About AFS and Metalcasting

A Step-by-Step Guide to Purchasing

Casting buyers across the board agree procuring cast components can be more complicated than other types of purchasing for a number of reasons, including the need to ensure consistent quality. When procuring a casting, it’s important to remain involved during each part of the process so the finished product meets expectations.

Procuring a casting is more than simply ordering a part and receiving it in the mail. Buyers must develop a plan for the component’s application and how it will be procured. Use the following four steps from purchasing experts as a template for purchasing. While each may seem obvious, taking the time to sit down and focus on each part of the process can ensure the procured component fulfills the end-use the first time around and will help avoid frustration
down the road.

  1. Define the casting and develop a procurement strategy.
  2. Contact potential suppliers, both existing and new, gather information and request quotations.
  3. Select a metalcaster, negotiate the contract and develop a working relationship.
  4. Fulfill the contract and pursue casting improvements. Renew the contract and define future casting need.

Define the casting & develop a procurement strategy.

Smart buyers are buyers with a plan. They know what they want and when they want it. Don’t move ahead of yourself and develop a strategy without first defining your
casting needs. Consider the follow buyer questions:

  • What is the casting’s end-use, and how important is the component in the application?
  • What dimensions and material should be considered?
  • What special details are unique to the piece?

While specific questions may need to be asked of a metalcaster before the component plan is finalized, the more information presented up front, the better the chances of the process running smoothly. When the casting needs are finalized, the procurement strategy can be developed. According to purchasing experts, your strategy should include the following objectives:

  • Quality and performance requirements for the cast component, including the end-use and importance of the component in the end-use.
  • Quantity of components and potential for future need.
  • A clearly-defined timeframe for the project, including some leeway for unforeseen obstacles.
  • The total cost of the project, including ideal and maximum budget.

A schedule for the working relationship also should be part of the plan. Include benchmarks in the schedule to keep the metalcaster and yourself focused and moving along. Clearly define communication as part of the working relationship. Both parties should have contact information for everyone involved in the project.

Contact potential suppliers, gather information & request quotations.

Once the casting and procurement strategies are defined, start searching for a metalcasting facility. Do your research. The key points to consider are the type of metal, casting process and component weight necessary for your casting. To help narrow potential casters, look into casting association guides. You may not want to return to the same facility time and time again. Consider previous suppliers, but also the possibility of a new supplier. Your current caster also may be able to refer you to a supplier that is better able to fit your needs. Look into facilities that specialize in the type of casting you require.

When searching for  metalcasting facilities, expert buyers suggest asking:

  • What type of castings do they do best? 
  • What are other designers and purchasers saying about them?
  • What does their background say about them?

When you’ve narrowed your search to a handful of facilities, the next step is to make contact with the potential casters. This is a great opportunity to tour each facility. Reference a supplier checklist to be sure the supplier is up to standard. Check for green light signals of a good operation during the visit:

  • Strong sales figures.
  • Shop floor has work in place and machines are busy.
  • Plant tour is open and questions are answered easily and comfortably.
  • Walkways are clear and workplaces are tidy.
  • Workers are using safety equipment.
  • Progressive capital investment plans are in place.

After making initial contact, request a quotation. Provide the facility with all the necessary information, which may include blueprints and computer designs, in addition to written figures and dimensions. Be specific. Indicate areas that may require machining or unusual dimensions and techniques. Ask your metalcaster if any improvements can be made on the component design to improve the piece or cut costs. The more specifications included in the quote upfront, the better equipped the caster is to provide an accurate quotation.

Select a metalcaster, negotiate a contract and develop a working relationship.

Once the quotes are in, select the metalcaster that best fits your needs. Consider the total landed cost of the component, which includes the cost of shipping, delivery and casting your component. While it is important to start the project quickly, it is just as important to find the right fit. If none of the quotes meet your expectations, consider including other metalcasters in the quotation process.

With a supplier chosen, the buyer and caster must sit down and determine a timeline. Thoughts to consider during this discussion include:

  • Are benchmarks indicated for both the caster and buyer?
  • How often will you meet to touch base?
  • What is the best way to communicate (email, phone, etc.)?

Payment should be finalized in this stage. Once the contract is signed, it is too late to go back.

Fulfill the contract & pursue casting improvements. Renew the contract & define future casting need.

Finally, the long process of research and negotiation has paid off. The casting order is complete. Before deciding you are satisfied, be sure the terms of the contract are fulfilled. Determine the following:

  • Was the project completed on time?
  • Did any “hidden” costs pop up?
  • Were the components delivered properly?
  • Were you included in all aspects of the project?

In a perfect world, each question will be answered affirmatively, and everyone will walk away happy. But consider all aspects of the process before moving on. If it was a positive experience, keep the relationship thriving. Improvements and modifications to the casting can continue with the same caster. Consider contract renewal for further casting needs. Staying with the same metalcaster for the same project means less work on the buyer’s side and project familiarity on the caster’s side.