MANUFACTURING: Steely Resolve By Foundries Is Key
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THE manufacturing sector and foundries in particular have taken huge economic strain over the past twelve months due to the worldwide recession.
Charles Rowe, CE of Cape Town-based Ajax Manufacturing, one of the largest and oldest aluminium foundries in the Western Cape, says, “It’s been an incredibly tough year for us, as well as for many of our colleagues in the industry. How have we coped? We have had to implement a number of fairly drastic measures, such as reducing our operation to a three day week, trimming personnel where necessary, improv-ing power efficiency and focusing on quality control to reduce scrap.”
“The irony of our industry is that we are usually one of the first to feel the effects of an economic downturn and one of the last to recover. So it’s all down to perseverance, strict financial controls and a friendly bank manager. After more than 55 years in the business one learns quite a few lessons on survival.”
“The good news is that 2010 has started on a more promising note. We have secured two new customers and continue to manufacture components for some of our established customers. There is also the continuing support by the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN), which is partly funded by a grant from the government through the DTI. The main objective of this programme is to assist industry through an aluminium HPDC benchmarking and performance improvement project, facilitated by the NFTN in association with the Automotive Industry Development Centre and a leading aluminium HPDC expert,” Rowe says.
All the participating parties are being benchmarked using an international benchmarking tool. The selected companies are benchmarked against each other and then also against Australian, Japanese and North American companies. The benchmarking phase, as with other phases, will be confidential and each company will only be able to identify itself in the final report.
“Last year we had visits from NFTN representatives and found that the programme led to improvements in operation and global competitiveness and added a most positive element to our business, against a backdrop of reduced business opportunities worldwide,” Rowe says.
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