In June 2018 we paid a visit to some of the foundries that cast our products and also took a look at some new foundries for future product development. It was an excellent visit and very exciting seeing all the workings of the foundries and we were made most welcome.
If it wasn’t so early in the morning I’d have actually smiled for the photo below.
With all the talk of Brexit doom and gloom we were prepared for the worst. This was our first foundry visit for a couple of years but in 2016, we discovered the future of British manufacturing wasn’t looking good. Our foundries were down to bare minimum staffing levels, there was a skills shortage and most worryingly a demand shortage. Some of the foundries were down to three or four mornings a week with the shop floor empty for the majority of the time. With no future orders on the horizon foundries had almost abandoned apprenticeships as there was barely enough work to go round. “Made in Britain” wasn’t looking too healthy.
Fast forward two years and it’s a completely different picture.
Full order books, some foundries on 7 days a week, some working 24 hour days and foundries training youngsters. The atmosphere in all the foundries we visited was buzzing and full of optimism and its clear that customers want iron, they really do. It’s in vogue, stoves and log burners have never been so popular and the sides, the fronts, the backs and the gratings are cast in Britain. We saw many items cast at the foundries we visited all ready for transporting to the factories for assembly.
Here’s the guys hard at work in Sheffield putting in a shift before most of us have sat down for breakfast…
And a modern approach using the DISA machine in action in Dudley…
There’s been a huge shift in work from overseas that was once lost coming back to our shores. Every foundry said the same. We visited foundries at Stroud, Stourbridge, Dudley, Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham and found it was the same picture at all of them. A shop floor brimming with workers and a back log of work with barely enough hours in the day to keep up. Foundries that once clocked in at 9am for a few hours are now starting at 6 in the morning and still going with double shifts late into the evening.
There’s been investment in new tooling and modern machinery and expansion too. Vanguard foundry in Stourbridge is nearly twice the size it was a few years ago, purchasing another site across the road and employing double the staff. In order to ensure the skills are maintained they have a rotational system to ensure all the work force are up to date and can do every job on the shop floor.
But the Cast Iron Air Brick Company (and our customers) know our foundries are great and have always insisted we make our products in the UK. We’ve always done this and we always will. Watch out for some exciting new products in the autumn and thank you for supporting British manufacturing.