Electron's leadership position in the globally competitive gray and ductile iron industry is another American success story. April Terreri discovers what makes this smaller foundry successful.
Industries that keep our nation progressing every day depend on the diverse capabilities of Electron Corporation. Serving a wide range of companies in construction equipment, agriculture, mining, gas and oil, centrifugal pump, machine tool, and valve industries, Electron’s gray and ductile iron foundries produce castings from five pounds to 20,000 pounds. With foundries in Littleton, Colo., and Blackwell, Okla., Electron has built a reputation on its “concurrent” engineering by assisting customers with design parameters early in the development stage and working closely with them until the desired product is finished and delivered on time. “We help our customers design parts that are more castable, thereby providing higher quality and lower costs and high satisfaction,” says Mike Norwood, Electron’s president. “We pride ourselves in being able to deliver quickly and assist customers with casting solutions.”
Bring Products Quickly to Market
With capabilities to assist with design and manufacture of a broad range of products in various run sizes, Electron offers one-stop-shop readiness for quality casting solutions, from design to production, for companies of all sizes and needs. Electron’s personnel are ready to assist with design, metallurgy, and recommendations on proper casting methods. Electron has a long history of successfully delivering spec castings on-time when working with the customer. “Our project management teams anticipate potential problems and proactively adjust schedules to deliver castings on time and on spec,” says Norwood.
Accustomed to working with JIT inventory quantities, Electron focuses not on manufacturing or shipping requirements, but on making deliveries when customers need products. “You don’t need to buy container loads of Electron castings,” says Norwood, who emphasizes that price considerations need to be coupled with workable quantities, costs of carrying inventory and the potential for scrap or shipping problems.
In spite of the fact that many smaller foundries have foundered in this highly competitive global industry, Electron is resolute in its determination not only to survive, but to survive in a leadership position. The Black-well facility utilizes a green sand molding process, supported by three 25-ton coreless induction furnaces capable of producing castings ranging from 50 to 3,000 pounds. This facility uses two of the largest, high-volume molding centers available anywhere in North America.
Electron is now among just a few foundries nationwide that are equipped with Hunter automatic matchplate-molding center at its facility in Blackwell, built as a greenfield in 1998. The new Hunter center boasts a 30-inch by 32-inch molding line, capable of producing 90 molds every hour. This speed-effective system is ideal for producing long runs of gray and ductile iron castings in the range of 50 to 200 pounds. The Hunter’s fast, automated system provides cost-efficient production of iron casting components that are delivered on time. “This state-of-the-art system is a huge commitment by Electron to providing high quality, JIT, competitively priced castings to our customer far into the future,” says Norwood. Other molding lines in Blackwell include a 48-inch by 48-inch Herman line, molding parts from 200 to1500 pounds, and the 64-foot by 70-inch Herman, molding parts from 500 to 3000 pounds.
The company also installed, in Blackwell, a Laempe L-120 core machine capable of blowing an 800-pound core for large manufactured castings. “That is a particularly large core, and not many companies have this ability,” says Norwood.Electron’s recent improvements to its Disamatic molding line will improve sand systems and plant environments. Electron’s Littleton facility is home to both corporate offices and foundry.
The Littleton foundry has a Disamatic 2013 molding line for parts from 5 pounds to approximately 30 pounds, and a floor and loop type system, which handles low-to- medium-volume large parts from 500-20,000 pounds. The Littleton foundry utilizes a green-sand molding process as well as induction melting for a wide range of molding media. High-volume castings up to 30 pounds can be run on the Disamatic molding machine. Medium-volume parts can be run on three separate cope and drag lines. A floor-pouring process is used for casting up to 25,000 pounds.
Aggressive Reinvestment – Competitive Edge
The company’s commitment to aggressive reinvestment in its facilities assures customers of improved quality and delivery, while offering reduced costs. “We have invested over $35 million in the last five years,” says Norwood, “and we plan to continue to reinvest to remain competitive.” The company’s 11 manufacturers representative groups, as well as its internal customer service and project management departments coordinate customer requirements through all the quoting, expediting, shipping and invoicing processes.
The company also is committed to environmental concerns, as demonstrated by capital projects over the last several years, 40 percent of which have been related to environmental improvements. These improvements include plant-wide environmental controls to improve air quality inside and outside the company’s facilities.
High-Quality, Well-Designed Castings
With these commitments in mind, Electron’s continuing goal is to offer a high-quality, competitively priced product to its customers located throughout North America and predominantly in the contiguous 48 states. “Our focus is to continue to offer castings of the best quality and the best design with the right weight and metallurgy to add value and longevity to our customers’ applications,” says Norwood of the company’s future role. This will be accomplished through Electron’s reinvestment policy as the company examines new projects enabling it to offer improved quality and lower costs, he maintains.
Explains Norwood: “We are trying to differentiate ourselves by manufacturing highly engineered casting components that enable our customers’ processes and products to perform beyond their expectations.”