If there was one message that came through at GIFA 2023, it was the importance of sustainability. But what does a sustainable foundry industry mean in practice? Alexander Laugier-Werth, Vice President of Sustainability at Foseco, took time out at the show to share his view.
When most people talk about sustainability, they are thinking about the environment, often specifically about the need to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And there is no doubt that this is the major challenge facing the foundry industry. “Macroscopically and over the long term, there is a deep transformation occurring in society toward decarbonisation,” said Laugier-Werth. “In coming years, this process will increase and mature, having a profound impact on all sectors of the economy.”
This poses a two-pronged challenge for foundries. The first is to decarbonise their own operations. The second is to adapt to changes in demand for its products. “We’ve seen it already with the growth in renewable energy,” continued Laugier-Werth. “We’re now seeing it with e-mobility and the massive impact this is having on the auto industry. These changes will cause demand for certain types of castings to fade, while new types of castings will emerge. Casting processes will thus have to evolve to adapt to the demands of this new world.”
The greenest company in the world
“The good news is that, in the foundry industry, many of these challenges are linked,” explained Laugier-Werth. And this is where Foseco takes the field. The company’s range of products and services may be large but look through them and you will find a company that, at its heart, is focused on helping foundries reduce inefficiency, improve quality, and meet the changing demands of their customers.
“What do we do?” asked Laugier-Werth. “Fundamentally, we provide solutions that reduce waste in a highly energy-intensive process. This could be by reducing heat loss when melting and holding metal. It could be by reducing scrap and re-work through solutions that improve casting quality. But the end result is a more efficient process, and thus a more environmentally sustainable process.”
Look at it like this and “our job is to reduce CO2 emissions in one of the world’s most energy-intensive industries,” concluded Laugier-Werth.
More than just carbon emissions
Sustainability goes beyond environmental concern, however. At Foseco parent company, Vesuvius, two of four strategic sustainability priorities relate to CO2 emissions: the other two focus on social sustainability.
One of these is to become a zero-accident company. “We strive to be best in class from a safety standpoint at our own manufacturing facilities. But we are also eager to share our knowledge and practices with our customers,” said Laugier-Werth. “When it comes to health and safety, we believe we all benefit from openness and partnership and are glad to use our own experiences to support foundries improve their own safety practices.”
The fourth priority relates to gender diversity in the workforce, particularly at senior leadership level. “The industry is facing a chronic shortage of skills, yet because we remain a predominantly male industry, we are effectively missing out on at least 50% of the labour force. That’s a not something we can afford to do. Workforce diversity thus has very real benefits when it comes to the success of a business and an industry.”
What does the future hold?
Many of these ideas were on display at the Foseco stand at GIFA, which was designed around three key themes: sustainability, innovation and technology, and partnership and knowledge. “This is the single best opportunity for us to engage with our customers on these different topics,” noted Laugier-Werth. “We have the right people here to have the right conversations. It is thus the ideal place to discuss ideas and solutions to the macro challenges we all face.”
And when it comes to looking ahead? Laugier-Werth is succinct: “It’s a simple vision of an industry enabled to deliver better quality products, cheaply, and with zero accidents and carbon emissions. That’s the industry we are working toward at Foseco; and it’s an industry I’m excited to help build.”