06 Apr UK Foundries Step up to the Supply Chain Challenge

Like much of UK Manufacturing, Cast Metals Federation, CMF, member foundries are facing challenging times with several now taking extended breaks until after Easter, a recent survey, backed up by a series of virtual meetings with Members, has found.

At the same time around 30 CMF member foundries (to date) have been identified by their customers as being in essential supply chains, with several having received letters to this effect.  These supply chains include medical and pharma (including parts for ventilators), commercial vehicle (such as spares required for transporting lorry freight), rail infrastructure parts, public utilities such as water and energy (oil & gas spare parts, pumps and valves, diesel generator or IGT parts) as well as parts used in the manufacture and packaging of food.  In some cases, this has required significant and rapid increases in capacity with some now working 24/7 and recruiting additional staff to meet the demands of these critical sectors.  In other cases, foundries have to balance dramatic reductions in some of their markets, requiring some furloughing of employees, with the needs of these essential supply chains, enabling critical parts to be supplied.

Companies supplying foundries, including toolmakers and suppliers of raw materials and other services, are also being identified as essential parts of the supply chain and again are having to cope with huge changes in supply needs.

Many of the Members have also taken significant steps to change working practices to ensure that they are able to keep employees safe and to maintain social distancing with some additional guidance provided by the CMF; in some cases, foundries have closed for a short period to enable this, in others portable washing facilities have been sourced to provide additional sinks and toilets for delivery drivers, and temporary buildings hired by some to provide additional changing and rest facilities for employees.

In all cases, CMF Members report that where staff are able to work from home, this is being facilitated.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Pam Murrell, CMF CEO said “I think that our foundries, alongside so many in manufacturing, are to be commended on these responsible actions to protect employees, preserve jobs, and support our critical infrastructure supply chains, under very challenging conditions.

“Suppliers of cast component to the automotive sector have seen dramatic reductions in orders as the main OEMs have also ceased production for a period of some weeks.  Clearly the Auto OEMs will be seeking reassurances about how quickly their just in time supply chains could be reinstated and normal supply levels resumed, with some foundries already being asked for information on this and with the risk of more people self-isolating, or worse falling ill, this could be very challenging” she continued.

Suppliers are also requesting that foundries contact them in advance of planned start-ups so that raw materials supplies can be planned and maintained so as to avoid shortages.

Several foundries, from different sectors and processes, are continuing to operate largely as normal where possible, with good order books and with the necessary employee safeguards in place.

With most capex and investment plans on-hold, and general concerns around cash flow across all sectors in the UK, it looks like the coming weeks, and perhaps months, will continue to be challenging.

Pam Murrell
Pam Murrell