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Thinking Local

The articles in Modern Casting focus a lot on the technical and business sides of the industry—for good reason. But another side to running a business is probably glossed over too often—the role of being part of the local community.

Many of your foundries are one of the biggest employers in town or one of the oldest employers in town (or both). You have provided jobs for generations of families, held picnics, sponsored little league teams, donated to local charities, and given scholarships. Your employees serve on local boards. They are members of the Rotary Club and Kiwanis. They volunteer. Some serve in the armed forces.

My point is, it’s easy to view a business as an entity, as a vehicle to make the owner or owners a profit. And this is true. But I’ve gathered from conversations with many foundry owners and executives over the years that you also feel a great responsibility to not just your employees, but their families and your community, as well.

I was reminded of this most recently during my visit to Frazier& Frazier Industries. Chuck Frazier runs the business his father started in 1972. Frazier learned a lot from his dad and recounted a conversation that went to the heart of why they bother running a foundry.

“I always thought I was smarter than Dad,” Frazier said. “So I would keep telling him, ‘Dad, we have to have some bookkeeping to see if you are making a profit.’ And he said, ‘what does that have to do with anything? I’m paying the banker, the bills, helping our churches and schools. That is all we need to do. The world is not about profits.’ It took me awhile to understand what he meant by that.”

In June, several metalcasters gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with their senators and representatives to talk about federal policy that can impact their businesses. This big picture effort is necessary to keep the whole industry healthy and strong.

And I know you are fighting just as hard at home to stay open, to stay profitable, to be a job provider. A few months ago, I wrote in this space that metalcasting is a livelihood. The pressure is on to keep improving your operations, meeting your customer needs, and focusing on the technical and financial details. It’s pressure metalcasters can handle, and the reward is worth the struggle. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the July 2017 issue of Modern Casting


Feeling Smart

The premise of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves is that how we manage our feelings in various situations is a better indicator of our professional success than IQ.

Everyone who purchases the book can use a code to take an online test to see how high their emotional intelligence score is. I will admit my score was much lower than my ego thought it would be.

What is emotional intelligence? According to the authors, it is the “communication between your emotional and rational brains.” This link was discovered when researchers set out to find out why people with high IQs outperformed those with average IQs 20% of the time and people with average IQs outperformed those with high IQs 70% of the time. 

Emotional intelligence guides how we react to stress, problem solve, network, work on a team, manage projects, and communicate. The better we do all those things, the better we will be in our jobs.

The book, which is billed as a tool to increase EQ, lists four main skills of someone with a high EQ. This includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. After you take the online test, you are given a score for each of these skills, along with an overall score. The online test will suggest which skill to work on first, based on your scores, and provide some strategies to achieve the goal.

The full book also outlines strategies to improve the four skills of emotional intelligence, but the additional resources gained by taking the online test is valuable. The authors urge readers to focus on one skill to improve at first, so the personalized suggestion for which one to start on first is helpful for someone who wants to start boosting their EQ immediately.

After working on your EQ using the strategies given in the book, the reader is invited to take the online test again to see how they improved. If you scored low at first, there’s hope—Bradberry and Greaves assure us that unlike IQ, EQ can be strengthened and increased with time, patience and practice.

“Research conducted at the business school at the University of Queensland in Australia discovered that people who are low in EQ and job performance can match their colleagues who excel in both—solely by working to improve their EQ,” the authors wrote.

“Emotional Intelligence 2.0” is a quick read. Some of the 66 strategies to improve your EQ seem almost too obvious, but at least they are simple to apply. If you do pick up the book, don’t skip the online test. It is eye opening to see where you actually stand and motivation to start applying your EQ strategies immediately.   

Click here to see this story as it appears in the July 2017 issue of Modern Casting


A Baseball Trade and a Lesson for Metalcasters

On Thursday, two baseball teams made a great trade. They also reinforced a couple great lessons for the metalcasting industry.

There had always been a belief the Chicago White Sox would never trade with the crosstown-rival Cubs. The Sox, now more than ever, are viewed to be the second team in Chicago and it was thought their ownership wouldn’t allow them to trade with the Cubs in fear of maybe losing a deal and alienating their fans.

If true, that line of thinking would have reflected incredibly poorly on the Sox. Last year, they initiated a rebuilding plan by trading away star pitcher Chris Sale and cost-controlled and productive outfielder Adam Eaton for many top prospects. After those deals, the Sox were ahead of the game in their rebuild but had one major chip left: a 28-year-old left-handed starting pitcher named Jose Quintana, whose contract doesn’t expire until after the 2020 season.

The Cubs, as you probably know, won the 2016 World Series and are in a different place than the Sox. They want to win again and think they can. Though well-built and stocked with hitters, the organization’s biggest flaw was a lack of starting pitching, leading many to believe the Cubs and Sox would be a great match for a Quintana deal if not for the Sox’s unwillingness to trade with the other team in their town.

So much for that. The teams got together Thursday on a five-player trade that sent Quintana to the Cubs and four prospects to the Sox, including a power-hitter named Eloy Jimenez who helps address a shortage of power in their minor-league system. The Cubs have a huge piece of their team through 2020, while the Sox took another step forward to contention.

What, then, does this have to do with metalcasting? Plenty.

As the Chicago teams showed, it doesn’t matter where a solution comes from, as long as it’s the right solution. Say your company needs a new binding system but there’s some kind of trivial and perceived hang-up with the only firm that has what you’re looking for. Who does it help if you keep looking, even if the right answer is at a company you haven’t done business with in years? Nobody.

Also, if your business needs help, your clients probably won’t care where it comes from as long as it actually helps everybody. A quick check of Twitter and sports radio reveals how ecstatic Sox fans are about this trade, proving the conventional wisdom wrong. Like a baseball team with its fans, your clients, knowing you’ve improved your processes and future outlook, will feel the same way.

On Thursday, the Sox and Cubs made each other better despite petty reasons people said they wouldn’t. If you can make your company better, do it. It doesn’t really matter who helps you.


Know the Updates to Patent Law

From time to time, foundries and foundry suppliers develop inventions for which they seek patent protection.  For metalcasters, this could include a new austempered ductile iron composition, a casting made from that composition, a method of making that composition, or a novel molding machine.  While these are a few examples, the limits of the invention are constrained only by what the inventor can dream of.  If you or your company apply for U.S. patents, this column will serve as a brief review of some considerations of U.S. law that have changed in the past few years. The following law changes should be kept in mind prior to and during the patent application process.

As of March 2013, the America Invents Act (AIA) legislated some important changes to the patent law, and patent applicants need to be aware of these changes to more effectively apply for U.S. patents.  Perhaps the most significant change from the AIA is the U.S. moved from a “first to invent” regime to a “first inventor to file” regime.  Simply put, an applicant can no longer gain rights over a later applicant for the same invention by proving that she invented the device first.  Now, the inventor must be first to file, and this encourages inventors to file patent applications early in the process to help ensure that patent rights are maintained over your competitors who may be working on similar inventions.

“Prior art” is a term that refers to patent documents and other disclosures that can be used to defeat a patent application. The prior art available to a patent examiner during the patent examination process in the U.S. is defined by law. One challenge for patent applicants is to identify applicable prior art and thus avoid overlooking potentially fatal prior art. The AIA changed fundamental assumptions defining what will and will not be considered prior art under U.S. law. For example, public disclosures anywhere in the world in any language before your patent application filing date may be considered prior art. In other words, the new definitions remove geographic and language restrictions on prior art and will greatly expand in view of U.S. law what now may be considered prior art. This can add significant hurdles to an applicant because of the large amount of information available to us in many different languages. For example, patent applicants and even patent search experts may have difficulty finding and interpreting patent documents from the Far East that are written in symbolic character languages.

Beneficially for patent applicants, commonly assigned patent applications and subject matter developed under joint research agreements can be used to eliminate some prior art. Under the AIA rules, patents and inventions assigned to a single company can be disregarded as prior art if the invention described in a patent application is assigned to the same company. The same is true for joint research agreements. In one example, if a U.S. patent examiner cites the patent of Company A as prior art against a later Company A patent application, that patent reference can be disregarded under the principle of common assignment.

Here are some suggestions that may improve your or your metalcasting facility’s application process in light of the recent changes in U.S. patent law:
•  Develop company-wide employment agreements, employee handbooks and company policies that require employees to promptly report inventions to the company. The employment agreements and employee handbooks should provide that inventions are automatically assigned to the company.
•  Develop a company strategy to promptly review all employee inventions for commercial value. For those inventions determined to have value, promptly decide how to protect the invention (trade secret, patent or copyright). For inventions that the company decides to protect through patenting, develop a procedure to promptly file a patent application.
•  Develop company forms and policies requiring visitors and other members of the public to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition for entering company premises where an unprotected invention may be in use.
•  Train employees on the importance of not using any invention in any setting that could be considered public until a patent application is filed for the invention.
•  Train employees of the importance of not marketing or accepting orders for a product incorporating an invention until a patent application is filed for the invention.
•  Train employees about the importance of not disclosing an invention, either in writing or verbally, until a patent application is filed.

Additionally, it is best practice to not consider “disclosure” in the AIA as replacing a patent application filing; publishing is not a substitute for filing to obtain a strong patent position on the invention. An inventor or metalcaster who has publicly disclosed an invention should file a patent application promptly or, better yet, before disclosure because a mere public disclosure will never provide an effective filing date. In contrast, an earlier patent application filing date protects against competitors filing patent applications for similar or the same inventions later. Furthermore, disclosure before filing may be fatal with respect to international patent rights.  

Click here to see this story as it appears in the June 2017 issue of Modern Casting


There Is a Place for You at AFS

We were pleased to welcome more than 2,200 people from around North America and beyond to the Metalcasting Congress in Milwaukee this past April, including the 125 students who were in attendance. These young people represent the future of our industry and will soon be taking full-time positions in management, sales, engineering, maintenance, R&D, and other roles. How wonderful that they have attended a major American Foundry Society event, even before the formal launch of their careers.

Many people in the formative years of their careers are participating in an exciting AFS program called Future Leaders in Metalcasting (FLM). It is a great way to plug into AFS for people who are on, or aspire to be on, the management track at their companies. The next FLM event is built around a plant tour of General Motors in Defiance, Ohio, in October. Please contact Cathy Potts (cpotts@afsinc.org) of the AFS staff for details on FLM.

In a historically male-dominated industry, it is also satisfying to see more and more women taking their rightful places in a variety of positions. More than 200 are now members of an AFS program called Women in Metalcasting that fosters education and networking. They, too, have found their place at AFS.
Most AFS committees are now seeking more volunteers. Don’t let the words “committee” or “volunteer” scare you. We have nearly 1,000 volunteers at AFS, many of them in our 34 technical and management committees. Speak to nearly any of them, and you’ll hear them say how rewarding their involvement is to the development of their career and the achievement of their company’s goals.

What is your interest? Marketing and sales? Molding methods? Metallurgy? Additive manufacturing?  Steel? Iron? Aluminum? Copper? Most AFS committees are actively seeking new members and welcome new blood. You don’t need to be an expert or an industry graybeard to participate!

Then there are AFS chapters, 45 of them across North America. What a spectacular way to make an impact at the local level. Grab a friend or co-worker, and make plans to attend an upcoming chapter meeting, golf event, or educational activity.

Finally, don’t neglect your own education and professional development. Visit the AFS course catalog and map out a skills-development or refresher plan for yourself and those on your team. Or view the e-Learning module list and take the modules that are most relevant to your career and your company’s goals.

When you invest time and money to participate in AFS, whether it’s attending an Institute course, participating in an AFS meeting, ordering a book from our website, placing a call to our office, or paying a visit to our website, our commitment is to do all we can to provide you with a very positive experience.

The opportunities are here. There truly is a place for you at AFS.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the June 2017 issue of Modern Casting


Process Energy Benchmarking for the Metalcasting Industry

In every energy program, we talk about benchmarking. To know how much we could save by optimizing our process, we need to compare our current performance to benchmarks. The problem is how to determine those benchmarks. The prior column discussed difficulties in benchmarking a plant; this column will discuss benchmarking a particular process.

As an example of the importance of benchmarking, I worked with a company that bought a new set of heat treat furnaces. After several years in operation, they had yet to benchmark their energy performance. The assumption was a new furnace meant great energy performance. It turned out measured energy performance was extremely poor on these new furnaces. Problems with both scheduling and furnace settings had cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars over those years.

When benchmarking a process, you need to be sure you are comparing the same things.

•    Some reported numbers might be based on energy used during a single cycle such as melting a batch. Other numbers are based over time such as over a month. Personally, I like energy numbers over a month since it includes inefficiencies like maintenance, scheduling problems, weekend shutdown-startup activities, and the variation in shift performance. This extra energy is your actual cost in running the furnace. Batch numbers gives you performance of your equipment while month data gives you a measure of your process.

•    Watch that the benchmark is from the same technology. The benchmark for a cold air furnace and a hot air furnace (like a regenerative or recuperative) , are vastly different. Electric and natural gas furnaces have very different numbers.

•    Melting furnaces tend to use Energy Intensity numbers such as Btu/lb. or kWh/t or mJ/t. Heat treat furnaces tend to use Energy Efficiency calculations based on the final temperature. This method is needed since the amount of energy to bring metal to 200F or 1,000F is quite different, even though both may be called “Heat Treat.”

•    Watch the denominator. We say Btu per lb. [or kWh/tonne or MJ/tonne]. This may be the pounds initially loaded into the furnace (charge weight), the pounds out of the furnace (pour weight), or it may be the “good pounds out” of the process after scrap and recovery losses (cast weight). My preference is charge weight. This tells you the energy performance of the furnace based on heat required to process this total metal. “Good pounds out” includes the influence of recovery within the process.

Benchmarking can be internal (using internal performance) or external (using data from furnaces outside your company).

External is better, but sometimes you just can’t find those numbers or your particular process is unique. To use internal numbers:

•    Collect energy intensity data from all similar furnaces at a plant and/or within the company and go back in history as far as you can . . . the more data the better. Use whatever time period works for the company. For instance, monthly data can be compared.

•    Find the first quartile of the data. In most popular spreadsheets, this function is simply “=quartile(range,1)”. Twenty-five percent of the data is less than the 1st Quartile value. This is a better number than the average. Using this value as a benchmark means your new goal  is a stretch but it can be achieved. Since you are already achieving this goal or better 25% of the time, naysayers can be challenged.

•    As improvements are made over time, recalculate the 1st Quartile. Ideally the numbers should improve so your benchmark will move.
External benchmark numbers from an outside authority are best. The problem is finding these numbers. Some options:

•    Manufacturers/Vendors—Talk to the vendors from both the equipment you own and competitors. The numbers from vendors tend to put their products in the best light and are often single cycle data versus monthly data, but discuss this point.

•    Technical Papers—Read industry technical papers to obtain numbers from different studies. Some numbers are averages while others are state-of-the-art. Some are based on pounds in (charge weight) and others are based on pounds out (cast weight). Read carefully.

Based on your operations, you may not be able to reach state-of-the-art benchmarks immediately, but gathering this data and comparing to your actual operation allows you to see the possibilities and have a goal for improvements.  

Click here to see this story as it appears in the June 2017 issue of Modern Casting


The Industry Wins

Almost every year, the May issue of Modern Casting ranks as one of my favorites. By showcasing the winners of the annual AFS Casting Competition plus coverage of the Metalcasting Congress, this issue highlights industry achievement.

This year’s winner of the Casting Competition is Aristo-Cast Inc. (Almont, Michigan) for a unique lattice-designed seat frame for aerospace applications. The investment caster used its established best practices to bring to life a new way of looking at part design, and the result is encouraging for future applications.

Competition is close every year, and this was no exception. It’s not surprising because the diversity of the metalcasting industry means designers have a lot of different ways of achieving their goals in fantastic ways. This year, the best-in-class and honorable mention winners are prime examples of reducing weight (sometimes even by switching from aluminum to iron), simplifying logistics, improving quality, cutting cost, and turning customer’s dreams and wish lists into reality.  

The Casting of the Year winners were on display on the exhibit show floor at Metalcasting Congress in Milwaukee last month. It’s the perfect spot to recognize the achievement—in the middle of the rest of the supply chain showcasing their own best capabilities and products and in tandem with many other top industry awards that are presented, most of which we share on in our post-show coverage starting on page 40.

When achievement and awards are brought up, the misconception can be that the award is the achievement. On the contrary—awards recognize achievement. We should strive for the achievement, not the awards.

So, what has the industry achieved in the last year?
•    Advances in additive manufacturing and rapid manufacturing.
•    Significant plant safety milestones.
•    Advocacy to the next generation of metalcasters and customers.
•    Advocacy to our city, state and national leaders.
•    Alloy developments in magnesium, copper, aluminum, iron and steel.
•    Molding process developments, from wax and lost foam patterns to sand mold filling.
•    Improved simulation and prediction tools.
•    New tools for employee training and education.

This list doesn’t even start to touch everything. What the individuals of the industry accomplish together when they are working toward the same goals is something to be proud of, and these achievements should be recognized. They elevate the entire industry. Congratulations not just to this year’s winners, but also to all the other members of this industry who have collaborated toward a goal and met it this year.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the May 2017 issue of Modern Casting




In 60 Seconds...

The narrative of The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is that a young and apparently eager person has been searching the globe for a progressive and effective supervisor. Then once the unnamed protagonist finds said leader, he’d soak up all the lessons and wisdom and move forward.

The protagonist finds that boss and gets face-to-face meetings with him and three of his workers. That’s when the protagonist hears the three secrets to being a One Minute Manager:
- One Minute Goals
- One Minute Praisings
- One Minute Re-Directs

Before we get into the meat of the book and whether it has value, I must provide a word of warning. If you’re looking for an involved and detailed read, this isn’t it. The edition I have is a flimsy 93 pages with large type. Some pages aren’t completely filled and others are just sayings. I didn’t officially time myself, but I’d be shocked if it took me more than 90 minutes to read. In fact, I probably could have gotten away with grabbing it off the shelf at my local bookstore, buying a coffee and scone and reading it on a comfy couch at said store, then returning the book to the shelf and leaving.

Alas, I didn’t do that.

Anyway, for a quick and breezy read, the book will be a valuable addition to my library. It made me think about the supervisors I’ve had and the tricks and tactics they’ve used to get the most out of me. Of the three “secrets,” the one that got my mind going the most was the One Minute Re-Direct. This is basically what happens when an employee messes up and speaks to their boss. The tactic written about in the book feels surprisingly natural and obvious, and seems like one a lot of younger employees could respond to.

The book itself is an adaptation of The One Minute Manager. Published in 1982, the original had many of the same thoughts and ideas. One key difference is that the new version’s One Minute Re-Directs is a revision of the original’s One Minute Reprimands. As the authors wrote, this was an update to keep up with the times, knowing that what worked in the early 1980s wouldn’t necessarily work now. And they’re right. Personally, I would much rather go through a Re-Direct with one of my supervisors than a Reprimand.

In general, The New One Minute Manager lives up to what it promises. The solutions seem easy to execute and feel obvious and intuitive at the same time. The characters in the book are relatable, and the writing style is easy and accessible.

And you won’t need much time to read it.    

Click here to see this story as it appears in the May 2017 issue of Modern Casting


Trade Secret Protection

The American Bar Association estimates the market value of S&P 500 companies can include as much as 75% of intangible assets. This is quite an increase over a 1975 estimate indicating less than 20% of these companies’ collective market value consisted of intangible assets. A good portion of these intangible assets is intellectual property which includes patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. As you may be aware, there is now federal jurisdiction for trade secret theft.  The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) was signed into law on May 11, 2016, after being unanimously passed in the Senate and ratified in the House by a vote of 410-2. The DTSA became immediately effective for all trade secret misappropriation taking place after the bill’s signing date.

While many of us might not think of trade secrets (such as the formula for Coca-Cola) as being commonplace, the National Science Foundation estimates that corporations actually employ trade secret protection perhaps two times as often when compared to patents.  As such, trade secrets certainly constitute a significant amount of value of intangible assets for American corporations. Trade secrets can include a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, commercial method, or compilation of information.  To fit the federal definition of a trade secret, the information must include a) information; b) reasonable measures taken to protect the information; and c) information which derives independent economic value from not being publicly known as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1839(3) (A), (B) (1996).

A paper co-authored by create.org and Pricewaterhouse Coopers estimates that trade secret theft ranges from 1% to 3% of the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. and other advanced industrial economies. As such, the federal government chose to create a federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation in the DTSA. This legislation includes a three-year statute of limitations, and it authorizes remedies similar to those found in current state laws. The DTSA also creates a seizure procedure for use in extraordinary circumstances where the offender “would destroy, move, hide, or otherwise make such matter inaccessible to the court, if the applicant were to proceed on notice to such person.”  While the seizure may be carried out immediately, the new law provides that the court shall set a hearing not less than seven days after the issuance of the order.  Finally, the law protects whistleblowers from retaliatory accusations of trade secret misappropriation, so long as the whistleblowers disclose the trade secret information to government or court officials in confidence.

The DTSA does not preempt existing state law, which will preserve options for metalcasters in regard to whether to file federal or state claims and court selection.  It also notably omits any requirement that a trade secret plaintiff describe its trade secrets with particularity, which helps to protect the sensitive trade secret information after prosecution of the offender.  The criminal provisions of the DTSA increase the penalties for a criminal violation from $5,000,000 to the greater of $5,000,000 or three times the value of the stolen trade secrets to the organization, including the costs of reproducing the trade secrets.

As a result of the legislation, your metalcasting operation may wish to consider four responses to the DTSA after consulting your business attorney:
First, you may wish to update your employment and confidentiality agreements to disclose the whistleblower immunity provisions in the DTSA. If you do so, your metalcasting facility may be eligible to recover double damages or attorney fees in trade secret litigation.

Second, reevaluate your company’s tolerance for bringing trade secrets claims. Many companies have been deterred from making claims in the past because of the uncertainties and delays in state courts. Federal courts, however, have smaller case loads, allowing them to more directly and efficiently manage such litigation.

Third, take inventory of your company’s trade secrets and evaluate the protections in place to maintain the confidentiality of those secrets. Preventative measures are far more effective and less costly at keeping your secrets safe than trying to “re-secure” a trade secret after it is disclosed.

Fourth, develop response plans for suspected misappropriation and for receiving a seizure order. Trade secret litigation tends to move relatively quickly. Having a plan for what to do in the event your secrets are stolen will prevent unnecessary delays that can compromise your rights. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the April 2017 issue of Modern Casting.


Plant Energy Benchmarking for the Metalcasting Industry

How much energy does it take to produce a pound of finished casting?

The honest answer to this seemingly simple question is: “It depends.”

Why is that?

Energy benchmarking is the tracking of energy use using standard metrics to compare past and future performance. Such metrics sometimes can be used to set usage standards to compare your energy use to similar machines in the same facility or to similar machines at other facilities. But our industry brings significant challenges that complicate the issue.

Efforts have been made to establish energy usage standards for the metalcasting industry by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and others, without much success. An ideal benchmarking methodology continues to be sought, but has not yet been identified.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Energy benchmarking requires a regular regimen of data collection of energy consumed correlated in time with the amount of finished product produced. The time interval of the data collection is critical; it will provide your smallest time window into the operations of your organization. Putting time-resolved power meters on major energy consumption devices helps provide a better understanding of your power consumption and provides new insights into your production operations.

Perhaps an analogy is in order. We can easily calculate the actual mileage that our car gets for each tank of fuel. Establish your mileage and you can compare the cars’ fuel cost and performance over time. This is a simple form of benchmarking. Collecting mileage metrics has led to estimated mileage standards by the EPA to help us when we shop for a new car. But such standards are established for only four categories of vehicles, based on two factors: vehicle type (passenger cars or light trucks) and size of the vehicle. As the sticker on the window warns, “Your Mileage May Vary.” Many factors, such as driving style, traffic congestions, tire pressure, etc., will influence the mileage that you get in your car.

Energy usage in the metalcasting industry is affected by many more variables than calculating car mileage. Hold times on furnaces, power settings, energy types and costs, metallurgy type (including which alloy), insulation levels, maintenance issues, outside temperatures, and other operational issues can be the metrics you include in the values to be benchmarked.

Two operations are rarely identical in energy performance—even in the same facility with similar equipment. In fact, performance between different shifts with the same equipment can be significantly different. For example, certain mechanical properties of the final product may require different heat treatments using different amounts of energy.

When benchmarking against the amount of finished product produced, plant recovery operations will greatly affect results. Benchmarking metrics will all be affected by melt loss, planned recovery from machined material losses and unplanned recovery losses, like spills and scrap.

Establishing the Baseline
Tracking essential metrics does not have to be difficult. A spreadsheet can be used to establish basic benchmarking capabilities. This simple analysis is only useful for the case in which the electricity monitored by the meter in this example is primarily used for production equipment and not building HVAC.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive spreadsheet-based tool, Energy Performance Indicator (EnPI) has been developed by the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO). EnPI V4.0 is a regression analysis-based tool developed to help plant and corporate managers establish a normalized baseline of energy consumption. This tool can track annual progress of energy-use improvements, energy savings, Superior Energy Performance (SEP) metrics, and other energy-related metrics that account for variations due to weather, production, and other factors. This DOE tool is designed to accommodate multiple users including Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and Challenge Partners, SEP participants, other manufacturing firms, and non-manufacturing facilities such as data centers. The EnPI add-in can be downloaded at https://ecenter.ee.doe.gov/EM/tools/Pages/EnPI.aspx.

There is a great benefit from energy benchmarking in order to monitor vital metrics within your own organization. It will give you the ability to find serious cost savings, improve process efficiency, and increase production throughput… often with little or no capital expense. Is it time to better understand how a major expense for your company is spent? The choice is yours; the electric bill will continue to arrive in the mail. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the April 2017 issue of Modern Casting.

 


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