How State Line Supports Construction & Ag OEMs with Castings
Large OEMs in the agriculture and construction industries need a high volume of castings to keep their manufacturing lines humming and their customers’ machines working in the field.
Yet there are still key roles for smaller, specialized foundries to play in that world. For State Line Foundries, that often means involvement at the first and last stages of a product’s life.
State Line helps bring new construction and ag equipment to life. “We welcome prototypes,” says Jesse Milks, president of State Line Foundries. “We’re skilled in that area. We can make them quickly and we can handle all the testing that’s required.”
The foundry also manufactures end-of-life service castings to help keep older machines running. “We provide castings for product lines that are no longer being produced but still need parts support by the OEM,” Milks states.
Some types of construction and ag equipment may continue working for up to 40 or 50 years. It’s not economical for a high-volume foundry to produce service parts at low demand levels, so they rely on foundries like State Line to produce them on a small-batch or as-needed basis.
Prototype castings: Helping to bring new products to life
Many small foundries shy away from prototype development. State Line embraces it.
“We welcome prototypes,” Milks affirms. “With our approach, everyone wins. We’re able to produce high-quality castings with the same testing requirements that would be used for a production run, with exceptional turnaround time..”
State Line has a 98 percent first-pass yield rate. This means the castings are spot-on the first time, saving OEMs a great deal of time and money.
State Line accomplishes this through advanced modeling software that eliminates much of the trial-and-error portion of the casting and tool design process. The foundry also utilizes 3D sand printing technology to make molds and cores. It, too, is quick and cost-effective for producing and iterating prototype casting designs.
An in-house lab provides immediate answers, compared with wait times of days – or longer – that result when a sample is shipped outside for testing.
State Line’s experienced staff and their thorough understanding of both new technology and tried-and-true foundry methods also speed the casting development process. Their depth of expertise in working with varied part geometries and alloys also comes into play here.
This knowledge is apparent to equipment OEMs during initial conversations with them. “We get the right information from the start because we know which questions to ask,” Milks emphasizes.
End-of-life: Keeping old machines running
OEMs are legally obligated to provide parts and components for the ag and construction machine models they have produced, long after production has ended.
High-production foundries are rarely interested in making the small quantities of castings needed to support these old machines. “They want to make 10,000 castings, not 10 or 20,” Milks cautions.
Yet the OEM still needs those 10 or 20 castings, which is where State Line steps in. “We receive the tooling from the existing foundry, and then we make a few castings per year,” Milks states.
State Line can help meet demand spikes as needed. If an OEM has a supply chain issue, State Line can help bridge the gap by qualifying and producing production castings in a hurry. It’s not uncommon for a customer to ask, “Do you still have the pattern from making prototypes three years ago? We need 20 castings by the end of the month.”
State Line may also be asked to run early production castings after the samples have been approved. Sometimes, the production foundry isn’t validated yet or their capacity may be temporarily tied up with other casting projects.
Why is State Line a good match for these low-volume casting runs? Here are three factors that make it an excellent fit:
A highly-skilled foundry
State Line has all the capabilities of a much larger foundry. “We have an in-house lab, we have standardized processes and we’ve been ISO certified for almost 20 years,” Milks points out. The foundry also provides certifications and X-ray inspections of castings as needed.
In terms of quality, State Line castings are similar – and sometimes superior – to what large foundries produce. “We’re not making 300 molds per hour, but possibly 300 molds per day,” Milks explains. “That’s the only difference between us and a production foundry. From a quality standpoint, I would hold our castings up to anyone else’s.”
Many ag and construction OEMs utilize austempered ductile iron (ADI) or special alloys because of the harsh environments and conditions the equipment works in. “Not every foundry can produce the custom chemistries required for ADI, but we’ve been doing it for years,” Milks declares. “We’re experienced in ADI and making alloys that meet strict customer requirements.”
Milks describes State Line as “similar to a production foundry in terms of capabilities, but on a smaller scale with greater responsiveness and shorter lead times.”
Tool transfer expertise
State Line is adept at managing tool transfers. “We are used to adapting old tooling that may not be ideal,” Milks offers. “We know how to adjust and make existing tooling work in our foundry.”
He estimates State Line brings in 15 to 20 new part numbers per month, while a more common number for the average foundry is more like five per month.
“The production tooling transferred to us can be quite complicated, with complex geometries,” Milks stresses. “We are experienced in simplifying the setup and adapting it to our processes in an economical fashion.”
Consolidation is another reason for tool transfers. Large OEMs usually prefer to reduce the number of suppliers they work with. Depending on the OEM, they ideally would prefer to work with two or three foundries rather than ten or more. Increasing the volume of transactions between a customer and vendor naturally creates efficiencies.
“They want to move the parts to one foundry or a handful of them,” he says. “We’re always willing to help with that. Bringing in existing tooling is something we do every day, so we can make that consolidation process much easier for them.”
A one-stop shop
State Line streamlines processes for construction and agricultural equipment OEMs, whether it’s providing high-quality castings for new machine prototypes or replacement parts for aging equipment, and castings in between.
The foundry adds value, too, by offering a wide range of services. “We can add paint or special coatings,” Milks summarizes. “We often do machining as needed. We do all the testing required.”
“We’re sometimes called on to help a foundry catch up on its castings,” Milks explains. Sometimes, OEMs experience a demand increase and their production foundry can’t keep up. Other times, their equipment may be off-line for cleaning or maintenance.
The reasons may vary, but the potential outcome is always the same: Equipment production can’t continue if castings aren’t available. “If you’re missing one component, it shuts down production,” Milks clarifies.
Because State Line frequently handles new castings, it’s familiar with the processes and experienced at delivering quick turnarounds. “We’re glad to step in and help keep their production lines moving,” he assures.
The bottom line is State Line’s expertise benefits construction and agricultural equipment OEMs: “We make their lives easier. We believe we are the most responsive foundry, with the best customer service and the best follow-through. We simplify the process for them,” he concludes.
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