New Normals. Better Futures

In the late 1990s, dot-com companies that had yet to generate a profit were trading at astronomical valuations. Traditional measures like price-to-earning ratios, we were told, were obsolete in an era when eyeballs and clicks were the metrics du jour. It didn’t take long, though, for the market to crash. It turned out that the longstanding investment rules developed by the likes of Benjamin Graham and Phillip Fisher were timeless and trusty, not outdated and crusty.

Over the past seven years, there has been another new normal. Over that time, the U.S. has failed to enjoy even a single year of 3% economic growth. Not surprisingly, this lackluster performance has led to diminished economic opportunity and reduced tax revenues. Even as the unemployment rate gradually inched back to 4.9 percent, the numbers of people who dropped out of the workforce has been staggering.

This has been the slowest economic recovery over the last 75 years. Some people have bought into the argument that we are destined to perpetual growth rates of 1 to 2 percent. Yet, this seeming new normal need not be a permanent reality. With the right public policies, robust growth is again possible. With that growth would come more demand for goods and services, better opportunities for entrepreneurs, and more jobs. In a phrase, a better future.

For buyers and designers of castings, the American Foundry Society plays a key role in assuring a better future. AFS is waging an aggressive government advocacy program that advances policies conducive to economic growth and opposes unnecessarily burdensome regulations. That work helps to control non-production costs that would otherwise have to be added on to the price of castings. Corporate memberships in AFS—by metalcasters, suppliers, and casting purchasers—make this advocacy work possible.

On the workforce development front, many OEMs and other casting buyers take advantage of AFS classroom courses. A total of 38 classes have been redesigned over the last several years. Moreover, in July 2016, the society introduced a series of e-learning modules on key casting-related topics, with many more still to come. This makes professional training more affordable and convenient than ever.

AFS is also playing a leading role in technology development and transfer, which positions the casting industry to meet the ever-evolving technology needs of its customers for many years to come.

This issue of Metal Casting Design & Purchasing features two articles on designing and cost estimating for additive manufacturing, plus a look at the steel lost foam and iron pipe markets. Finally, a look at casting technology development on page 34 illustrates how metalcasters use engineering and knowledge to eliminate defects and provide quality castings to their customers. All of these contribute to a better future for casting purchasers.

Click here to see this story as it appears in MCDP.

Leading Where?

In the book “You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader,” author Mark Sanborn tries to lay out how anybody in any company can be a leader, regardless of shiny title, fancy business card or even a large salary. He does this by not following a single narrative, but brief vignette after brief vignette after brief vignette after...

Well, you get the point.

This isn’t really a knock against Sanborn, but his writing style in this very brief book of 102 pages didn’t help me to see what he was trying to get across. As I read this book, I kept waiting for repeated extended narratives (even one that would be a few pages), where I could see how somebody took some of the lessons in this book and improved their career and also the life of the business where they work. At least for me, that would give me time to see some parallels in my life and career, and perhaps see how they could be applied to make things even better for myself and my employers.

There are a couple very strong examples of this, and I won’t ruin them, but a few more would have been helpful for the reader.

That said, there are reasons to pick up this book.

Though it didn’t do much for me, Sanborn’s writing style could be helpful if you’re not looking for one story but numerous small snippets and examples of lessons. He breaks down his theory into “six principles of leadership” and then pings rapid-fire stories at the reader one after another.

Some valuable lessons can be learned in the pages of this book. Perhaps the most important is a very early passage in the book. It reads “It doesn’t matter what your position is, or how long you’ve worked at your job, whether you help to run your family, a PTA committee, or a Fortune 500 company. Anyone at any level can learn to be a leader and help to shape or influence the world around them.”

That’s pretty good, and something every employee of every company should take to heart. The six principles also provide value and the snippets do bring strong advice and tips. One that is especially strong is the chapter on the power of persuasive communication. During the nine-page section, Sanborn highlights how to communicate effectively, and stresses the importance of word selection.

In the end, there is a value to reading this book. Leadership is a tricky thing to define. It’s not tangible, and probably falls into the “you know it when you see it” category, and Sanborn does go a long way in illuminating some very helpful and important tactics. They are tactics that may seem obvious but aren’t, and they are tactics that are surprisingly easy to implement.

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