One of the most significant steps in many years towards assisting local aluminium foundries to compete in the highly competitive global market has come in the form of a benchmarking programme for a selected number of foundries by the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN), which is partly funded by a grant from government, through the Department of Trade and Industry.
Aluminium casting company Ajax Manufacturing MD Charles Rowe says: “The main aim of this programme is to assist industry through an aluminium high-pressure die-casting (HPDC) benchmarking and performance improvement project, facilitated by the NFTN in association with the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and leading aluminium HPDC expert Morris Murray.”
Rowe says that all the participating parties will be benchmarked using an international benchmarking tool, namely the NFTN. 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.
“We 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,” adds Rowe.
“The project will cover most of the technical aspects involved in casting and include the die-casting equipment itself, die spray and lubrication, vents, vacuum and overflow, molten metal safety, examples of die design and tooling materials and heat treatment.
“Ajax Manufacturing has the utmost respect for 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,” says Rowe.
There are many challenges facing the foundry industry at present, such as an ongoing skills shortage, energy constraints and 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,” he concludes.