11 May Finland Seminar for Users of Castings
Organised by the Federation of Finnish Technology industries (Teknologiateollisuus) in association with the Association of Finnish Foundry Product Industries, the Annual Seminar on the Use of Castings took place in March this year in Tampere, Finland. Attracting castings users, castings producers and research academics the event drew over 100 delegates and provided an opportunity for the castings industry and its customers to discuss trends in manufacturing. Delegates were also able to have an update on new technological developments such as the use of 3D additive manufacturing, cutting edge computer simulation and product re-design for cost effective manufacture from leading foundries in Finland including Metso Minerals Oy Lokomo Steel Foundry and from castings user, Gardner Denver Oy.
Top of the agenda this year was the economic situation facing the country. With a high standard of living and low population (5 million inhabitants), the country has a large budget deficit – the current proposal on the table as the national elections approached was for an annual government spending cut of between €7B and €15B, against an annual budget of €50B. The country has seen its castings industry output reduce by almost 50% over the last couple of years.
Heikki Zitting, CEO of Sacotec Components and President of the Association of Finnish Foundry Product Industries, welcomed a keynote address from Dr Jyrki Ali-Yrkko, Research Director of the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, who spoke about the effects of globalisation and how this will affect manufacturing production in Finland.
Dr Pam Murrell, Chief Executive of the Cast Metals Federation (the UK’s Trade Association for the Castings Industry) was the other keynote speaker and was invited to discuss why the UK manufacturing sector and wider UK economy seemed to be faring better than that of much of the rest of the Europe. Covering topics including the strengths of the UK automotive and aerospace sectors, some of the inherent advantages that the UK has with its strong global financial centre, geographic location and a strong trading/export culture, she discussed some of the current strategies being adopted in the UK to support innovation and R&D as well as shortages in skills and training provision. Of course the UK foundry industry had already gone through the pain of contraction during the 80s and early 90s, and it was clear that despite a generally positive outlook from the industry, the situation in the UK still remained challenging, not least due to the recent increase in the strength of the pound.
The seminar included also included an overview of the current castings industry from Juhani Orkas, Professor of Foundry Technology, Department of Engineering Design and Production, Aalto University, Finland and advisor to the Association of Finnish Foundry Product Industries. Jukka Palokangas, Chief Economist of Finnish Technology industries also spoke about the current situation and outlook for manufacturing in Finland.
In addition three Finnish foundries presented alternative strategies for global competitiveness – one collaborating on casting sourcing with foundries in the far east and China through an agency arrangement, one using joint ventures and production facilities near to market in China, India, Poland as well as in Finland, and one who was producing cost competitive automotive castings in greensand in Finland, enabling the company to compete effectively with foundries in lower cost locations but who were using chemically bonded sand processes.
Using an interactive message board, enabling delegates to ‘post’ questions during the presentations, the event attracted a lively discussion and debate.