Need Emergency Castings? State Line Can Help!
The crew at State Line Foundries is very familiar with these emergency scenarios:
- A warehouse employee has discovered, to his dismay, an empty shelf.
- An overseas shipment is finally located and … is still overseas.
- A production manager takes a hard look at the limited number of castings in the supply chain and fears his company’s production line may have to shut down.
“There are many reasons OEMs need emergency castings,” says Jesse Milks, president of State Line Foundries. “We’re glad to help whenever we can. It’s good for business, of course, but a lot of times people are in real trouble.”
Someone is to blame for that empty shelf. Someone decided to take parts production overseas. And someone didn’t ensure a consistent volume of castings was available to keep the line up and running.
“Many times, careers are at stake here – and business relationships, too,” Milks explains. “OEMs can lose good customers when these supply-chain issues arise.”
Helping OEMs in need
The emergency calls can come from house accounts that have worked with State Line for years. Other times, it’s newcomers who are in a pinch. “They may have a new product, and they realize they’re missing that one piece – or they need a new alloy or a different iron formulation for it,” Milks explains.
The reasons for emergency castings fall into several categories.
Overseas troubles: Many U.S.-based OEMs buy castings abroad. They can be stuck at ports, customs or may be simply slow to arrive. Some OEMs maintain safety stock when working with faraway foundries, but even those supplies can become depleted before reserves arrive.
“There are many uncontrollable variables with sourcing castings from overseas suppliers,” Milks states. “Sometimes the OEM can’t wait any longer and they call us.”
Quality concerns: The quality of some imported castings can be problematic as well. “There are cases where the quality of the castings that arrive are not what was promised or expected,” he reveals.
Quality issues can occur with domestic sources, too. Problems often emerge during product launches. At this stage of the product development process, the OEM may get in a bind as it works through all the complexities of the launch – while simultaneously facing part quality issues.
Scrap percentages and the associated costs are often high during these types of projects, which may make it more cost-effective for the OEM to find a new foundry.
“They say, ‘Here is the problem. Can you solve it for us?’” Milks recalls.
Production demands: Milks says that even the best OEMs can experience production problems – especially when launching new products.
“The customer may demand that a certain number of new products be available by a specific date – a timeline that is impossible for the production foundry to meet because of its long lead times,” Milks explains.
State Line can make castings to fill the necessary volume until the larger foundry catches up or can function at full capacity.
This prevents the OEM from having to dig itself out of a hole. Plus, it means State Line can lend a hand later, if needed. “If the factory gets behind, we still have their tool,” Milks stresses.
Human error: Many times, the supply chain issue is simply the result of an ordering oversight. The OEM thought it had inventory that it didn’t, or someone neglected to place an order.
“Those types of things happen more often than you might think,” he emphasizes. “You feel bad for the people. They call us and they’re in a panic.”
How State Line helps avert crises
State Line prides itself on answering the call when emergencies arise.
“We’re a good match for these emergency casting situations,” Milks asserts. “We are certainly better equipped for this work than larger foundries. Sometimes the emergency calls actually come from large foundries.”
Here’s how State Line’s strengths can help OEMs solve part production emergencies:
Fast and easy tool transfers: During an emergency, every step of the process requires speed – including tooling. “We can make a quick, inexpensive hard tool,” Milks says. “We can also quickly produce 3D sand-printed cores and molds.” He adds that State Line can also produce foam patterns if needed.
Tool transfers are a State Line strength. “We do it all the time – we do it in-house, we do it every day,” Milks affirms. “There are a dozen pattern tools in queue now to be transferred to us. We’ve seen every imaginable tool size, geometry and configuration out there.”
A lot of time can be lost during tool transfers. “It’s challenging for OEMs to transfer,” Milks states. “Every foundry is unique, running different equipment and processes.”
That means transferred patterns must be adapted when they arrive – a routine process for State Line. “There’s a great deal of cost, time and risk involved with moving a pattern from one foundry to another,” Milks explains. “There are challenges. It’s not like you’re just pulling something off the shelf.”
State Line has a standardized setup process – and a great deal of experience that helps it to streamline it. “We’ve moved thousands of parts numbers through our foundries and have the experience to do it very efficiently,” Milks emphasizes.
Speedier lead times: Setup times are minimal at State Line. “We can plug something in quickly and launch,” he offers. That same velocity continues throughout the casting process.
“We have better lead times than most,” Milks asserts. “We turn castings around quicker than others – especially OEMs that are running production lines.”
Short lead times are especially important when facing a crisis on an assembly line. “All it takes is missing a single casting or bolt and the whole line shuts down,” Milks clarifies. “Manufacturers often turn to us to help them quickly resolve these ‘line-down’ situations.”
Right the first time: State Line’s design for manufacturing (DFM) process utilizes software and systems that ensure castings are properly made from the beginning.
“Making it right the first time is huge for us and our customers,” Milks emphasizes. “It saves a lot of time and cost.”
Low-volume friendly: Most foundries don’t want to take on one-time projects like line-down or prototyping scenarios. “They are better at the more repetitive work,” Milks summarizes. “They’re geared for high-volume, long-term production runs.”
These foundries have large, automated machines that are integrated into, and connected with, one another.
“They don’t want to be putting a pattern tool into that machine and only making two castings,” Milks says. Doing so would be too complex – and prohibitively expensive.
“We are flexible, manual and adaptive,” Milks states. “Low volume is our niche. Our price per casting doesn’t change a whole lot whether we’re making two or 200.”
Less bureaucracy: State Line is more responsive than its larger counterparts. “We’re quicker because we don’t have any silos,” Milks explains.
A large foundry may have 500 employees in production, 20 in quality control and 10 in engineering. “Every time they do a handoff, it takes time,” Milks details. “We keep things moving. Our customer service reps are also process managers. It’s easier for them to arrange scheduling and push approvals through.”
ISO certification: OEMs have quality control measures in place, as do their customers. State Line is well versed in meeting those standards.
“The OEM has to sample the casting and prove it can be made to their required specifications,” Milks offers. “There are many boxes to check to ensure that you meet their specs.”
State Line has the experience, systems and processes to expedite these samples. “Slow sampling is a bad way to start fulfilling emergency orders,” he points out.
State Line is ISO certified, which is not always the case with smaller foundries. This certification enables it to accept the work and ensures a common understanding with larger OEMs.
“We also have in-house lab capabilities, which is another quality control measure and time-saver,” he adds. “We don’t have to wait on outside lab results.”
State Line: A foundry’s foundry
It’s not uncommon for a production-focused foundry to make an emergency request of State Line.
“We recently had a scenario where we received work from a production foundry that has minimum order requirements,” Milks recalls. “That particular foundry only wants orders of 100 molds or more. The production requirement on a portion of a customer job fell below that, so they moved the tooling to us.”
This is a common scenario – and one that would put the high-production foundry in a bind if it didn’t have a reliable outside partner. Saying “no” to a good customer is rarely good for business.
“If that foundry uses us, it can say, ‘We have a solution we can help you with,’” Milks says. “Then the foundry turns to us. It keeps their customers happy.”
Getting started with State Line
Communication is essential at the start of any project. Customers need to be updated on requests for quotation (RFQs) and potential lead times. Once again, State Line’s size pays dividends because it has a small, responsive team.
“Every situation is a bit different, but we need to understand their requirements, the pattern tooling situation – whether we’re using existing or new tooling – the timeline requirements and so on,” Milks stresses. “We know what questions to ask.”
Some of those emergency OEMs will become long-term State Line customers. Others will only work with the foundry one time to resolve a specific crisis.
“They may stay with us, or they may be back if they have an issue in a year … or 10 years,” Milks explains. “We get calls where they say, ‘I think you have one of our pattern tools that hasn’t been used in 10 years.’ We’re happy to hear from them.”
Milks emphasizes that OEMs remember who came through for them in time of need: “That commodity manager, that commercial supplier, they depend on others keeping them in good graces with their customers and even their bosses,” he points out.
“We jump to help our customers. We gain more trust with them every time that happens,” he concludes.
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