Completing the Foundry Selection Process
By this point in the foundry selection process, you’ve covered quite a bit of ground. You’ve reviewed the historic quality numbers from the foundry and have a good grasp of their internal and external scrap rates. You’ve taken time out of your busy schedule to visit the foundry and have watched their operation in person, walking the floor and following castings through the various areas of the manufacturing process. All the engineering steps the foundry performs, from pattern design to final metallurgical analysis, have been reviewed. You definitely have a very good idea if the foundry is capable of producing your casting. However, a few more points should be considered before making your final decision. Let’s start with financial health.
The subject of financial health is just as important in the foundry selection process as any of the other technical subjects I have already discussed. You want to make sure that the foundry you choose to do business with is profitable and has the ability to procure all the material they need to run and maintain their operations in addition to paying all their people and bills. I enlist the expertise of the accounting representative on my sourcing team to review the various reports, P&L statements, and D&B reports for the foundry. Their expert opinion is vital in this portion of the review.
Management depth for the foundry is important. There are times when a key leader for the foundry may need to be away from the job; does the foundry have enough well-trained and capable employees available to cover for that absence? This subject should be discussed during your onsite visit to the foundry.
Does the foundry have any physical constraints? During your tour, did you notice that they have cramped quarters and open floor space isn’t readily available? This may indicate that a building expansion would benefit them greatly, but do they have the land available to them to build an addition? Is your casting heavy enough to warrant them moving it with a crane? If so, do they have the available crane capacity to safely move a large casting through their operation?
Does the foundry offer the ability to perform additional processes such as heat treating or stress relieving, machining, primer and finish painting, plating, or special packaging? Do they produce the metal type your casting design requires on a regular basis, or do they only run it periodically? You may decide that these may not be highly critical aspects of your selection process, but they should be included in the list of pros and cons you are developing.
Now for a few points that you will need to decide for yourself based on all the research you have completed to this point.
How much will it cost your company to develop the foundry into being a reliable supplier to you? We must admit that there is a learning curve associated with every part number that is brought into production at a foundry. How much interaction will you or your team need to provide to complete a successful startup? To quantify this, try to estimate the number of onsite visits you will need to make. What will be the potential travel cost and time commitment required from your team? Will you require monthly or perhaps weekly review meetings? Are there any language barriers that may need to be dealt with? Placing a number on development cost can be difficult to estimate, but it is vital, especially if you are choosing between two or more potential foundries.
Can you grow with this foundry, and can they grow with you? What other type of parts do you make that potentially can be produced by the foundry? Do you have other castings or parts that could be converted into castings? For example, if you currently produce fabricated or welded assemblies in-house, redesign of these into castings can be a highly successful endeavor in terms of quality, reliability, and reduced cost.
Does the foundry want your business? This may seem to be a frivolous question, but it’s critical when making the final decision of where to source your casting. Is your work attractive to the foundry, and are they interested in doing business with you? Does the casting fit into their processes without causing disruptions to the flow?
Following the process I have described in these last three columns and answering these questions for yourself will lead you to make a sound sourcing decision and result in the successful start to a rewarding relationship with the foundry you have chosen. CS