but also for staying greater connected once we overcome this situation.”

The very real strength of the WFO is its global breadth. “Nearly every country in the world has its own foundry industry, so we really need to represent the interests of a truly global industrial activity,” Gonzalez urges. “Our challenge is to connect with international representatives directly involved in the foundry business, who see the WFO as the best network to collaborate for meeting the needs of their national and global industries. Though this kind of organisation is usually more complex, there is an incredible value in sharing the development keys in all the foundry regions around the globe.” The shuffle of authority and responsibilities is often charged with disquiet, but this enthusiastic trio is relishing the freedom of opening up new possibilities. Turner says stepping back from the helm is a natural progression. “It will be very difficult, but as I’m hoping to stay involved going forward, I think I will be able to adapt to the changes, in fact it will be nice to see Jose Javier grow into the role and become the new face of the WFO. He has a very strong work ethic and a fast reacting style which will make him an ideal person to work in the global environment of technical information distribution that is the bedrock of the WFO.”

Having worked in national foundry associations for many years both Call and Gonzalez have brought a wealth of experience and expertise to their roles at the WFO and are looking forward to maintaining their strong bond. Call explains what it is like to work in a fully global secretariat team. “It is truly a privilege to serve our member associations and the global metal casting community alongside Andrew Turner and Jose Javier Gonzalez,” he says. “The need to keep abreast of opportunities and challenges relative to our industry on a global scale versus a single continent, is a much greater challenge. Only a global team with the experience and industry knowledge that Andrew and Jose Javier bring to the table make supporting the WFO membership and the global metal casting industry possible.”

Gonzalez is quick to concur: “I have been involved professionally with different boards and I can say that the level of collaboration and engagement inside the team in the WFO is truly remarkable. Andrew Turner has been leading the organisation for a big part of its history, so he is clearly part of its legacy. His leading role – based on confidence, listening and respect – as well as his passion for all things foundry, have transformed this organisation over the last 20 years, so I feel very proud of being part of this wave. Central to the secretariat’s success is that we are totally adaptable and flexible, no space for egos but for hard work and collaboration, which enables us to react properly to the different needs in any given moment.”

When asked what ‘nuggets of wisdom’ Turner is able to pass on to his successor and how he will support the transition period, he said: “I would advise Jose Javier to enjoy the job, the people and organisations we have the pleasure to work with around the world who are so very supportive and always helpful, it is quintessential to work with them and enjoy their different styles and cultures.” As for Turner’s highlights so far, he tells us: “I remember my first meeting at the WFO Technical Forum in Warsaw only days after the 9/11 tragedy and then the exciting and enjoyable times working with 15 presidents and attending the Technical Forums and World Foundry Congresses in 16 countries. This is all memorable, but it is without a doubt the individual people, some of whom are sadly no longer with us, who have left a lasting and indelible mark on my memory.”

Exciting times for a truly international organisation being steered by a truly international team.