ONE of the most significant steps in many years towards assisting local aluminium foundries to compete on the highly competitive global market, has come in the form of a programme for the benchmarking of a selected number of foundries by the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN), which is partly funded by a grant from the Government through the DTI.
Charles Rowe, MD of Ajax Manufacturing, one of the oldest aluminium foundries in the Western Cape, comments, “The main objective of this programme is to assist industry through an aluminium HPDC benchmarking and performance improvement project, facilitated by the NFTN in association with the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and a leading aluminium HPDC expert, Morris Murray.”
Rowe says that all the participating parties will be benchmarked using an international benchmarking tool.
The selected companies will be benchmarked against each other and then also against Australian, Japanese and North American companies. The benchmarking phase, as with other phases, will be confidential and each company will only be able to identify itself in the final report.
Rowe adds, “We have already had visits from NFTN representatives and early indications are that the programme will lead to improvements in operation and global competitiveness and add a most positive element to our business.”
“The project will cover most of the technical aspects involved in casting and include amongst others the following:
• the die casting equipment itself
• vents, vacuum and overflow
• molten metal safety
• examples of die design
• tooling materials and heat treatment
“We have the utmost respect for Morris Murray, having attended one of his previous seminars and his visit earlier this month was most informative. He gave staff some training on die spraying and showed how microscopic analysis can be used to improve casting quality and efficiency, which was particularly useful. As always, he is happy to disseminate his knowledge to the foundry industry.”
“There are many challenges facing the foundry industry at present, such as an ongoing skills shortage, energy constraints and wildly fluctuating foreign exchange rates.”
“However we have ridden out the economic storms of the past 56 years and with the guidance and expertise offered by the NFTN initiative, we are confident that we will not only be more competitive on world markets, but will also have learnt sound business lessons in the process,” Rowe says.