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Managing an Upheaval

Dave Charbauski

During your tenure as a casting buyer, you will eventually come to a point where you are forced to find another foundry for your castings. Sometimes the need to move will be of your own choosing—perhaps you determined your current foundry can’t meet your needs, so you need to find a new foundry. But sometimes, the need to move comes out of the blue and catches you off guard. For instance, the foundry contacts you and announces that due to circumstances beyond their control, they will be ceasing operations soon.

In the last few months, I’ve been contacted by several readers asking for some guidance and the next steps they should take due to foundry closures affecting their casting supply. If you’ve been following my column over the past three issues, you will have a detailed roadmap on the steps required to find and validate a new foundry source. The following list of items are several of the main points to consider when you are impacted by a foundry ceasing operations and you need to move quickly to maintain your supply of castings. 

First, don’t panic. While a definite sense of urgency and a significant amount of work will be required to address this problem, don’t jump to any conclusions and make snap decisions with little or no forethought. Work through this like you would any other challenge. Make sure to gather all the facts and data you can before making any major decisions. Take the time to pull your team together and divide up the tasks based on each individual’s expertise. Please keep in mind that this is going to be a time of transition and uncertainty for everyone at the foundry as well as your operation. The foundry will most likely be getting similar requests from all their customers, so be aware that being overly demanding with your requests can delay progress.

Determine your current inventory position. This is obviously the first place to start, but by taking stock of what material you have on hand, in transit, and in production at the foundry, you will have a much better idea of where you stand to create a priority list of the parts you need to address first.

Communicate honestly and openly with the closing foundry. Remember that they are in the same position of uncertainty as you are, so treat them accordingly. Talk with your foundry contact and ask for more information about the situation. Is there the possibility that the foundry can produce a large run of your castings that can hold you over until you have a new source up and running? Is there anything you can do to assist them in getting your production parts through their operation? Do they have any on-hand inventory that you could purchase? Make sure you have paid for all the parts for which the foundry has invoiced. 

Know what tooling you own. If you haven’t been keeping track of your tooling, get a complete inventory of all the patterns and core equipment, along with any other tooling you may own at the foundry. Also, if at all possible, make arrangements to have all your tooling pulled and located in one spot for shipping once the foundry has completed your orders. This will facilitate shipping your tooling if the foundry encounters any delays. Make sure this is done before they close—I can speak from personal experience that it is not a pleasant task to sort through pattern storage areas trying to locate all your tooling in a closed foundry.

Finally, consider hiring key foundry personnel on a consulting basis after the foundry closes. This may seem out of the question for some but consider the fact that there are employees such as casting engineers and quality staff from the closing foundry that know your parts very well and could be of great assistance getting these up and running at a different foundry. Folks with this experience are hard to find, so this is the ideal opportunity to ease your transition and help them at the same time. CS