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Metal Casting Technologies : September 2006
WHO'S WHO OF METALS -- ANNUAL 2006/7 25 natural resources are finite, and that there are limits to growth. It is seeking to do what it can, as quickly as it can implement the necessary changes. A complicating factor is that many local plants should be closed for causing severe damage to the local air and water, but, unfortunately these same enterprises supply local governments considerable revenue in the form of taxes, while some others are a major source of employment for the local community and rural youth, in regions with relatively high unemployment. The foundry industry within China currently employs over 1 million people. In turn, foreign or joint venture foundries may have no choice also but to implement the necessary environmental protection measures employed back 'home'. Increased expectations among the local population, increasing demands for good corporate social responsibility for foreign and Chinese firms alike, and a more stringent legal environment , suggest an opportunity for the industry to 'lead the way'. But will it take up the baton? The issue of sufficient supply of suitably trained and motivated manpower suggests a far deeper, structural problem now besetting the industry. With the gradual winding down over the past decade of central government support for tertiary institutions offering foundry courses, and their merger with materials sciences departments, along with the attraction for graduates for other service industry positions, there is sufficient concern amongst industry leaders for the supply of sufficiently skilled students, and in sufficient numbers, to facilitate continued industry growth. Addressing this issue in early 2006, Wu Yi, Vice Minister, and Minister of Health, indicated the government's awareness of the expected great shortfall in graduates for the foundry industry, and the need for large training institutions to supply them. While those within the foundry industry can take comfort in the fact that the government is at least listening to them, the question remains as to whether the government is seeking to placate the industry while in reality actually preferring to allow industry captains, and the industry per se, to deal with the problem themselves? For the foreign foundries, the challenge for 2007 and beyond will be an effort to keep a reign on wages vis-à-vis the present level of competitiveness. For others, it is to wait and see if and when the upper management within the Chinese or state-run foundries adopt and implement wholesale advanced management techniques. For much of the state-run foundries, who recognise the low level of their products in the face of international competition, and international facility standards, 2006-2007 represents an immediate and continued 'technological barrier'. Elius Levin is a native-born Australian business journalist who has lived in China for 12 years. He has worked as an editor and writer throughout the past 20+ years, and professionally since 1989. Volkswagen cylinder bloac: CMM inspection. Control room of cupola furnaces. Cylinder block finishing line.