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“Changing Behaviour in the Foundry Industry”

Thursday, 8 December 2016

“Changing Behaviour in the Foundry Industry”
Richard Heath Prof MICME
Health, Safety and Environment Officer, CMF

“Developing Future Engineers for the Foundry Industry”
Trevor Ayre FICME
Senior Vice President, ICME

Branch President Ian Shergold, Prof. MICME, welcomed members and guests to the first technical meeting to be held at the new venue before introducing the speakers for the evenings presentations.

Richard Heath spoke first on the how’s and why’s of changing behaviour in the foundry industry. In his role as Health, Safety and Environment Officer for CMF he had many opportunities to visit foundries throughout the UK and also to visit some museum foundry exhibitions. He found that a surprising number of the general public did not know what a foundry was or what it did. Furthermore there was a perception in others that today’s foundries still resembled those depicted in pictures on museum walls of founding from many years in the past. This is not a good impression for an industry trying to recruit the best young people in a very competitive market place.

Richard then spoke of attitudes he has encountered in foundries and compared them with attitudes held in supermarkets and in the home. Why do many foundry staff expect to see clean clutter free gangways in supermarkets with clearly organised and displayed products which are readily available then accept the very opposite in the foundry? At home items are stored away in cupboards and drawers whereas in the foundry they can be just dropped on the floor or kicked into a convenient corner.

It is an attitude that has to change and while it is not an easy task to do so there are very good reasons for making the effort.

Encouraging budding engineers into the foundry industry has already been mentioned, but ensuring the place of work is a safe one is again so important. A clean, safe and well organised work environment is somewhere that companies wishing to place orders are more and more likely to choose. This environment also aids productivity and competitiveness.

To achieve the change in attitude firstly ensure all management buys into the idea and then communicate not just the what is expected but all the reasons why. Then allow a realistic period of time for change and if possible set milestones within the time frame. There has to be financial support to achieve success and finally the senior management has to lead by example. With persistence and encouragement employees will see the benefits of a better working environment and the culture change will be achieved.

The ICME has been increasingly involved in the education and development of foundry engineers and technicians in recent years and Trevor Ayre’s talk was of the how that involvement is changing to meet the needs of foundries in the future.

The termination of the FITB grant levies together with significant numbers of foundries closing due to the pressure to outsource production to low cost countries led to the closure of foundry college courses throughout the UK. There was, and is, a serious shortage of well trained and educated young engineers coming into the foundry industry but ICME is stepping forward with some new and exciting developments which will ensure the long term future of our industry and the ICME itself.

Trevor explained that currently ICME is offering a diploma in casting, a variety of short courses and bespoke courses tailored to a company’s requirements. In the future these will be supplemented with patternmaking and casting technology apprenticeships.

The Black Country LEP has created a partnership between ICME, CMF, University of Wolverhampton, Dudley College and the Confederation of British Metalforming with access to almost £12M. The monies will be used to create an elite centre for manufacturing skills and the foundry industry will have its own training facility in Dudley Port. Already a site, which was the offices of the old Duport Harper foundry, has been cleared and shortly the foundations will be laid for the foundry elite centre. The aim is to have the centre open with the first intake of apprentices in September 2017.

In the new centre will be class rooms, a patternshop, a working foundry, laboratories, a technical suite and a conference room. The facilities will be have the latest technology equipment, such as 3D printing, and casting simulation, so that apprentices leave having had practical experience of using this up to the minute technology. What cannot be shown on site will be supplemented by a partnership arrangement with foundries and possibly other manufacturing or research facilities. The conference room will be used to teach students problem solving techniques in an environment as close as possible to that they may find in a commercial enterprise.

What needs to be done between now and September is to spread the word to foundries throughout the UK and to encourage them to send apprentices to the elite centre in the knowledge that they will in return have apprentices capable of becoming the future managers of the organisation.

The following points came from the question and answer session:
Initially the apprentice intake will be companies own apprentices but in future it may be that the centre will take apprentices direct to pass into industry during or at the end of the apprenticeship.

Some paid staff will be required at the outset but the plan would be to increase the numbers over time.

Should there be a problem in meeting the September date then it will not affect the plan to have the first intake as there are core subjects such as safety and regulations, interpretation of data and continuous business improvement which can be carried out at one of the partnership organisations such as Dudley College.

John Willetts gave a vote of thanks to both speakers for an informative and entertaining talk after which all members and guests enjoyed an excellent buffet sponsored by CMF.