Simple Answers, Tough Execution

I lost my keys last month.

We all have done it.  In this case, these lost keys required all five of my family members and an hour and 45 minutes to find them.

During my family’s all-out, turn-everything-upside-down search of our house, garage and cars, I kept saying to myself, the simplest answer probably is the correct one. For me, the simplest answer would have been that the keys were left in my car. So, we searched every crack and crevice of my car at least five times. But it took one final gasp of frustration during the last search of the car for me to take a step back, stare in the distance for some clarity (across the top of my SUV), and see my keys resting on the roof.

In MCDP, our articles show you the spectacular AND they reinforce the fundamentals. We understand that you do not live in the world of metal castings like we do.  As a result, we must continue to educate on the basics of success in designing and purchasing castings because these fundamentals are at the core of what will really improve your efficiencies. This relates to our feature, “10 Cost Considerations in Your Castings,” on p. 25.

Ultimately, many of your purchasing decisions for metal castings come down to costs. The key is to understand the many factors that go into the price of a casting from the metalcaster perspective compared to the total cost of acquisition for you as a buyer. Many simple decisions you make during the design and sourcing process can dramatically affect casting cost without affecting quality or delivery. What you are specifying to your supplier may seem routine to you (and may be in other industries), but could be extreme for the metalcasting process.

For example, how do you specify surface finish on your cast components? Here is a quote from the cost considerations article: “Although a smooth surface on a cast part often is considered an aspect of its quality, this is not an accurate indicator of the overall quality of a casting.”

Buyers often specify high-level surface finish without understanding the casting process and what that surface finish entails in manufacturing.  If the part is visible to a consumer, then the visual appeal of a glass-like surface is critical. But if the part isn’t visible, why incur the extra cost for that type of surface, especially if it doesn’t affect quality or the surface is going to be machined?

The success of any business comes down to mastering the fundamentals. For designing and purchasing castings, an understanding of the basics can take you a long way.

When I came home from work the evening I lost my keys, my 11-year-old daughter Abigail smiled at me and said, “Remember, the simplest answer probably is the correct one.”  I will continue to remind myself of this and hopefully you will too.

Giving the Industry a Face

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

U.S. metalcasting earned a starring role in a segment on NBC Nightly News June 30. The segment spotlighted Lodge Manufacturing Co., its cast iron pans and its metalcasting facility in South Pittsburg, Tenn. Apparently, cast iron cookware is soaring in popularity.

You can watch the video here.

Usually, cast metal components are hidden under sheet metal and plastic or camouflaged in an assembly of parts, fasteners, wiring and rubber. More than $34 billion worth of castings are made in the U.S. in a year, yet this industry is so often unnoticed by the general public.

Casting companies like Lodge—whose products are seen and touched by people in their daily lives, fill a unique role as visual representation of the industry. These companies include East Jordan Iron Works and Neenah, whose names are etched in castings along countless sidewalks and streets. Or Kohler, whose cast plumbing and bath fixtures are touched by millions of people every day, and Ping, who casts its golf club heads in Arizona.   

These ambassadors for the industry are doing it well. Lodge’s cast iron skillets are often given as speaker awards at industry conferences, and at a recent conference I attended, the presenters could not contain their smiles upon receiving their U.S.-made cookware.

Thank you to those casting businesses who serve up our casting examples. It’s not their most important job, and it doesn’t make them the best metalcasters in the industry, but their ambassadorship provides faces to the industry. Without them, the industry would be close to invisible.  

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