Looking ahead: Manufacturing trends taking us into 2019

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Efforts to increase productivity, improve quality and control resources (labour, energy, costs) remain the top priorities of manufacturers. Achieving this however means keeping aware of ongoing changes across the industry, and ensuring operations align with the trends shaping the future.

To help foundry customers build a strategy for growth that aligns with customer and industry needs, Norican is sharing the Group’s collective expert insight into the trends that have dominated the industry in 2018 and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Aluminium – shifting to the light side

The pivot towards aluminium across automotive, construction, aerospace and many other sectors is gathering pace.

With global consumption predicted to rise to 120 million tonnes by 2025, the auto industry is very much driving this shift.

The use of aluminium in automobiles will double from around 12% to 25% of global consumption – 30 million tonnes – by 2025. 

This rise in aluminium overlaps significantly with green trends. As environmental legislation tightens, demand has increased exponentially for the light alloy castings needed to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – particularly large structural parts.

The subject is perhaps discussed most avidly in China which, as both the world’s largest aluminium producer and consumer, is spearheading the shift.

Aluminium certainly proved to be the hottest topic at Metal China this year. 

Be sure to find out more about the shift towards aluminium in the Norican special report.

Skills shortages and automation

The current lack of skilled labour from manual workers for the shakeout to experienced foundry engineers is a serious concern for foundries globally. At the World Foundry Congress, it was a recurring topic that factored in a duo of guest lectures from DISA’s Per Larsen.

Helping to tackle the lack of labour availability while at the same time improving casting consistency and the working environment is automation which has the added gain of enabling foundries to assign staff to higher value tasks such as testing, problem solving or engineering design. 

Automation features are a major focus of development right across Norican Group. Solutions cover all areas of foundry operations, including safe, clean molten metal transport and filling with StrikoWestofen’s Schnorkle, automated moulding core and filter setting from DISA and automated blast conveyor lines for workpiece transport from Wheelabrator. 

Automation will gather more pace in the coming years, helping the industry achieve its common goal: making working in foundries appeal to younger generations.

 

Industry 4.0 and big data

The foundry industry has always worked with data. However, digitisation has now brought on a fundamental shift in the volume, granularity and processability of data. It has also opened up new opportunities. 

All around us, manufacturers are rapidly adopting Industry 4.0 technology to produce more, in improved quality, faster and with less waste. 

A desire to bring together, deepen and maximise data and digital knowledge, led us to launch Norican Digital which is positioned perfectly to develop new digital technologies, encompassing the learnings, expertise and customer experience from across the breadth of the Group, helping customers improve their processes by turning raw data into valuable insight. 

Even before Norican Digital’s group-wide infrastructure arrived, prior achievements demonstrate sophisticated digital capabilities. A great example of this is Italpresse Gauss’ launch of AMe, the augmented reality app that enables maintenance workers to trouble-shoot alone, via the app, or via a live video connection with an Italpresse Gauss expert. 

Such was success of the AMe, Microsoft featured Italpresse Gauss as a digital disruptor in its partnership video Manufacturing the future: Insights from digital leaders.

Eco credentials and sustainability

In the foundry industry, energy use is directly linked to customer profitability. Effective sustainability initiatives will benefit both the environment and the bottom line. 

Across the Norican Group, a lot of research, development and innovation work goes into creating features to help foundries win on efficiency and reduce energy use, delivering the dual benefit of sustainability and cost reduction. These features are not just for new equipment, most can be retrofitted onto existing equipment.

StrikoWestofen’s hot gas baffle is a prime example of reducing energy while winning on efficiency; its ceramic fibre shaft cover prevents heat from escaping, and increases the energy-efficiency of the melting process. It can be retrofitted onto existing equipment.

ECO-FIT Mode and ECO-FIT Plus from Italpresse Gauss are also offered as a modification and dramatically reduce energy consumption by regulating hydraulic pumps to optimise performance. ECO-FIT Plus can deliver energy savings of up to 60%. 

Energy efficiency enhancements also come from sophisticated digital innovations. For the first time ever, foundries are able to spot and react to mould string inaccuracies in real time before pouring – thanks to the high-precision DISA MAC (Mould Accuracy Controller) measuring device.

By capturing mould-related mismatch, mould gaps, mould steps and parallelism for each mould, this innovation has the potential to save huge amounts of energy by making remelting a thing of the past.

Norican Group is committed to helping its customers lower their costs per casting – be that by increasing productivity, improving casting quality or controlling resources (labour, energy, costs).