Even though the Indian foundry industry has stepped ahead from the fifth to the third-largest producer of castings globally over the last 10 years, a lot of value-addition is required to increase its global share. This is what A K Anand, Director, Institute of Indian Foundrymen (IIF) reveals in this exclusive interview with HUNED CONTRACTOR.
Could you elaborate on IIF?
IIF is actively engaged in dissemination of knowledge, promotion of the latest productive and greener technologies, skill development, business and export promotion, and policy advocacy for the foundry sector. It also maintains and updates a large database, publishes the Indian Foundry Directory as well as technical publications on various topics of interest to the foundry industry. It promotes efficient energy and resource management and lean manufacturing techniques for sustainable growth of the foundry sector in India.
IIF conducts its activities through 27 chapters and four regional offices in the country located at Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and three Centres of Excellence i.e. Foundry Informatics Centre (FIC) at New Delhi, Centre of Education & Training (CET) at Kolkata and National Centre of Technical Services (NCTS) at Pune. There are approximately 4,000 members from leading foundries, equipment manufacturers, material manufacturers, academicians from leading institutions, foundry consultants, service providers, and students. In short, IIF serves as a nodal point of reference for all stakeholders of the foundry industry.
What is the current size and status of the Indian foundry industry?
The Indian foundry industry has gradually risen from the fifth to the third-largest producer of castings globally over the last 10 years. The Indian casting industry has grown by more than 43 per cent over 2008. The foundry industry currently produces approximately 10 million tonne of cast components in ferrous and nonferrous category as per various international standards. The foundry sector’s annual turnover is about $18 billion at current production rates, which is only around 10 per cent of the global production by weight.
With a sustainable growth plan in place, the global share of production could go up to 20 per cent in the next five years. Currently, the foundry sector is exporting castings worth $2.7 billion annually besides another $2 billion worth fully finished ready-to-use parts and sub-assemblies for various applications. There is a huge potential to improve the market share through increased value addition and the exports can grow to $8-10 billion with improved productivity and focus on new markets.
What kind of challenges does this industry face in terms of raw materials, labour, taxes, imports, competition, etc?
The foundry industry faces several challenges. As far as raw material is concerned, silica sand is one of the key raw materials used for mouldings. Sand becomes partly wasted after castings and this can be reclaimed and reused. However, sand reclamation plants are highly capital-intensive and SMEs can’t afford to invest in such technology. The government needs to promote investments in such technologies by making finance available at globally competitive rates and soft terms.
Moreover, scrap of iron, steel, stainless steel and aluminium needs to be imported as India does not generate enough scrap. The import of such scrap should be allowed duty-free for value-addition as is the case with most of the competing countries. Availability of skilled labour is also a challenge. IIF is promoting skill development through its Centre of Education & Training at Kolkata and is conducting various modular certificate programmes in Foundry Technology. IIF has recently started an initiative to train shopfloor workers at their doorsteps in six regional languages besides English for better understanding. Trainers have been shortlisted and oriented for this task. The programme will gradually cover 75 per cent of the workforce in major clusters in a phased manner.
At present, India continues to be a net exporter of castings. However, import of castings from countries like China needs to be watched. That’s because the slowdown in Chinese economy and huge capacities built over decades will put pressure on dumping of castings by China. The industry needs to explore how to use non-tariff barriers and other legal provisions available under the WTO to check the dumping of castings.
What is being done to promote exports?
As mentioned earlier, currently the foundry sector is exporting castings worth $2.7 billion annually. There is a huge potential to improve the market share through increased value-addition and exports can grow to $8-10 billion. The industry is focusing on productivity by using lean manufacturing, cluster approach for better access to modern technology, improved infrastructure, increasing application of IT in design, production and in-process quality assurance, recycling, and waste reduction.
What are the green technologies that are being implemented in the Indian foundry industry?
The foundry industry is gradually shifting to induction melting instead of coke-based cupola furnaces. Recycling of sand-in clusters helps in waste reduction and waste disposal. Some percentage of sand though has to be discarded as it becomes unfit for moulding. Progressive foundries are using this sand for construction material such as bricks and it can also be used for road construction. The application of IT also helps in optimum design and improved yield with reduction in rejections, which ultimately saves energy and helps in environment protection. IIF has also submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Environment for creating voluntary guidelines for greening of products and processes which will set benchmarks for guiding the industry, especially the MSMEs.
What kinds of training programmes are required to enhance the skill levels and attract new talent in this industry?
The technology and manufacturing processes are changing faster than ever before. There is an increased use of IT, recycling, automation, robotics along with more focus on environment, health and safety. This increased focus offers new and challenging opportunities for young engineers to explore career options in these areas. Going forward, the infrastructure and curriculum in training institutes will have to be aligned to suit such requirements.
Institute of Indian Foundrymen (IIF)
IIF is an apex national industry body for the Indian foundry industry (metal castings) founded in 1950 with its headquarters at Kolkata. It is an accredited Business Member Organisation (BMO) under the gold category by NABET/QCI under the initiative of the Ministry of MSME and GIZ, Germany. IIF is an active member of the World Foundry Organisation, CII, EEPC, BRICS Foundry Forum, and Asia Foundry Forum and represents the Indian foundry industry at various international events and forums.