Casting Advocates: Get to Know AFS
In our blog series, Casting Advocates, we get to know organizations and industry leaders who work to elevate the metalcasting profession. This installment focuses on the American Foundry Society (AFS).
The American Foundry Society is a national organization with a mission to "advance the success of its members and the metal casting industry through advocacy, education and innovation." In support of this mission, AFS works constantly to support technical innovation, advocate for beneficial policies, promote positive perception of the industry, develop workforce skills and provide a range of services and networking opportunities for casting facilities.
AFS History and Organizational Structure
AFS dates back to 1896 when 220 charter members formed the American Foundrymen's Association in Philadelphia. More than a century later, in 2000, the name was officially changed to the American Foundry Society.
Staffed by a team of professionals in areas like marketing, business development and information technology, AFS is well equipped to advocate on behalf of the metal casting industry on a daily basis. In addition to the staff who handle day-to-day activities of the organization, AFS is governed by a 21-member Board of Directors. Five of the Directors hold special offices, including President, Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Immediate Past President and CEO. Both these and the remaining 16 Directors are casting leaders representing various facilities around the country, serving staggered four-year terms on the AFS Board. Together, the Board of Directors governs the overall direction of AFS by allocating resources and defining the vision of the Society.
The Eagle group has a long history of collaboration with the AFS, notably with Jeff Cook of Eagle Alloy having served as president and Board member.
AFS achieved record levels of membership in 2018, and now includes nearly 900 corporate members and approximately 6,500 individual members. Corporate membership levels have increased more than 30% since 2009.
AFS corporate members include foundries, industry suppliers and purchasers of castings, as well as small consulting organizations. Membership is open to companies around the globe, but most members are concentrated in North America. Benefits of corporate membership include free access to a range of paid publications, discounted or free access to educational resources, technical process support and opportunities to weigh in on AFS research and policy actions.
Individual members are comprised of casting professionals, casting suppliers, OEM manufacturers and students. Individual membership is priced at a nominal annual fee, and offered free for students and first-year professionals. Benefits of individual membership include subscriptions to key publications, access to the Casting Connection network, event discounts and a number of educational resources.
AFS offers a more complete list of membership benefits here.
What the American Foundry Society Does
AFS has a vision to be recognized as the "leading voice and resource on technical, management, and advocacy priorities pertaining to the metalcasting industry." In service of that vision, the Society carries out a wide variety of activities on numerous fronts. Activities include research, education, outreach, media, policy and events.
AFS is involved in two types of research: AFS-funded research and outside research. AFS-funded research is paid for with a portion of annual dues paid by AFS corporate membership. Projects are shaped by the Technical & Management Committee and approved by the five-member Research Board before work begins.
To promote outside research on casting-related topics, AFS partners with organizations like the American Metalcasting Consortium and the Advanced Casting Research Center. AFS participates in these projects by providing technical management and oversight, and by liaising with industry partners, but funding comes from research partnerships, government grants and industry contributions.
Examples of current and recent research topics include:
- Accelerated Adoption of AM Technology in the American Foundry Industry
- Validated Properties for Investment Cast Components
- Alloy Design Data for Cast High-Integrity Alloy Mechanical Property Standards (CHAMPS) Project
The Society's largest education initiative is the continued growth of the AFS Institute, which provides metalcasting education for industry professionals, students, and a wide range of youth and adults around the globe. A few of the Institute's offerings are:
- Web-based resources: a comprehensive set of webinars, seminars and courses are available to members online. Full training courses serve to introduce new hires to metalcasting, or provide refreshers to experienced professionals. Individual courses zoom in on key topics based on specific alloys, processes, technologies, common defects and safety procedures.
- In-person training: AFS Institute provides training both at their headquarters in Schaumburg, IL and on-site at any member facility. In-plant training is often customized for the individual company. Similarly, AFS educators can provide on-the-job training at casting facilities.
- Youth involvement: Through programs like Foundry in a Box and Manufacturing Day, AFS provides the resources that facilities need to engage with local youth through schools, community events and career fairs. Foundry in a Box is a portable metalcasting kit that allows casting professionals to demonstrate the basic principles of metalcasting in classrooms and community spaces.
AFS offers a number of outreach programs with the goals of educating the public about opportunities in metalcasting careers, and fostering a more inclusive industry environment.
- Future Leaders of Metalcasting (FLM) is an American Foundry Society program designed to assist in continually developing the next generation of metalcasting leaders. Participants are members of AFS between the ages of twenty and forty-five who show interest in management at their organizations. Through two meetings per year, FLM participants have access to networking events, executive skills training and community outreach.
- Women In Metalcasting (WIM) focuses on educational programming to promote diversity and the advancement of women in leadership positions. Women in Metalcasting members are exposed to an assortment of opportunities aiming to further their expertise and knowledge on an array of subjects important to women in the metalcasting industry, as well as enhance their leadership skills.
- AFS shares office space in Schaumburg, IL with the Foundry Educational Foundation (FEF). FEF was established in 1947 as an independent extension of metalcasting educational programs at colleges and universities across the country. The goal was, and still is, to bring promising men and women into the casting industry. Today, FEF strengthens the metal casting industry by supporting unique partnerships among students, educators and industry.
Publications and Media
One of the Society's most visible assets is its vast network of publications, both online and offline, providing key information for a variety of stakeholders. In 2018, AFS estimated over 100,000 readers of their various publications. Out of AFS' long list of publications and media outlets, entries include:
- Modern Casting: a monthly magazine released in print and digitally with a readership of approximately 15,000, sharing best practices, business profiles, research development and industry analysis
- International Journal of Metalcasting (IJMC): a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication with 19-22 articles per issue
- Casting Connection: a social interface allowing AFS members to network digitally through discussion boards, comments, articles and event postings
- Metalcasting TV: a video-based outlet for promotion of the casting industry as a whole, featuring a recent video on careers in metalcasting
AFS also maintains robust social media accounts, with over 7,000 followers and dozens of new posts every month.
A major part of AFS' mission is to advocate for public policies that benefit U.S. metalcasters, encourage a strong U.S. industrial base and support national defense. Current issues central to the AFS policy agenda include:
- Tax policy: AFS advocates for lower tax rates for all companies, as well as full expensing of capital equipment, estate tax repeal and other policies that would benefit metalcasting constituents.
- Infrastructure: AFS sees infrastructure as one of our nation's greatest assets, and advocates for policies that increase infrastructure funding and streamline new projects. AFS is currently focusing on water infrastructure and ensuring the passage of the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act.
- International trade: AFS supports strong enforcement of U.S. trade laws designed to prevent unfair and unlawful trade practices perpetrated by foreign countries, such as currency manipulation, subsidies and dumping.
- Education: AFS supports policies that encourage skilled trade and manufacturing education throughout students' academic careers.
In addition to constant monitoring of policy issues and lobbying work, AFS organizes a fly-in to Washington, DC. At this annual event, members from around the country can speak directly to U.S. lawmakers at the highest levels, expressing their policy concerns and telling their unique stories.
The American Foundry Society hosts a wide range of events that bring members together to meet, network and learn in-person. According to an AFS spokesperson, "These events vary widely, but they’re all focused on ensuring a successful domestic metalcasting industry, whether it’s through improving processes and technology or by creating a good business climate for manufacturers." Key AFS events include:
- CastExpo: The largest North American gathering of the metalcasting supply chain takes place every three years. Attended by over 5,200 individuals in 2019, CastExpo features hundreds of exhibitors as well as keynote speakers and metalcasting awards.
- Metalcasting Congress: AFS' annual meeting and industry showcase includes exhibits from casting facilities and suppliers, educational courses, keynote speakers and awards. Metalcasting Congress also allows member companies to present technical papers outlining case studies, best practices and innovations. The 2019 Congress held approximately 115 paper presentations and 37 panel presentation submissions.
- Government Affairs Fly-In: AFS members are invited to join the AFS delegation in Washington, DC for an annual fly-in, where casting industry professionals are offered the opportunity to speak directly with U.S. Senators and Congresspeople. AFS also presents awards to lawmakers who provide strong support for the industry.
- Technical and Management Conferences: AFS helps organize dozens of annual conferences in locations around North America to share knowledge and experience throughout the casting industry. Conferences focus on specific topics, like economic forecasting, alloy properties and team management.
- Foundry Leadership Summit: Designed for upper management and C-level staff of foundries and supply chain partners, the annual Foundry Leadership Summit offers a networking and learning opportunity. Leaders from the casting industry offer speeches and presentations, and members have the opportunity to interact closely through round-table discussions and workshops.
Future Outlook for Metalcasting
According to the Manufacturing Institute, every dollar of manufacturing sector GDP contributes $1.33 to the overall economy. Metalcasting is no exception: the industry is closely tied to the success of the American economy. Still, U.S. metalcasting faces obstacles like government over-regulation, a shrinking skilled labor market, and a general misconception of what metalcasting provides for the country. Many of AFS' outreach efforts are oriented toward educating both the public and U.S. lawmakers on the importance of metalcasting.
In order to improve public perception of casting and prevent the skilled labor shortage from increasing, AFS partners with NAM to promote Manufacturing Day. This annual, nation-wide event aims to introduce young people to manufacturing careers at an early age, and casting facilities like Eagle Alloy participate by opening their doors to local students and community leaders. In 2018, 17 corporate members participated in Manufacturing Day.
At a legislative level, a number of AFS-supported laws and policies have gone into effect in recent years. The U.S. EPA recently moved to provide greater flexibility for states in addressing emissions from existing power plants. AFS-supported workforce legislation was also signed by President Trump in 2018, aiming to re-align educational programs to fit the needs of regional, state and local labor markets. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also agreed to a common-sense approach to sweeping silica that benefits responsible foundries.
New technologies and improved processes are making metal castings better and more complex than ever, which means that foundries will see opportunities to expand into new markets. Given recent successes in public education and renewed discussion of domestic manufacturing in Washington, AFS leadership is optimistic about the future of metalcasting: "With so many passionate people out there," says Richard Jefferson, AFS VP of Marketing & Communications, "the future of metalcasting is bright."
Written by AJ Menefee
AJ Menefee is VP of Technical & Engineering at Eagle Precision Cast Parts in Muskegon, MI.