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Metal Casting Technologies : September 2008
Religion There were countries that scrupulously observed the practices of their professed religions. “Praying the hours” were especially observed carefully which sometimes got in the way of production. This might be considered a problem by other countries, but since the service to God takes precedence over everything else, who could fault them for this practice? Since it was something undebatable, management recognized this and made the necessary allowances to fairly accommodate the practice. It might hamper the foundry’s efficiency and productivity, but they claimed that “their faith would sustain them.” Then there were those foundries whose supervisors just sat at a central place like a demi-god from where they directed the whole production operations. Workers invariably had to go to them with their problems, instead of the other way around. Most of the workers were not properly-trained either; even those doing laboratory work. Some of the laboratory equipment were not being used simply because the “technicians” didn’t know how to use them, even the supervisors. They were extremely appreciative when the author showed them how. They claimed that management obtained these for them without their asking – obviously because they were not familiar with them. These were government-operated foundries which saw no real need to compete with anybody. Floor innovation In some countries, workers were great innovators. Short-cuts to standardized methods were continually made – sometimes effectively and successfully, but most of the time unsatisfactorily and even disastrously. These could be remedied if the foreman knew or discovered such innovations on time, however most of the time the workers concealed the anomaly and tried remedies by themselves which resulted in lost time or defective castings. These could be avoided or minimized if there existed good rapport between the workers and the foreman. Such would produce good cooperation between them that would be conducive to better efficiency and higher productivity. Needed: A culture of concerted Innovation Innovation should be done by the foundry as a whole, as a concerted effort – like controlled innovation to improve on a product design or a production process. Basic research, or even applied research, is so expensive that most countries, especially the “third world” countries, could not afford it. This indicates that they should resort to innovation – not on short- cuts as mentioned above, but to improvements on products or processes. Manager, supervisors and workmen alike should be indoctrinated and trained in the process of conceiving, sharing and developing innovative ideas for the good of their companies. They don’t have to invent anything; all they need to do is improve on what is already existing. In today’s fast-paced business environment, and vis-à-vis the globalization of business, innovation should find itself on top of the agenda of most foundries. It is today a prerequisite for success, if not for survival. However, innovation has its attendant risks and, although most managements do not like risks, the rewards could be awesome and tempting. It has been reported that today many companies in Europe and Asia have already set up formal structures to review and evaluate innovative ideas. Have you? This calls to mind the now classic example of an actual gadget that was supposedly first invented in the Philippines during the early 1980s which dissociated hydrogen gas from the H2 O of plain water and used this to fuel and run a car engine. While it is already an established and well-known fact that hydrogen could actually be used as a fuel to propel rockets into outer space, no one in the Philippines even earnestly bothered to fully evaluate the gadget – probably because premium gasoline was only at about PHP10.00-12.00 per litre in the Philippines at that time, so there was not much motivation and no felt need… and the idea was finally relegated to oblivion. Nobody ever heard about the idea again until today when interest in the gadget is being revived – when the pump-price for premium gasoline is at PHP62.00 per liter and still continually going up – after both the Toyota and Honda car manufacturers reportedly have developed their own versions of a hydrogen-powered car and have successfully produced their first prototypes. Product development is continuously on-going and the first commercial hydrogen-powered cars would reportedly be available in the market within the next few years. This is “product innovation” that is most probably culled and based on the very first gadget that was invented in the Philippines in the 1980s and which no one ever took seriously. It only indicates that there is a crucial need for an organizational culture that supports innovation as a corporate priority which touches every aspect of the manufacturing industry, in general, and of the foundry industry in particular. ¦ METAL Casting Technologies September 2008 95