To be competitive in providing production equipment and processing systems, it takes what The RDI Group has: engineering ingenuity, manufacturing efficiencies and ongoing customer support. Mark Devaney takes a look.
The primary mission of a die caster is to ensure quality and consistency in every part. Callen Manufacturing goes beyond basic customer expectations by setting goals beyond accepted industrial boundaries and practices. “Our challenge,” says company Director of Marketing Michael Callen, “has been maintaining significant growth by matching the expertise of our personnel with technical equipment. This requires constant, heavy capital investment in modern equipment. Currently, we have 20 aluminum machines with tonnages ranging from 600 to 1,750. Ten years ago, we had half that.” Furthermore, the company has automated processes wherever possible.
With facilities in Illinois, South Carolina and Wisconsin, Callen currently supplies a broad-based market of original-equipment manufacturers, servicing virtually all industries (except Tier I automotive) that require die casting. The privately held, fiscally strong company was founded in 1948 by Callen’s father, Eugene, and currently claims revenues in excess of $30 million. Undoubtedly, the company’s financial strength has served as an insulator against the recessions that have caused other companies in the cast-metal industry to fail or suffer significant losses. Callen considers its financial strength to be a powerful competitive edge, and it serves as the foundation for steady growth with satisfied customers.
For more than 50 years, Callen Manufacturing has demonstrated excellence in the production of die castings. Its modern aluminum die-casting machines in Northlake, Ill., produce complex castings for a broad variety of industrial market sectors, including electronics, metering devices, industrial lighting, off-road equipment and general engineered castings. The aluminum alloys that it casts include 380, 383, 360 and 413. The company uses optical emission spectroscopy to perform chemical analysis of the die-casting alloys, and to certify all incoming alloys throughout the production.
Callen’s castings range in weight from a few ounces to 25 pounds, and are produced in volume. In addition, the Northlake facility uses a proprietary hard-piped central vacuum system, which Callen designed, that is permanently accessible via quick connection at each machine. Complex thin-walled, low-porosity aluminum die castings are produced from the combined benefits of vacuum-aided casting and electronic process monitoring, which measures and displays up to 22 critical process parameters.
Callen also offers an array of secondary operations, including machining and assembly. Its full range of metal-working equipment is well suited to meet a variety of machining demands. Callen calls itself a “one-stop source” of high-quality parts that integrates and critiques part design, tooling construction, casting and post-casting processes, yielding results that exceed customer expectations. The company employs advanced engineering techniques beginning with the review of the casting design. The design is probed for non-conformance which is then offset by built-in preventive action, including appropriate monitoring of critical process characteristics. Potential defects are caught and eliminated early on in the process.
Callen has developed a particular expertise in producing parts for the industrial lighting industry, which has become a significant growth area for the company. It can maintain its competitive edge in this market, says Callen, “because of its developed expertise in manufacturing large lighting housings – difficult parts to make because of long thin walls and other complex design features.”
In other areas, Callen has anticipated customers’ needs and responded to them. The desire for a vertical integration strategy for Callen’s dual-casting operations led to the founding of Consolidated Tooling Technologies in 1997. The facility was designed to produce close-tolerance, low-cost casting tooling for Callen’s die-casting plants as well as for other die casters. While Consolidated Tooling specializes in the production of miniature zinc casting dies, it also is capable of producing conventional tooling, particularly when lead-time compression is critical.
Callen Diecasting LLC, located in Fountain Inn, S.C., was established as an independent subsidiary in 1996. This venture has become a recognized leader in miniature zinc die casting, and operates as a full-service supplier of small zinc components.
Among the reasons Callen’s customers specify automated miniature zinc alloy castings are: minimized tooling cost, production rates of up to 3,600 pieces per hour, five-slide capability, engineering value analysis and low piece-part price. The South Carolina plant produces castings for selective markets, including electronics, communications, lawn and garden equipment, and furniture hardware. Its post-casting processes include vibratory finishing, machining, coating, thermal deburring and plating.
Through the years Callen has operated with a philosophy of continuous quality improvement. Callen is always willing to experiment and push the envelope to find new ways of manufacturing the highest-quality products. “We continue to serve our historic customers while we continually seek new growth opportunities,” remarks Callen. “We believe strongly in our dedicated people and the development of new opportunities”. For example, the company recently purchased CNC machining equipment and is now committed to becoming more of an in-house CNC machining provider.