Metal Casting Technologies : MCT-DEC-2014
icro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) play a significant role in the functioning and economic growth of all the world’s economies. In developing and transition economies in particular, MSMEs are frequently crucial to poverty alleviation and social progress. Their importance is evidenced by the recent introduction of a growing raft of policies and initiatives designed to aid MSME development, not only on a national level, but also at forums such as the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The influence of MSMEs - which can be both beneficial and detrimental - is higher in the Asia region than anywhere else because of the rapid rate of regional economic growth. With their strong socio-economic connection, the environmental footprint of MSMEs, when viewed on a collective basis, is often significant. This is certainly the case when considering the metal casting industries of India and China. With their operations invariably constrained by financial considerations, cost factors are far more important for small Asian foundries than issues such as energy efficiency and pollution control. Companies such as these may operate on a hand-to-mouth basis, frequently using the cheapest fuels available, regardless of emissions or quality standards. Apart from a general lack of funding, the growth and environmental performance of MSME foundries may also suffer from a lack of awareness about or access to clean energy efficient technologies and operating practices, a paucity of technical, management and marketing capacities, difficulties in accessing eco-focused bank finance, and a complete absence of innovation and R & D facilities. Endangered status The combined result of the factors listed above is that the environmental performance of MSME foundries remains very weak in many parts of the Asian region. This leaves them susceptible to enforced closure when strict environmental regulations are introduced, which often happens too quickly for such foundries to adapt and comply. This has already been seen in China, and is increasingly being witnessed in India. “In China many MSME foundries will close over the next 12 months,” says Brian Wilson, Program Manager at the International Lead Management Center in North Carolina and a member of Blacksmith Institute’s Technical Advisory Board. “In India, more and more of the smaller MSMEs will also close as the environmental costs favour plants with the larger production volumes.” All of the numerous barriers to growth and greening must be addressed and overcome before MSME foundries can properly face the challenges of an increasingly competitive, globalized environment. In this respect, some countries are doing better than others. “Havng visited more than 200 MSME casting foundries in China and India, I would have to say that today eco- awareness in this segment is generally quite limited,” says Nipendra Singh, a consulting partner for S & A Consulting Group LLP. “In terms of the level of sophistication, technology and casting techniques used, which all obviously impact environmental performance, China and some parts of India lead the way. But even here legislation is weak and poorly enforced.” A divided blast cupola at an MSME foundry in India helps increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution. FEATURE FEATURE Under Pressure Environmental concerns weigh heavily on Asia’s small foundries Daniel Allen M METAL casting Technologies December 2014 21 20 www.metals.rala.com.au China’s drive to reduce the wide-reaching environmental footprint of the country’s small foundries will see thousands close over the next few years.