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MetalCasting Design & Purchasing

Think About Communication

The annual casting competition is a showcase for metalcasting’s latest and greatest.  And this year’s winner, the oil pan for John Deere cast by Aarrowcast Inc., Shawano, Wis., is no exception.  By incorporating multiple components to increase performance and reduce cost, this cast component is another shining example of what can be accomplished when the designer and metalcaster work together to secure a solution.

And that really is the story with this oil pan casting. Both John Deere and Aarrowcast brought their expertise to the table during the product development process to solve design, production and quality issues.  Even though the process required a couple years and several iterations to achieve a final component, the result validates their efforts.

“This part took us out of our comfort zone, and as a result, we’ve changed our entire system to work with our customer up front to ensure success at launch,” said Aarrowcast engineering manager Jim Olson.

In today’s marketplace, the push for open, up-front communication is critical, especially in the product development stage for castings. The lack of strong communication between buyer and supplier in global sourcing situations is one of the reasons many firms have returned to localized sourcing as much as possible.

But the reality is not all casting buyers have read the headlines and realized the offshore sourcing movement isn’t as perfect as everyone once thought. Your firm may still enforce a corporate-wide edict that a certain percentage of sourcing must be from low-cost countries. Or maybe your firm is similar to one I encountered recently at which I heard the following statements:

“U.S. metalcasters have a lot of catching up to do.”

“U.S. metalcasters have to improve to compete with plants in China, India and Mexico.”

While these two phrases aren’t exact quotes, they are paraphrases of a discussion with a group of experienced casting buyers.  These buyers said they want to purchase in the U.S. but they just weren’t able to find suppliers offering the total package (price, technology and/or capabilities). Even though these buyers require smaller runs of many different materials and sizes, global sourcing is the more attractive option to them.

If you are one of the firms still thinking like this group of buyers, ask yourself if you could achieve what John Deere and Aarrowcast achieved with your global suppliers.

In the last few years, manufacturing in the U.S. and North America has seen a resurgence in both production and reputation as most firms have refocused on regionalized sourcing, reshoring castings with regularity back from low-cost sources. Many of the conversations appear to have turned from casting price to total cost of acquisition, so costs like defects, shipping and engineering time are being factored into the final decision. These are the conversations that lead to innovation.  These are the conversations that lead to a Casting of the Year.

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