AUGUST - 2021
One theme in the Casteel Commentary for years is the looming demographic crisis for our workforce requirements. That is in plain English, our families are too small to replace our current workforce much less grow our economy. This will have an impact on everything and a dramatic impact on our businesses. John Workman from Eagle shared a compelling analysis with us that I wanted to share with you here. This is the topic of this month’s Casteel Commentary…
SFSA has been creating a database of current and legacy standards to support updating and replacing obsolete grades. Once the database has enough grades in it, SFSA will create search functions to find grades with similar requirements. The goal is to create a publicly available tool that would allow foundries, designers, and DOD partners to find standard grades that are similar to one another. An example as to when a database such as this could be useful is shown below.
Recently, a foundry was making parts to MIL-C-24689 composition 20, which is a cobalt-chromium alloy. There is a conflict within this spec where molybdenum is both called out by itself, with a 1.5 weight percent maximum, and in the others section, where the sum of molybdenum and several other elements has a 1 weight percent maximum. This results in uncertainty regarding the allowable molybdenum content. By creating a searchable database, an Engineering Support Activity might have been able to quickly find similar standards like AMS5373 and AMS5387, which both have a 1.5 weight percent maximum molybdenum. This would support either using the 1.5 weight percent maximum on composition 20, or possibly even changing the requirement to one of the currently produced grades.
If you are aware of any outdated or obsolete material specifications, please send them to Caelan Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 75th T&O marks our society’s diamond anniversary for technical and operating collaboration. To commemorate the occasion and recognize the art of making steel castings, SFSA hosted a children’s art contest. The winners are:
Thank you to all of the contestants! All of the submissions can be viewed here. We hope that this contest created a special moment to share the pride in your work with your child or grandchild!
At this time, we are still planning a traditional, in-person conference to be held at the Loews Hotel in Chicago on December 8-11. Please look for conference details and registration next month.
The SFSA/UNI sensor initiative will both serve as an opportunity to learn how to start implementing sensor technology, but also to work collaboratively to advance the development and use of sensors for Smart Data in steel foundries. UNI’s sensor webinar is on the wiki. If you need help getting started, UNI can help you select and setup sensors along with acquisition and analysis of the data. If you have already started using sensors, we can work with you to identify research needs to advance the use and development of sensors, including new sensors and new opportunities for Smart Data. Through collaboration, we will identify which sensors/controllers work best for steel foundry needs; develop guidance for getting started and to acquire, display and analyze data; and create references such as open-source code, drivers, or other reference libraries. For more information, contact Dave.
UNI, SFSA, ICI and AFS are partnering to host a symposium on the opportunities for Additive Manufacturing for Investment Casting (AM4IC) on Tuesday, October 5th in Waterloo, IA. The symposium will include a tour of UNI’s Additive Manufacturing Center and six educational presentations by industry leaders. Those who attend the symposium will be able to better understand the benefits and proper use of the additive manufacturing technology and how it can expand their markets. Topics covered will include various types of additively manufactured expendable patterns, ceramic cores, and their best practice for use. A tentative agenda and registration (including for SFSA members – no cost) is on ICI’s site. Please contact Dave with any questions.
Registration is now open for the Fall Leadership Meeting on September 11-14, 2021, at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. SFSA staff and Board look forward to welcoming everyone back in-person to this essential meeting for leaders in the steel casting industry to learn, strategize and network. In fact, the Society is offering a free member registration with each paid member registration (cannot be used for spouses). Also, a reduced rate has been established for first time attendees, spouses, and SFSA Alumni (not eligible for BOGO).
This year’s business sessions will include presentations from Peter Macler on Applied CapEx Planning and Management, Rod Eggert on Critical Raw Materials and Manufacturing Supply Chains, Max Falcone on Material Removal Automation Technologies, Joe Pickard on Scrap and Commodities Markets, Skip and Martha Guimond will provide an EHS Regulatory Update, SFSA market forecast, and an industry roundtable.
The Society has also arranged several optional group activities for members and spouses which include whitewater rafting on the French Broad River, Brew Cruise, and activities on the Biltmore Estate.
The SFSA trends show continued growth for bookings and shipments over year ago levels though the rate of growth for shipments has softened in recent months. Backlogs for steel and stainless have increased from 9 to 10 weeks for steel and 10 to 12 weeks for stainless. The increase in backlogs and softening of shipment would suggest that the shortage of labor remains an industry issue. The US Nondefense Capital Goods New Orders (excluding aircraft) continues trending upwards with a record high $76.3B reported for June. Similarly, US
Metalworking Machinery New Orders continues to show accelerated growth and is expected to surpass the prior record high set in 2018, according to ITR. What is the outlook for the rest of the year and for 2022? The SFSA Marketing Committee will meet next week with SFSA staff to work on the 2022 SFSA Market Forecast to be presented at the Fall Leadership Meeting next month. An important component to the survey is input from members on their customer markets. A survey is open through next week to collect responses from members. Please be sure that your company participates, the survey is online. Your answers are kept confidential and will be aggregated with other member responses.
Economic growth depends fundamentally on two factors; improved productivity, that traditionally is based on capital investments, and growth of the labor pool, families having more than 2 children. We are deficient in both factors for a future “normal” economy but the most problematic is the lack of a sustained not even growing workforce. The graph shows the places in the U.S. that have had population declines in the Census of 2020.
Recent Casteel Commentaries advocated job shop automation as part of our effort within Industry 4.0 to reduce our workforce requirement. This was supported by the decline in fertility where the U.S. is below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per lifetime for women and we are below 1.8. Just as problematic, our wealth has led to a decline in workforce participation.
The introduction of modern birth control had two effects on the size of the workforce. The immediate effect was strong growth which created much of the wealth we have enjoyed. This was the dramatic increase of women in the workforce. This participation of women and the increase in wealth had the unintended consequence of shifting children from an asset in the family able to work and contribute, to being a cost. Women generally have wanted to have more children but are unable because they start later in life and have fewer opportunities to have children later.
But the workforce challenge is not just a shift in the way women have experienced changes, these changes also have reduced the level of participation of men in the workplace. The wealth of our current families and the small size of families have given the men the choice of working or not. Young men prefer less work and more play. Two factors are notable, opioids and video games. This has led to many men who are at prime age for the workforce choosing part-time employment and delaying marriage to enjoy life. This exacerbates the trend to marriage later, if ever, and fewer children.
This report is well worth your time to review. It highlights the need to adjust our approach to steel casting production to remain competitive in a complexly changing world.
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