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Energy-Intensive and Medium-Sized: Is German Foundry a Discontinued Model?

At its third “Zukunftstag“ (Future Day), the German Foundry Association (BDG) posed a rhetorical question to stakeholders and the industry: Do we still need casting from Germany? And why is the industry currently facing such difficulties?

von | 26.06.24

At its third “Zukunftstag“ (Future Day), the German Foundry Association (BDG) posed a rhetorical question to stakeholders and the industry: Do we still need casting from Germany? And why is the industry currently facing such difficulties?
© BDG
Zukunftstag Future day German Foundry Association (BDG)

June 2024 | At its third “Zukunftstag“ (Future Day), the German Foundry Association (BDG) posed a rhetorical question to stakeholders and the industry: Do we still need casting from Germany? And why is the industry currently facing such difficulties?

The Federal Association of the German Foundry Industry launched the “Future Day” format in 2020 in order to visualise and establish generally applicable topics from corporate management and framework conditions in open discourse with experts from outside the industry, in addition to the industry’s technically focused conferences. In addition to economic policy framework conditions, the programme revolved around skilled workers in the afternoon. The German foundry industry, part of the energy-intensive SME sector, is struggling amid transformations and a shortage of skilled workers.

Opening Remarks by BDG President Clemes Küpper

“We have become visible because we consume a lot of energy. Suddenly, that’s seen as a bad thing,” stated Clemens Küpper, re-elected BDG President, during his opening speech.

The challenges facing foundry managers are all too familiar—overwhelming reporting obligations, uncertain regulatory frameworks, high energy prices, and recruitment issues are pushing many companies to their limits. “Energy costs, grid fees, and long-term contracts—these are conditions not seen in countries with governments that manage them,” Küpper summarized. He advocated for grid fees to become a national responsibility, not burdening individual companies.

“We need a clear statement from politicians: you are our SMEs, you are the most important thing for our prosperity. But SMEs are not being recognised enough in Berlin,” said Küpper and demanded: “We need a clear commitment from the federal government to energy-intensive industrial SMEs. This includes planning security.”

His welcome speech encapsulated what various keynote speeches and panel discussions later elaborated on from different perspectives.

Panel Discussion on Industry Challenges

The central topic block was the question “Do we still need castings from Germany?” Two foundrymen Dr Christiane Heunisch-Grotz (Gießerei Heunisch) and Rolf Cramer (Druckguss Westfalen) were joined by Dr Klaus Bauknecht (Chief Economist IKB, Deutsche Industriebank) and Carolin Schenuit (Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft) for the discussion.

Carolin Schenuit noted the contradictions in Berlin’s policy, the lack of attention to SMEs, and Germany’s isolated position in European climate policy.

“Strategically and for resilience, we certainly need casting products from Germany,” she stated, also mentioning the international influence of German initiatives.

She recommended targeted lobbying in Berlin and personnel involvement in local politics.

Dr. Klaus Bauknecht highlighted the need for an investment boost. “The upscale middle class is currently not investing, even abroad.” A resurgence in the economy could solve many issues. “If the car isn’t moving, I can’t steer it.”

He pointed to signs of economic recovery, but stressed that a significant upturn is only conceivable with absolutely secure conditions. Dr. Christiane Heunisch-Grotz and Rolf Cramer emphasized the need for reliability and competitive energy prices during a panel discussion.

“We’re burdened with reporting obligations instead of focusing on our production, and we produce a lot that’s vital for the transformation,” Cramer lamented.

VDMA sees potential improvement

Bertram Kawlath, Vice President of VDMA and Managing Director of Schubert&Salzer, described the situation as a temporary economic dip but saw potential improvement ahead. Despite VDMA’s European focus, a clear commitment to casting in Germany emerged, with calls for stable regulatory conditions and a level playing field in Europe.

The afternoon was dedicated to innovative approaches to recruiting in a labor market, with the BDG itself showcasing a prime example by awarding the winner of its apprenticeship competition. Apprentices from various foundries shared their daily routines in short TikTok vlogs, with Lea Pugliese of STIHL winning the €1,500 prize.

The day balanced discussions on economic policy with a focus on the human aspect, leaving BDG‘s Chief Executive, Max Schumacher, satisfied yet ending with an urgent appeal to politicians:

“Create the right conditions and let the companies do their work. That’s how we’ll become more competitive.”

 

(Source: BDG/2024)

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