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Leveraging Casting to Address Labor Shortages

Shannon Wetzel

On a recent trip to visit foundries in Iowa, I encountered a phrase several times that I’m sure we’ve all heard (or experienced) the last couple of years: shortstaffed. From the rental car company to the hotel to the restaurant, long waits were common. 

For the most part, customers were largely understanding—the difficulty across a gamut of industries to find and keep staff is common knowledge. And it will be a challenge for some time. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as of July, there were 9.8 million open jobs in the U.S. and 5.9 million unemployed workers. So even if all the unemployed found a job, there would still be 4 million open jobs remaining.

Companies’ efforts to combat labor shortages are apparent. The implementation of self checkout lanes has certainly grown. And some hotels are offering the ability to skip the check-in counter and go straight to the room with keyless entry.

Manufacturing has not been immune, of course. During my site visits over the last couple of years, the theme has been automation and efficiency as a direct way to improve the work environment and do more with the staff available.  

Another way to improve your workforce efficiency is to rethink how you’re making your parts. This issue of Casting Source contains several examples of components being redesigned to take out time and labor. Our cover story, “Cutting Lead Times by Converting to Castings” on page 32, shows four examples of how switching processes helped OEMs not only save time to market but also free up fabrication and welding capacity in their own shops; those redesigned parts now require less personnel time to manufacture. In one example, a six-piece weldment redesigned as single casting saved 3,000 employee hours, which could then be used for other jobs. 

We talk about casting conversions a lot in this magazine. Ideally, parts that could benefit from casting’s advantages would be designed as a casting, first and foremost. Technologies like 3D printing for foundry tooling make choosing a cast process from the get-go more straightforward.

When reducing required manhours is the name of the game, metalcasting can be a gamechanger.  CS