Metal Casting Technologies : Whos who September 2012
20 www.metals.rala.com.au Investment in sulphur dioxide and carbon capture technology, and emphasis on cleaner, renewable energies, is vital. This will increase future costs for capital investment, and also increase the cost of operations for both existing and newer business enterprises. In the longer term, however, reduced energy use will benefit foundries, especially in light of uncertainty over oil prices and power costs. Despite targets and good intentions, environmental protection and economic profit are not often comfortable bedfellows. Even in well-governed cities there are invariably some foundries that ought to be fined, and some that need to be closed for severely polluting local air and water. Unfortunately, while these enterprises contribute hefty tax revenue and are a good source of employment, the inclination to act against them may be low. “I think most Chinese foundries have the desire to be green and efficient, but it all comes down to money,” says Galen Wang. “Still, compared with developed countries, environmental investment in China is far from enough. To achieve green casting we have heavy responsibilities and also great potential. With the right mindset, strategy and investment, I believe we can change China from a big casting country into a green casting power in the near future.” In a nation where the lion’s share of rainfall and snowmelt occur in the south, China is no stranger to regional water scarcity and issues around hydro-engineering. Today, however, surging economic growth has exacerbated the problem to choking point. China’s expanding industrial sector, which already consumes 70 percent of the nation’s energy, sucks up more energy every year. In turn, rising energy demands mean that China’s enormous reserves of coal – mostly located in the desiccated north – are having to be exploited. Production and consumption of coal has already tripled since 2000, and government analysts project China’s energy companies will need to increase coal production by a further 30 percent by 2020. The knock-on problem here is that Chinese coal production uses a lot of water. In fact, the water needed for mining, processing and consuming Chinese coal accounts for the largest share of the country’s industrial water use - a fifth of all the water consumed nationally. With climate change already impacting on water resource levels across China, the western and northern regions – where many of China’s foundries are located – will face severe water shortages. With this in mind, Chinese foundries must look at measures to reduce their water consumption, based around new technology and production processes, and efforts to ramp up recycling and water efficiency on both a micro and macro level. China’s hourly manufacturing labour rates are currently way below rates in Japan (US$27.80) and Taiwan (US$8.68), but roughly level with nations like the Philippines ($1.68), and slightly higher than those in India. Still, pay hikes within the foundry industry have been fairly significant over the last few years, and cheap labour can no longer be relied upon to give Chinese foundries a cutting edge. While the Chinese foundry industry currently employs 1.5 to 1.6 million people, many foundries are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain workers, partly because foundry work is considered dirty and unrewarding. To change this perception, working conditions and pay need to be improved, and skills training improved. As of June 2010, 16 training bases had been established by the CFA across China, allowing more than 10,000 technicians and skilled workers to be trained annually. Bright minds are essential for the development of Chinese foundry technology. Within the industry, basic and applied research has to be enhanced for developing new technologies, materials and equipment. Computer simulations need to be introduced to improve production processes and the quality of commonly-used metallic materials - this is particularly crucial for the acceleration of high-end equipment manufacturing. Software jointly developed by Tsinghua University and Huzhong University of Science and Technology has already been put into widespread use to improve casting quality and reduce waste. “When it comes to technological progress, the trick is to be innovative and profitable,” says Gopal Padki. “In these times of immense uncertainty, global slowdown and domestic pressures, the Chinese foundry industry needs to innovate not only in technology, but in business, training and management too.” Until now China has been regarded as an unstoppable force in the global castings arena. The recent upward trend in foreign investment in the Chinese foundry industry is a reflection of its inherent strength, resilience, and huge potential for growth. While moves up the value chain within the industry have so far been tentative, and growing pains are inevitable, widespread benchmarking with western standards is an indication of Beijing’s determination to make China a true foundry superpower. The next few years should certainly prove interesting. BRiGHT MiNDs ARE EssENTiAL fOR THE DEVELOPMENT Of cHiNEsE fOUNDRY TEcHNOLOGY.
Whos who September 2011