Forum Gießerei-Industrie 2021 German and European Foundry Industry - Interview with Franz-Josef Wöstmann
The German and European foundry industry is currently affected by several crises. Franz-Josef Wöstmann, Head of Department for Technology Forecast and Exploration at Fraunhofer IFAM and technical director of the "Forum Gießerei-Industrie", explains the current situation and points out important aspects which the industry must tackle now.
How do you currently assess the situation for the foundry industry in Germany, Europe and in comparison worldwide?
The foundry industry is currently facing a massive crisis due to the collapse in sales figures. However, the reduction in sales figures has already started in 2019 and was further aggravated by the corona pandemic. In 2020, the foundry industry will therefore face several challenges at the same time:
- Declining sales figures and component restructuring
- In Germany and Europe there is currently a high risk of losing large shares of production to Asia.
Regarding the economic crisis, what are the industry's expectations for the next 12 months?
The crisis will intensify in the coming months and hit the supplier industry particularly hard. At the moment this means that liquidity, where it still exists, must be conserved and at the same time new business models must be tackled in order to remain viable in the face of increasing competitive pressure.
Despite the challenges, do you see promising chances of survival for certain industries?
In principle, all areas of production still have a right to exist. The changes brought about by e-mobility are slowly moving into the scene and are not yet the unit cost drivers. However, it is neccessary to develop new products and business models in the short term by combining them with Industry 4.0 - a big buzzword that is unfortunately all too often confused with data storage from production. In addition to quality control, improvement and traceability, new business models with customer benefits can be generated that create unique selling points. In other words, parts suppliers must think beyond their own business boundaries in terms of the potential benefits for their customers and end users in order to generate unique selling points in the future and thus remain profitable on the market. Those who manage to do this have great potential to position themselves in the long term.
What are mistakes the industry has made in the past?
The supply industry in particular, as well as the primary and transformation sectors, have rested too much on their quality and know-how in Germany, without realizing how quickly the catch-up and overtaking process from abroad has taken place. This belief in technological supremacy has led to too little and far too conservative investment in the future.
How could possible solutions for the industry look like?
In my opinion, companies should now focus on the following points:
- Cross-company cooperations, especially in the area of mechanical engineering for the standardization of data interfaces and protocols
- Greater courage for the future and for entrepreneurship
- Development of business models with added value for the customer, away from a mere parts supplier
What are you expecting from politicians for a successful industrial policy?
The German industry must receive uniform support in terms of funding, environmental regulations and patent protection. If the implementation of environmental protection requirements is not uniformly and globally enforced, German industry will be clean but also dead within a few years.
To address these problems, the Forum Gießerei-Industrie will take place in June 2021. What can visitors expect?
The event offers an excellent opportunity for the exchange of information on current market developments. Suggestions for new topics, products as well as business models and cooperations will provide impetus from the crisis. At the same time, the players can jointly formulate a message to politicians to support industry in Germany and Europe.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Wöstmann.