He says, “The worldwide rise in the popularity of aluminium as the metal of choice for a wide range of applications has meant that production has had to keep up with this increased demand.
“In South Africa, for example, large volumes of aluminium are produced for the domestic and export markets. “The properties enjoyed by the metal can be found in an impressive array of commercially available alloys tailored to suit any application.” Rowe adds that the problem emerges when pricing is discussed and, owing to the huge export demand for aluminium, prices are kept high locally.
In some cases, the metal price has risen by 50% in the last year alone.
“The aluminium alloys which we use in the foundry come in the form of ingots, which are produced from scrap aluminium, which is specially treated to produce the ingots. “The alloys are selected according to the speci-fications required for various tolerances and uses,” remarks Rowe.
At present, there is a large amount of scrap aluminium being exported because of the high rand prices.
The present permit system verifies the volumes exported, but a duty on exports would give the local industry a price advantage, which is very necessary to compete internationally. “To this end, the Aluminium Federation of Sout Africa and the Department of Trade and Industry are researching the industry and we await their findings with a great deal of interest,” says Rowe.
He tells Engineering News that the manufacturing sector has performed less robustly in the first nine months of the year, partly owing to a slowdown in the number of orders.
He says that, in order to grow the economy, the shortage of black economic-empower- ment (BEE) skills in engineering needs to be urgently addressed, otherwise a vacuum will be created. This has also been implemented in other industries and commercial businesses. Students should be encouraged to take up engineering as a career, and then be properly trained and mentored until they have the requisite skills to be placed in the market. “We fear that if this is not done, the com- bination of the shortage of welders and BEE compliancy will create difficulty in the manu- facturing sector and stagnate its growth,” he says.
Rowe says that manufacturing is often the first to feel the pinch when the economy slows down and one of the last to recover when the graph goes up. Despite the challenges it faces, Ajax Manu-facturing has been operating successfully for more than 54 years. Rowe remains confident of the ability of the foundry business to improve, provided the proper measures are implemented.