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Taking Action

Maintaining and fostering a vibrant, consistent and reliable workforce is critical to the success of any business. Unfortunately, the common refrain of metalcasting businesses is the shrinking number of qualified job candidates. Productivity and innovation are hurt when a business is not fully staffed, from the shop floor to the engineering department.

But, it is heartening to hear stories of metalcasting businesses that are not sitting idly by. In this issue, for instance, we share two reports of investments in training and developing metalcasters. In one, Signicast executive and innovator Walter “Terry” Lutz has donated more than $2 million to a local technical college and its Integrated Manufacturing Center. In another, AFS Corporate Member Benton Foundry is building a scholarship program to help send its employees to college. The generous program helps qualified employees advance their education for better career opportunities while increasing the knowledge and ability of its workforce.

Many foundries and suppliers are making similar pledges in their own local communities and workforces. And metalcasters are targeting pre-workforce-ready groups, too. AFS chapters in particular have enthusiastically introduced the science and career of metalcasting to elementary and high school students through hands-on metalcasting demonstrations. They are gaining steam. In just one example, a couple of high school students, inspired by one of these foundry-in-a-box presentations by the AFS West Michigan Chapter, centered their science fair project around metalcasting. The successful project took the two girls to the state competition, which was held earlier this month.      

Modern Casting is committed to sharing stories of how businesses and leaders are tackling the workforce challenge, so please continue to pass along how you and your fellow metalcasters are working to attract and retain a dynamic, hard-working pool of employees. In this issue, you will also read the first of a recurring new department highlighting individual colleges and universities with metalcasting programs. This month, we look at Michigan Tech University (page 67).

AFS also offers several resources to help businesses continue the education and training of current employees. AFS Institute skills training provide structured education on need-to-know topics while events like the annual Metalcasting Congress foster innovative thinking and idea generation. Along with its scholarship program, Benton Foundry has found value in using the AFS Institue e-Learning modules as part of its apprenticeship program and as a way to educate across departments.

Finding and attracting talent for the industry is not a jigsaw puzzle with a prescribed solution. The metalcasting community will have to continue to put the effort into using various approaches of encouraging people to join the industry and stay. I look forward to hearing and sharing more stories of building up metalcasting.  

Click here to see this story as it appears in the March 2018 issue of Modern Casting

Low-Cost Energy Saving Improvements in Metalcasting

Every plant would benefit from an energy program to continuously improve efficiency. Such a program should include working toward major upgrades to improve energy efficiency of the processes and establishing a three-year plan for new and efficient equipment. But sometimes, smaller but easy projects can help metalcasters save energy too. Below are a few.

Compressed air leaks—A sad fact is that most plants lose 20-30% of the compressed air produced to leaks. It is not unheard of to have even 50% of the air lost to leaks. Given the cost to find and repair leaks, zero leaks is impractical but a good goal is 10-20% leaks. These leaks can be found on down days when the plant is quiet. Or, use ultrasonic equipment to find the leaks anytime. A rule-of-thumb is that if you can hear a compressed air leak, it is costing you at least $700 per year.

Gas leak survey—Just as compressed air systems always have leaks, natural gas lines also leak. One-percent losses are normal, and even a 12% loss has been recorded in one plant. These leaks can be found using ultrasonic equipment or gas sniffers. However, the quickest method is hiring a firm to use a special infrared camera that detects gas leaks. This camera is not a typical infrared and costs much more, so hiring a firm with expertise using the equipment can make sense.

Conveyor heat loss—Every time a product is heated in heat treat furnaces, the cart is also being heated. The official term for this is conveyor heat loss. Businesses can reduce the weight of the carts to save on energy cost. At one plant, a 3,000-lb. grating was used to provide a flat surface when the cart began to warp. A redesigned grating trimmed 2,000 lbs. and saved $5,000 in energy costs for the year.

Reduce door open time—Every time a furnace door is open, heat is lost. Facilities can reduce this time by adjusting the door opening and closing time, staging charges, and staging equipment such as skimming tools, etc. This can be a subject of a Kaizen event.
Redirect fans—Many plants use fans to cool personnel. Unfortunately, they are sometimes aimed at the furnace too. This air flow increases heat loss in the walls. Aim fans correctly.

Document down-time procedures—Every plant has downtime for maintenance or plan it during weekends. By documenting what equipment (for example, heat treat furnaces, fans, baghouses, lights, and air compressors) should be shut down during this time will save energy. This can be a simple checklist.

One plant put stickers on the switches that should be shut off. These procedures will help new personnel know what equipment should be shut off (and remind current personnel).

Use infrared cameras—Infrared cameras are used in many plants to detect hot spots in electrical systems. The same cameras can be used to observe the walls and doors of furnaces, looking for poor seals and defective insulation.

Learn from the best—Look at data by shift. Which shift is more energy efficient and/or produces more product? Learn best practices from them and transfer the knowledge to other shifts. In one study, a shift was regularly producing 15% more product.

Fully utilize the most energy efficient furnace—First, know which furnaces are best, then do everything possible to fully utilize them. This may include better scheduling or optimizing the process before and after that furnace.

Air-fuel ratios—Check the air-fuel ratio on a scheduled basis. One reverb furnace operator was wasting $10,000 a month due to operating with dirty filters.

Motors—Surveys have shown numerous motors are left running during periods of downtime or even weekends. Thousands of dollars are wasted. Document shut-down procedures or automate shut-downs, such as shutting off conveyors when there is no product.  

Click here to see this story as it appears in the March 2018 issue of Modern Casting


Disrupted: Is It Office Space, or Grumpy Old Man?

Dan Lyons, author of “Disrupted, My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble,” lost his position as a long-standing tech writer for Newsweek. Finding another job proved traumatic at age 51—it hit him like a hammer that he had gotten “old”—but he landed at HubSpot, an automated software company in his hometown, Boston.

For metalcasters, with the industry’s employee recruitment challenges, Disrupted is a cautionary tale about generational communications.

This was his opportunity to reinvent himself, as career advisers say, but it didn’t work out. Not at all.

“Disrupted” delves into a miasma of cultural themes we live with nowadays. It’s written in the first person, and the question arises, how trustworthy is this first-person narrator? Lyons is a skilled but caustic story teller. He also gave us the Fake Steve Jobs blog, which was nasty satire.

The book seems valuable as a study in mutual misunderstanding and generational communication problems. Lyons acts like twenty-somethings are hardly one step above a painful itch or bedbugs, and his story at HubSpot illustrates the problems with this attitude.

“Disrupted” is also a fascinating look at how a journalist could spend years and years covering tech and still be so surprised by what he found when he took a job in tech. How could a journalist so focused on tech not keep himself up-to-date? He was as unprepared for life in tech with millennials as he was to fly to the moon. Maybe more so.

For example, Lyons didn’t understand how to behave on Facebook. When a HubSpot executive derided older workers in comments to the New York Times, Lyons chose to reply on Facebook. Lyons has 100,000-plus Facebook followers. The executive had turned down the offer of any training, and that was a horrible decision. But that does not excuse this:

“In the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated,” says THE CEO OF THE COMPANY WHERE I @$%^ING WORK. “We’re trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y’ers.” I feel so special.

Ironically, HubSpot couldn’t fire him. How could the company fire one of its two older gray hairs after the exec’s public statements? It was a lawsuit in waiting. HubSpot was angling for an IPO at the same time, and that provided cover for Lyons’ post. But I have no doubt that a millennial who posted that would have been fired, or “graduated” as Lyons says firings were called. Ageism went both ways, in this case.

Lyons is at his best discussing the business model of tech start-ups in general and HubSpot specifically. The traditional business model said you should show three quarters of profitability before jumping into an IPO. No more. As one of Lyons’ friends points out, there is a massive wealth transfer occurring, from venture capitalists to the practitioners (some would say pirates) of the new business model: “Grow fast, lose money, go public, get rich. That’s the model.”

It’s not a model that creates long-term value for anyone.

Lyons gives his take on the universe of tech start-ups and online marketing companies, and some of it is hysterical. His renditions of marketing-speak are highly entertaining. However, in the final part of the book he really tears into execs he refers to as “Cranium” and “Trotsky.” He vividly describes how he thinks they abused and maligned him before his own “graduation” day, as HubSpot calls it when it fires an employee. I checked with some of my contacts who know Cranium and Trotsky (their real names are mentioned in the epilogue of Disrupted, if you want them.)

What did I learn? The book was a NYT bestseller, but no one admitted to reading it. Okay, then who made it a bestseller?

One online marketing executive told me she had never heard of the book, but that “everyone knows there is crap at every company. It’s just that not everyone uses the material to write a book” like Lyons’.

Another who knew the HubSpot crew years ago but not recently said, “I take most everything in tech with a grain of salt. People love drama, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, outrage is as often for its own sake as for some kind of justice, and the next scandal quickly replaces the last one. There are good, bad, great, awful and mediocre in tech like anywhere else …”

Maybe HubSpot is cult-like, as Lyons says, but I have contacts who like and use the platform, and others who tried it but found it wrong for their needs. If the HubSpot product does what you need, who cares if a co-founder brings a Teddy Bear to meetings and expects employees to treat it like a customer?

That is profoundly weird, but does the software work? That’s the question.

In a talk at Google you can find on YouTube, Lyons reports that a recruiter told him “nobody’s going to want to talk to you. You’re not housebroken. Nobody wants a journalist. You’re all obnoxious, rude, you don’t have any manners …” In fact, in the book Lyons is proud to relate that people know him as the “acerbic” guy.

So much for winning friends and influencing people. The lesson for us is that when you work with human beings of any age, as we all do, we must earn respect, not demand it.    

Click here to see this story as it appears in the March 2018 edition of Modern Casting

Expectations for Growth

As the American Foundry Society rolled out its annual economic forecast in January, the numbers were more encouraging than in recent years. AFS is projecting sales growth of 4.7% in 2018, followed by another 1.8% growth in 2019, for the overall market. Coming on the heels of an estimated 2.7 percent growth in 2017, the industry is looking at its strongest three-year period of rising sales in quite some time.

Auto sales are generally projected to back off slightly from recent high-water marks, which has implications for metalcasters whose business is primarily auto-related. But many other end-markets for complex castings are in upward trends. The AFS-backed tax reform law should drive more business investment. If Congress increases infrastructure investment, that too could be a welcome shot in the arm.

Concurrent with sales growth, it’s a good time to grow the skills base on your foundry floor. Recent AFS surveys show the skills shortage remains a major challenge. Vacancies can be difficult to fill. Some applicants fail drug tests, or quickly lose interest in the job. Therefore, each employee who shows up on time and demonstrates an ability to do the vital work of the foundry is increasingly valuable.

If an employee understands there is potential for career stability and growth, and that the employer is willing to invest in training, the employee is much more likely to make your company a long-term place of employment. With improved training, casting defects go down, and productivity goes up.

Training from the AFS Institute is no longer hours and hours of lecture. All Institute courses are now highly interactive and skills based, meaning your workers return more skilled and more confident. Moreover, the same skills-based principles are at work with e-Learning from the Institute—in English and Spanish.

In addition to investing in your company’s human capital, take some time to invest in your own growth. Metalcasting Congress 2018 in Fort Worth, from April 3-5, offers just such an opportunity.

Keynote speaker Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation was a senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign in 2016, and was deeply involved in policy discussions that shaped the new tax-reform law. He is in a unique position to deliver insight on the economic opportunities and risks that lie ahead. Jean Bye of Dotson Iron Castings is poised to become the first female president of AFS in April. She has guided her company through the recovery following a serious fire, and thanks to AFS and its Iron Division, she will share what she and her company learned through this experience. Dan Oman of Haley Aldrich, who has spent most of his career equipping clients to navigate environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks, will deliver the Hoyt Memorial Lecture.

Metalcasting Congress will also feature exhibits from premier suppliers, and dozens of technical sessions that are certain to capture your imagination and enhance your success. Two marketing experts who have never before addressed Metalcasting Congress will be speaking, and there will be compelling programs from Future Leaders in Metalcasting, Women in Metalcasting, and the HR Committee. The AFS Institute will be offering courses, as well. We look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth!

Click here to see this story as it appears in the February 2018 issue of Modern Casting

Encouraging Employee Innovation

Successful foundries rely on innovation from every member of the company, which is no different from many other manufacturing businesses. After all, each employee typically has more constant contact and intimate knowledge of their tasks than employees “above” them on the company organizational chart. This intimate knowledge often sows the seeds of innovation whether through necessity or simply mentally visualizing process improvement.

For example, a molding machine operator might see the need for new safety equipment or develop an optimized coring design. Perhaps maintenance personnel find a new way to quickly replace a hydraulic cylinder. This type of innovation frequently happens, and foundries need to capture these innovations to help the foundry maintain its quality mission and sustain a competitive advantage. Foundries can put systems and programs into place to help capture these ideas and make the most of them. Moreover, management teams certainly do not want to see these innovations leave the business to benefit other companies.

Many innovations come from employees during the regular course of their work. Most employees are generally paid only for their work, and they might not be motivated to be involved in extra efforts that could derive from innovations in their work equipment and methods. As a result, there can be an expensive gap between the innovation taking place in the company, and the status of the gathering of innovative ideas to improve the foundry as a whole.

One helpful tool for some organizations is easing the process for ideas and innovation to come to light. Some employees are shy about suggesting new things, and we have to find ways around that obstacle. It is often helpful to invite ideas and reward successful innovations to transform the operation and develop the competitive advantage that your company has developed. Acceptance of new ideas from every level can gain buy-in from greater numbers of employees, which then helps to boost morale and dedication to foundry work. Think, too, about whether your foundry makes it easy for an employee to develop good ideas and process improvements. You certainly do not want employees to scrap valuable ideas because the process is too difficult.

Additionally, make sure good ideas are valued in your foundry. That does not require bonuses or cash rewards, but could take the form of celebrating and internally publicizing teams and individuals who develop innovations. This, in turn, helps make sure employees understand what benefits their improvements mean for the company and the employees on an individual level.

Many of these ideas can remain protected within the foundry, but some innovations may be significant enough to seek patent or trademark protection. Most employees appreciate the notion that the company values their innovations enough to pursue that type of protection when it is warranted. Along those lines, it is often valuable for many employees to understand the basics of intellectual property protection.

Capturing these innovations can be another issue, but one with plenty of solutions. Many companies have developed formal and informal systems to report innovations. It may be important to enable employees to report any kind of improvement or innovation from a relatively small idea with respect to the workflow on the foundry floor to technical improvements in the foundry equipment. Innovation reporting allows the company to capture any kind of innovation and also helps to lower the psychological hurdle that some employees feel when considering reporting their innovations and ideas. Some companies also conduct regularly scheduled recognition ceremonies for the “best improvement,” where employees can win awards for their ideas and innovation. In other cases, an automatically generated letter or email thanking the innovator can suffice. As you likely already know, the impact of non-financial recognition plans can differ from foundry to foundry and different plans should be applied across the organization as needed to encourage innovation in all areas. Often, if a simple mechanism for the employees to report their bright ideas does not exist, the ideas will never be heard.

Your engineering team is also a great resource, and can be the eyes and ears with regard to the innovations that are developed, particularly in the foundry. For example, if a core machine operator develops an innovation, the operator may approach an engineer to apply their engineering skill to effectively implement a mechanical change to the core machine. In other instances, the engineering staff could be asked to calculate a time savings for a process of the core machine. At times, the engineering team can be the first point of contact for any management team that is seeking new innovations, no matter their source.

In the end, your business likely relies upon the innovations, ideas, and inventions of a wide array of employees. Help keep your competitive edge by encouraging these developments through a notification plan, recognition, and appreciation of these internal developments. If the innovators know that the extra work undertaken to assist the improvement process matters to everyone else, and is noticed, a culture of innovation and improvement can be fostered to benefit the foundry in a multitude of areas. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the February 2018 edition of Modern Casting

Branding Yourself: Which Social Platforms Work Best for You?

Erik Deckers, a marketing speaker at this year’s Metalcasting Congress, has co-authored a book with Kyle Lacy, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, third edition.

The book is a guide to the major social media platforms, and how you take charge of your brand on those platforms.

We need to listen to Deckers’ expertise. He knows how you can make these social media platforms work for you, and he can help you decide which ones will be the best for you. 

Branding yourself used to be less complicated. For instance, you do as your parents said. They told you to look people in the eye when you met them. Have a firm handshake. Stand up straight. Use proper grammar. Mind your personal hygiene.

All of which is still good advice. But today everyone has a personal brand online. Check it out on a search engine: 264 million people in the U.S. have social media profiles. If that’s not everyone, it’s close.

From those numbers, we can guess at least a few of your important customers are communicating on social media platforms. That means you should too. That’s where Branding Yourself comes in.

How much more effective could your own marketing and sales teams be if they were building relationships online long before they reached out with a pitch? Branding Yourself will help you learn which platforms are best for the people you want to reach, and therefore best for you and your company. 

Along with what platforms work best for you, Branding Yourself demonstrates how you and your brand can be effective on those platforms.

Your business’ brand is heavily influenced by your personal brand, and vice versa. That starts with your personal brand story. Once you have a handle on your story, you can move on to communicating on platforms.

Deckers’ business, when he’s not writing books, is www.problogservice.com. He ghost-writes blogs, helps others start blogging, and is an all-around blogging expert. He explains why metalcasters, and others, should seriously think about having their own blog and posting regularly:

“Businesses use their blogs to engage directly with their customers and help them make buying decisions about their products or services. This is called content marketing and its all the rage … (Y)ou may not sell anything on your blog, but you can sell things because of it. You can showcase your products and drive people to your website to increase sales. Many businesses have embraced blogging for marketing, which is why we know it isn’t going away anytime soon.”

Blogs are about your passion. If your passion is about supplying the best cutting-edge equipment to foundries, someone in your company should be blogging about that, according to Deckers. If your passion is providing the perfect casting to end-users, you should be writing posts about that. Blogging is a potent way to tell your brand story and connect with your potential customers, and to stay connected with your current audience.

If you are not using a blog to drive traffic to your website or to simply start conversations, Deckers’ chapter on blogging is for you. It is one of the best ways to connect with your audience.

Creating your own blog is one of several platforms metalcasters can better exploit. AFS has engagement with our audience on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and to some extent, Twitter. At this moment, the best engagement occurs on LinkedIn and Facebook. But this could change tomorrow, and we’ll need to adjust.

Social platforms are always changing, as the authors found out in early November after Branding Yourself went to print when Twitter doubled the characters allowed per tweet from 140 to 280. The sections headed “Tips in 140 characters” are very helpful, as the authors’ Twitter followers provided some fascinating answers to key questions posed in the book. You can converse with your audience and even receive helpful feedback. It doesn’t really matter if it’s 140 or 280 characters.   

An especially insightful part of the book is on page 216. There, you get a summary of regular actions you should take on social media for your branding campaign. If branding yourself is what you’re looking for, Branding Yourself is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Erik Deckers is the owner and President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing agency in Indianapolis. He has been blogging since 1997 and has been a humor columnist for more than 20 years. Erik frequently speaks about blogging and social media, especially as it relates to personal branding, small business marketing, crisis communication, and citizen journalism. He is speaking from 3:15-4:45 p.m. on April 3 at the 2018 AFS Metalcasting Congress in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kyle Lacy, co-author of Branding Yourself, is an experienced marketer and strategist. He is VP of Marketing at Lessonly, a training software company. 

Register here for Metalcasting Congress.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the February 2018 issue of Modern Casting

Implementation and Yoda

Star Wars fever has entered the Wetzel household. We’ve binged the movies in anticipation of seeing the newest release, which by the time of this issue’s publication, we will have.

Perhaps that is why the famous Yoda quote, “Do. Or do not. There is no try,” keeps popping into my head.

I’ve been thinking a lot about implementation as we enter into the new year.  Implementation is the life source for ideas and plans. They are nothing if they are not put into action.

Walt Disney knew this. He once said, “get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right.”

The metalcasting industry is full of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, marketers and leaders. Ideas abound. Not all of them are worth pursuing, but many of them are. Before they die on the vine, they must be harvested.

I am sorry to admit many of my own ideas have shriveled and fell to dust. So much for that new landscape design. My focus for 2018 will be to swap intention for implementation.

I won’t have to look far for inspiration. The metalcasting industry turns good ideas into action often.

You may have noticed we’ve run several articles recently on preparing for the compliance date of the new U.S. OSHA respirable silica standard, which is coming up this June. This includes an article on page 30 of this issue. It is the first in a two-part series exploring how to use real-time monitoring to collect hundreds of data points about the dust activity in your facility. The data can guide the development and, key word, implementation of engineering controls to reduce your workers’ exposures to respirable crystalline silica.

In this issue’s Industry News section, we report a recent purchase and partnership between Bremen Castings and Eaton on a 3-D sand printer. This is a great example of a good idea in the beginning phases of implementation.

Still, acting on an idea takes perseverance. As new tools become available to improve efficiencies—software, automation, data collection—it’s not enough to make a purchase and push a button to achieve full implementation.

For example, if you decide to start real-time monitoring for dust in your facility, it is not enough to set up the sampling and collect the data. It’s not even enough to analyze the results to pinpoint locations in most need for engineering controls. Follow-through must occur in the establishment of controls for ultimate idea implementation and project achievement.

Keep dreaming up those ideas and putting them into action. I am looking forward to hearing about results in 2018.

Happy New Year!

Click here to see this story as it appears in the January 2018 issue of Modern Casting

AFS and FEF: Attracting the Next Generation

One of the yearly highlights in the metalcasting industry is the Foundry Educational Foundation (FEF) Industry Conference, held every November in Chicago. The 2017 conference was no exception. The event brings together large numbers of students who are preparing for jobs and internships in our industry, along with representatives of many foundries. The energy level is high as scholarships are presented, students from around the continent network with one another, and employers get to know some of the best and brightest young people planning to enter the industry.

FEF is the metalcasting industry’s link to colleges and universities in North America. All of FEF’s efforts are focused on attracting the very best students to a career in metalcasting. The foundation is led by a dedicated board of directors, whose love for the foundry industry is evident with every conversation that occurs during the College Industry Conference.

The American Foundry Society (AFS) has a longstanding relationship with FEF that is growing closer through increased collaboration and coordination. We at AFS understand that our member companies and individuals cannot be successful in the long run unless FEF is successful in its mission of attracting the best students to our industry. In turn, FEF cannot optimize its success without a vibrant metalcasting sector, whose ability to persevere, grow and prosper is strengthened thanks to AFS advocacy, education, innovation and research programs.

This work is particularly germane at a time when many foundries are looking to hire more employees at all levels of the organization. Beyond collaborating with FEF, AFS works to attract and retain the next generation of metalcasting industry employees in other ways, as well. Our chapters frequently present metalcasting demonstrations to junior high and high school students. AFS publicizes metalcasting careers through the AFS Melting Point website and publication, girls in engineering, mathematics and science outreach, Manufacturing Day activities, and scholarships. Likewise, AFS will soon unveil a new website, which will communicate more clearly the tremendous careers available in our industry for those with the right skills.

College students studying metalcasting benefit from AFS student memberships, student chapters, and casting competitions, which increase their exposure to the industry. Happily, a record number of students attended the last AFS Metalcasting Congress.

Upon graduation, these students are eligible for a free first-year individual membership in AFS, and they are encouraged to explore Future Leaders in Metalcasting, and AFS chapter and committee participation. This is part of a career-long opportunity for enrichment through involvement in AFS.

As workers from the Baby-Boom generation continue to retire—to the tune of 10,000 per day—important jobs are becoming available, and our industry is no exception. Through the combined work of AFS and FEF and the hundreds of volunteers in the two organizations, there is a pipeline of exceptional young people looking to invest their entire careers in our industry.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the December 2017 issue of Modern Casting

Anticipatory Organizations Know the Future, and So Can You

If you could learn a business method that let you know the future with greater certainty, would you be interested? We’re not talking about the kind of predictive analysis that sounds more like fortune telling by your local psychic with the carnival images on the hand-painted sign out front.

If certainty about the future interests you, consider The Anticipatory Organization by Daniel Burrus.

Burrus’ approach is valuable because of his analysis of hard and soft trends. Since Burrus assumes exponential change is already at work in your industry, he explains why we need to be looking past the usually frenetic present and into the future.

Agility is about the present, and it is, emphatically, not enough. Agility is reactive, and the anticipatory organization must be proactive. To be proactively looking at the future, you must know how to analyze the right data, the right way.

We’re talking about knowing the future based on reason and data.

That’s the purpose of this book.Burrus offers new lenses through which to see the future of your business, with certainty. That’s a brash assertion, considering that uncertainty has been lurking around every corner for companies big and small for at least the past decade.

Burrus, a technological futurist, has worked with large companies, including Microsoft, GE, Deloitte, IBM, ExxonMobil, and Visa. In the interest of full disclosure, I have read Burrus’s TECHNOTRENDS newsletter for years, and almost always found it valuable. 

From the first pages, this book resonates of other futuristic analysts, such as Ray Kurzweil, Salim Ismail, and other high-profile technology futurists.

Since the book is written in the context of unstoppable exponential technological change, Burrus argues that his anticipatory method, properly applied, will allow a greater degree predictability than you’ve ever had before.

Does he make his case? The short answer is yes.

Burrus makes it clear from the beginning that he is challenging an existing mindset. Death and taxes are not the only two certainties. Another certainty is the speed of change, also known as exponential change. Companies that fail to intentionally plan with an eye on exponential technological change will find their planning will fail them.

At the heart of the anticipatory method are hard trends that will happen, and soft trends that might happen. The three categories of hard trends are technology, demographics, and government regulation. Technology is going to continue developing at full throttle, the 78 million Baby Boomers will keep aging, and government regulations will continue expanding.

Because of these inescapable hard trends in technology, demographics, and government, no industry will remain static.

Think about what mobile phones were like 15 years ago. Now look at the super-charged computer in your hand you call your cell phone. That’s the exponential growth of the hard technology trend, and that trend is going faster and faster. We know that exponential growth is certain.

Soft trends are trends that might happen. Burrus cites Facebook, which is the dominant platform now, but wasn’t always, and could be knocked from its perch by a rival platform. Social media and its uses might be a hard trend, but within the category, what’s hot, like Facebook, is a soft trend. You must learn to tell the difference between hard and soft trends. 

The book is clear and direct, but the mindfulness of the writing is not as exacting as the thinking about ideas. The terms “game changer” or “game changing” are used on both dust flaps, for a chapter title, and at least 26 more times in the text. Okay, we get it. Anticipatory thinking is a fresh, energizing way to approach business.

One of my favorite parts comes in section three, “Shape the Future - Transform Culture.” Burrus talks about “Futureview,” a term for which he has a registered trademark.

“How you view the future impacts much more of the present than many of us realize. In developing and leveraging an Anticipatory Mindset, it’s important to understand that the future doesn’t function in a vacuum. Rather, it’s something of a two-way street. While how you act in the present determines your future, so, too, does your view of the future impact how you think and act in the present,” Burrus writes.

Our futureview determines how we will live today, and who we will be in the future (a place we will all be spending a lot of time).

A key to managing an Anticipatory Organization is persuading employees toward the same shared futureview, instead of looking in the rearview mirror and focusing on just the present.

I recommend this book. Because of my own “futureview,” I’ll probably read it again.   

Click here to see this story as it appears in the December 2017 issue of Modern Casting

Radiant Heat Loss: Do You Really Know What It’s Costing You?

A lot has been written about radiant heat loss associated with uncovered furnaces. But another major area of radiant heat loss is from furnace shells, such as holding furnaces, reverberatory furnaces and rotary melting furnaces. Table 1 summarizes the heat loss in Btu/ft2/hr. vs. shell temperature. Keep in mind, radiation heat loss goes up as the 4th power of absolute temperature. Heat loss almost doubles when the shell temperature rises from 150F to 200F (65.5C to 93.3C).

To put this in perspective, the results of a carefully documented study of an aluminum holding furnace with an old lining vs. a new lining showed the following as summarized in Table 2.

One often forgets these holding furnaces run 24/7. Thus the estimated annual cost of operating with a furnace shell temperature of 160F (71.1C) is about $9,000-$11,000 per year greater than operating with a shell temperature of 130F (54.4C).

Another study involved a rotary furnace gas-fired non-ferrous melting furnace, 8 ft (2.4m) diameter by 20 ft. (6.1m) long. Normal practice was to start with a lining that resulted in a shell temperature of 400F (204.4C) and reline when the shell temperature reached 900F (482.2C). Just to put this in perspective, the energy use at the two different shell temperatures is shown in Table 3.

The heat loss is costly, and it results in a lengthened melt cycle.

Thus, it is vital the decision of when to replace the lining must take into consideration the total costs (energy and throughput) associated with that lining—not just the obvious cost of the relining itself.

What type of lining you use is also a critical decision. Talk to your refractory company to run numbers on different lining options. Various forms of insulation including newer thin insulation are available. This insulation can reduce the shell temperature and thus the radiant heat loss.

In one example, the addition of an insulating castable and board to a rotary furnace cost $2,000 but saved $8,000 per year.

In a reverberatory furnace, extra castable insulation in the roof and block and board insulation in the upper sidewalls roof was added. This cost $5,000 but saved $14,000 per year.

An often overlooked part of radiative heat loss is emittance. Emittance is a measure of the ability of a surface to radiate energy. A perfect black body emitter (1.0) would radiate the most energy from a hot surface. If you have a dark, dirty, and rough surface (emittance = 0.9) on your furnace, more heat is radiated. A smooth shiny surface such as aluminum paint (emittance = 0.3) would radiate much less. Sometimes repainting your furnace can save more than adding insulation.

Radiant heat loss can be reduced on your furnaces. Relining, added insulation, and even aluminum paint can reduce heat loss. Reducing radiation heat loss saves energy, increases melt rate, and even makes the area cooler for everyone.   

Click here to see this story as it appears in the December 2017 issue of Modern Casting

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