Dirty Smelly AND Hot

I was talking to John Greene a few days ago and he gave me the insider’s view of the foundry business in America. John runs FL Sales, Inc., a used machinery firm specializing in the world of molten metal. To my surprise, it’s smoking.

John said that the dirty old foundries we associate with the shuttered rust belt remnants are long gone. The foundries that survived have modernized and meet environmental standards. A lot of work did flow to cheap labor countries but many companies have learned that cheap labor does not necessarily mean viable product. Greene says that virtually every iron factory he knows is going full tilt and there is a real shortage of good used equipment on the market. A foundry that had been shut down for 2.5 years was recently sold and will be starting up here in the U.S.

Investment casting is crazy hot today also. The lost wax process, which lends itself to products like golf irons, fire arm triggers, and aircraft parts, is in such demand that most plants are operating 24 hours a day. At a recent auction of investment casting machinery the prices approached 100% of replacement cost.

Only the brass foundry part of the business is suffering. The environmental challenges in nonferrous almost force the product offshore where they don’t care about the niceties of safety.

To sum it up, iron furnaces are hot, brass furnaces are cold.

Question: Have you found foreign castings to be of acceptable quality?

Workers in Haora, India, forge manhole covers for Con Edison and some U.S. cities’ utilities. Photo courtesy of The New York Times

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One thought on “Dirty Smelly AND Hot

  1. Jake Worden

    Great article – primarily because I am directly involved in the foundry business! We provide foundries with patterns (the master tools, that they use to make thousands of castings) – and your article is spot-on. Iron and aluminum foundries (our customers) in the U.S. are booming right now, for three reasons:

    First, casting purchasing managers that joined the “offshoring craze” are finding out that the quality from off-shore castings is absolutely horrendous… the main issue being that specified metal specs and tolerances are not being met. Consequently, they are having casting failures – which is causing them to lose valuable time and resources – with potential lawsuits from injuries casued by a casting failure. (Sure you can save a nickle on an offshore casting, but what would a million dollar lawsuit cost you?)

    Second, when everything ordered nowadays demands JIT (Just In Time) delivery, casting purchasers cannot afford to wait the 14-16 weeks it took for their product to be shipped stateside.

    And lastly, so many foundries have been shuttered over the past 10 years due to the off-shoring craze, that the “pool” of casting suppliers has gotten a lot smaller. The foundries that reinvested profits 10 and 20 years ago into technology and updates, are still around. Those that didn’t are long gone… or will be the first to go in the next slowdown.

    P.S. Love the photo – OSHA would have a field day in India LMAO!!!
    (Thanks again for noticing foundries in your blog!)

     

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