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The Foundry Industry Faces Essential Business Confusion Amid COVID-19 Shutdowns


Is Any Sector More Essential than the Foundry Industry?

According to a 2019 report at, the US manufacturing sector produces over 18% of the world’s goods and every dollar spent in manufacturing adds $1.89 in business growth in supported industrial sectors such as defense, utilities, retail, transportation, and business services. In our own report earlier this year in the pre-coronavirus period, Resource Erectors characterized the foundry industry as “The Backbone of U.S. Manufacturing in 2019 and Beyond”.

It’s difficult for us to understand how government leaders in many states across the nation fail to clearly define foundries, the majority of which are family-owned SMBs, as “essential businesses”. Metal casting achieved by foundries is a fundamental link in the manufacturing chain between the mines which liberate mineral resources and the manufacturers who turn them into the essential products that keep the world functioning.

As the foundry industry likes to remind us, you’re never more than 10 feet away from a product that doesn’t involve metal casting at some point in the manufacturing process.

Essential Business Definitions From the Department of Homeland Security

At the CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency ) website the Department of Homeland Security provides “Guidance For Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers”. The cluster of clearly defined critical sectors includes a wide range of industries that could not function without foundry support.

Imagine a maintenance shutdown due to parts, equipment, and component shortages caused by metal casting facility shutdowns in these 16 critical infrastructure  sectors:

  • Food and agriculture
  • Public health
  • Energy
  • Communications
  • Critical manufacturing
  • Information technology
  • National defense
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Dams
  • Chemicals
  • Emergency services
  • Water
  • Waste management
  • Financial services
  • Government facilities
  • Commercial facilities

foundry industry coronavirus impact

Shutdown Confusion For Pennsylvania Foundries

In our January article, we put the spotlight on Pennsylvania’s efforts to revitalize the foundry industry with funding to advance 3D printing techniques in the Commonwealth which is home to 150 foundries operating there.

According to a recent report at Argus Media, by the middle of March 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf confounded the metal casting industry in his state when he included them as “non-life-sustaining businesses” in a shutdown order “closing all physical operations at foundries, metal fabricators and some producers and processors of nonferrous metals in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus”.

Wolf’s action came on the heels of his controversial shutdown of all 30 rest stops on the state’s highways, but the backlash from overworked truckers struggling to maintain the fragile supply chain eventually caused the governor to reopen 13 stops.

Now many Pennsylvania foundries are applying common sense by ignoring the governor’s call for shutdowns. Some are even “doubling down” on orders to prevent shortages for critical manufacturing. Others are questioning the legality of the shutdown order since steel mills were not included.

All construction in the state is also halted as well as metal stamping and machine shops. The shutdown confusion was summed up by one Pennsylvania metal supplier when he told Argus Media, “No one knows what is going on.”

And Pennsylvania is not alone as confusion and lack of clarity over vaguely defined terms such  “essential business” can actually disrupt supply chains across the nation and pose more of a threat to public health and safety than the coronavirus itself.

foundry industry essential business

The AFS Pushes For Designating Metal Casting Foundries as a Critical Manufacturing Sector

By March 25th the American Foundry Society (AFS) began the pushback to encourage all 50 states to adopt and adhere to the CISA guidance for designating critical infrastructure sectors, including manufacturing and metal casting. CISA already designates critical manufacturing as an essential business sector and the AFS has been joined by the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Chemistry Council in the effort to get state and local officials to directly adopt the Department of Homeland Security’s  “critical infrastructure definition” to ensure “continuity of functions critical to public health and safety”.

The AFS effort is getting results. They’re reporting that 10 governors have already responded, using CISA guidance to develop shelter-in-place orders in states including:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

If you need more information concerning the status of metal casting or manufacturing as an essential business in your state, the AFS has provided contact information at this link. 

About Resource Erectors

At Resource Erectors we’ve been fulfilling the specialized human resource needs for industries including foundries, manufacturing, engineering, civil construction, and mining. With decades of experience, Resource Erectors maintains connections with the top professional candidates and the industry-leading companies who are ready to put their talent and experience to work.

When you’re making a strategic move up the career ladder or the time has come to take your company team to the next level, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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