Foundry boom slows down considerably

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In 2008, the boom in the German foundry industry was still by and large satisfactory, the president of the Deutschen Gießerei-Industrie [German Foundry Industry Association], Hans-Dieter Honsel explained.  Ferrous casting production (incl. steel casting) was thus able to maintain its 2007 level. The output values even increased by 5.3 %. However, non-ferrous metal casting production decreased by 8.0. The output value fell by 9.4 %. The fourth quarter of 2008 ended with significantly fewer orders. Orders from the vehicle manufacturing nosedived by more than 60 % compared with the final quarter of 2007. The demand from machinery construction decreased by almost 40 %. This development trend also continued in the first quarter of 2009. Time management and holiday flexibility was used across the board in order to absorb the decreasing employment rates. Reduced working hours is now the norm. The temp worker rate has been reduced to zero overall. The maintenance of the core workforce has the highest priority at the foundries.  The top values from 2007 and 2008 can no longer be achieved by the foundry industry over the medium-term.

The industry’s dependence on the two important branches: road vehicle construction and machinery construction, is too great. The intensity with which the foundries are affected by the lower demand varies greatly depending on the product range and customer segmentation, according to Honsel.  In the first quarter of 2009, the casting production declined in all customer groups without exception. The area affected most greatly, the subcontracted supply for vehicle construction, recorded a decrease of approximately 50 % compared with the first quarter of 2008. This negative trend applies, material and process-dependent, to the entire vehicle casting. The falling production volume should, however, be observed against the background of a very strong respective quarter from last year. In 2009, casting production is expected to lie far below the 2008 level. The demand from energy generation, food and medical technology is still helping. The rail vehicle construction continues to do well supported by passenger traffic.

Farm machinery construction is losing a little steam from the previous high level. Large-scale plant construction is ensuring, with the orders secured so far, a working capacity until the end of 2009. Individual impulses can be seen in the area of prototype orders; thus Honsel clarified: “Companies become crisis-proof if they can convert approaches to solutions into marketable products for their customers with speedy research and development. I warn you therefore not to see everything negatively.”  Honsel is therefore convinced that the crisis with all its problems also offers an opportunity for a large part of the foundries because they do not have a structural crisis. Even if many foundry firms cannot currently see a “light at the end of the tunnel”, several indicators point to a cyclical bottoming out according to estimates by economic prophets.