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Answers May Be Simple, But Execution Is Key

I lost my keys last month.

We all have done it. In this case, these lost keys required all five of my family members and an hour and 45 minutes to find them.

During my all-out, turn-everything-upside-down search of our house, garage and cars, I kept saying to myself, the simplest answer probably is the correct one. For me, the simplest answer would have been that the keys were left in my car. So, we searched every crack and crevice of my car at least five times. But it took one final gasp of frustration during the last search of the car for me to take a step back, stare in the distance for some clarity (across the roof of my SUV), and see my keys resting on the roof.

This story relates to our feature, “Success Strategies for Job Shops,” on p. 34. This article contains the opinion of a veteran casting buyer who worked in a metalcasting facility in a previous life. The buyer is sharing his opinion on what metalcasters must do to solidify their business and weather the ups and downs of the economy.

Yes, you have read similar articles and heard similar presentations in the past. While this article doesn’t break any new ground on the subject, Modern Casting has selected this article because the message is still important. If your business doesn’t execute on the fundamentals, it is difficult to build a foundation for success.

Here is a list of the six points raised by the casting buyer:

  • Serve different market segments and diversify your customer base
  • Produce well-balanced product mix and never lose contact to market reality
  • Know your production costs
  • Permanently optimize processes in the shop
  • It is all about sales
  • Train and educate your people

While you can look at your costing system and say it is an accurate reflection of your operation, the best evaluations often come when you examine other successful businesses and their best practices. Maybe this is a metalcaster you compete against or maybe it is a manufacturer in another industry that received positive press for its implementation of a new quotation system. Constantly seeking out these case studies of success and comparing them to your own systems (no matter how efficient you might be) ensures you are running at peak efficiency.

The core of your business is the fundamentals. Execution of these fundamentals is at the heart of success.  Read the thoughts of this casting buyer and truly examine how your facility stacks up.

When I came home from work that evening on the day I lost my keys, my 11-year-old daughter Abigail smiled at me and said, “Remember, the simplest answer probably is the correct one.”  I will continue to remind myself of this and hopefully you will to.


6 in 10 Teachers Choose Welding

A recent poll asked 220 vocational and technical high school teachers the following question:

“Thinking about vocational courses, please tell us how likely you feel a student focusing on each of the following career paths would be able to find a job or a career in that field after graduation.”

These teachers were given five different industries from which to choose:

•    Metalcasting
•    Woodworking
•    Machining
•    Tool, die and patternmaking
•    Welding

Table1Take a look at the results in Table 1. Based on some simple math, 59.5% of the teachers surveyed believe it is “very likely” a student focusing on welding in high school will find a job or career after graduation while only 19.1% believe the same of metalcasting.

The results of this poll were a bit of a wake-up call to me. Sure, I knew metalcasting isn’t on the top priority list of today’s manufacturing technology and/or votech teachers. But I saw this as a larger problem for all manufacturing disciplines in which we were all in the same boat. This data says we aren’t all in the same boat; some of our industries are sinking faster than others.

Another surprising result is that machining didn’t place highest among these industries.  I have had the opportunity to see several high school and college workshops decked out with some of the latest machining systems (enough to make many manufacturers jealous) and teachers beaming about the opportunities for jobs as machinists. These must be more isolated cases than I experienced.

On a positive note, this poll isn’t talking about the students themselves or their parents.  However, this poll is talking about one of the biggest influences on students—their teacher.  Couple the feelings of these teachers with those of the school guidance counselors (who, if we poll, would probably express similar opinions as the teachers), and our industry has an uphill battle in securing the next generation of metalcasters.

But it is a battle worth the effort. While our industry is fighting fires on many different fronts—regulations, globalization, customer knowledge and experience, pricing pressures, and competing processes, just to name a few—engaging the next generation of workers is an endeavor that rewards you as much as it does the industry. Just remember, it isn’t just the students we need to focus on. We have to win the hearts and minds of their teachers and their guidance counselors as well.

If you have any comments about this editorial or any other item that appears in Modern Casting, email me at aspada@afsinc.org.

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