The foundry industry is passing through a visibly sluggish phase now as it rides on the manufacturing sector, which has been facing its own growth challenges. There are about 5,000 foundries in India, largely in the MSME sector, spread across clusters, from Punjab in the north to Coimbatore in the south.
The application of cast metal components encompasses most products, ranging from auto parts, rail components, home appliances, textile, cement & farm machinery and electrical equipment to pump and valves.
The industry produces 10 million tonne of cast components worth about $18 billion, which is nearly 10% of global production by weight. With a sustainable growth plan in place, this global share can go up to 20% in five years. The industry exports castings worth $2.2 bn a year. This can potentially go up to $8-10 bn with greater productivity, value addition and market expansion.
The Make in India campaign augurs well for the foundry industry as it is a key feeder to engineering and manufacturing. Demand for the foundry industry is estimated to grow three-fold in the ten years, which will throw up new opportunities and challenges, too.
New niche markets will open for the industry, such as application of light weight and specially alloyed metal castings for reduced energy consumption. The advancements in downstream industry is creating requirements for metal castings that can withstand critical applications in nuclear & ultra-critical mega power plants, railways, aerospace and defence sectors.
At the same time there could be several challenges such as the need for investments in modern manufacturing/design tools, balanced automation, and up-scaling of IT. These will create skilling opportunities for the future, which must be met by timely interventions by all stakeholders.
The Institute of Indian Foundrymen (IIF) will take upon itself the mantle of scaling up production to 25-30 million tonnes per annum, which entails a 100% improvement in productivity through balanced automation, skill development, application of modern manufacturing/design tools and IT, and reduced consumption of natural resources by efficient management, recycling and waste reduction.
The new manufacturing policy envisages a manufacturing share of 25% in the GDP and creating 100 million jobs in ten years. Since most sectors use metal castings in manufacturing, it is difficult to meet this goal without a corresponding growth of the foundry sector.
We do hope that the newly constituted Foundry Development Council by the DIPP will be a very useful platform, which will bring together all stakeholders to review and recommend suitable policy interventions.
The author is president, The Institute of Indian Foundrymen