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Columbus CEO Helps U.S. Reshoring Effort

In November 2013, Columbus Castings, Columbus, Ohio, reached a major business agreement with Nippon Sharyo USA Inc., Arlington Heights, Ill., for steel Amtrak railcar undercarriages. For Columbus CEO and President Rick Ruebusch, it was an unquestionable highlight of his two years at the helm of the steel casting facility.

As reported by Columbus Business First, the contract could be worth as much as $70 million. If Nippon Sharyo exercises all options in the contract, the green sand facility is scheduled to be at full capacity through 2021. With that kind of success, Ruebusch has good reason to be optimistic, about both his business and the American metalcasting industry in general.

“The renaissance of manufacturing in the U.S. is underway,” Ruebusch said. “We [at Columbus Castings] are well positioned to once again be the point of the spear for this and look forward to the rapid recovery of the nation’s manufacturing base.”

According to industry statistics, approximately 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been reshored by about 500 OEMs and thousands of their suppliers since the manufacturing employment low of January 2010. Owned by Protostar Partners LLC, New York, and formerly known as Buckeye Steel Castings Co., Columbus Castings will add approximately 50 full-time metalcasting jobs to its current 650-employee workforce as a result of the recent Nippon Sharyo deal.

Earning an engineering degree from The Ohio State Univ., Columbus, Ohio, Ruebusch worked as an engineer at GE Aviation, Cincinnati, and gained positions of increasing responsibility at Precision Castparts Corp., Portland, Ore., and SPX Corp., Charlotte, N.C. With his career spanning more than a decade in metalcasting, he is plenty familiar with the industry and what advantages American firms can offer.

“We are closer to customers, which lessens transportation costs, and allows for more visibility and stronger relationships,” Ruebusch said. “The skilled labor is here, and the workforce is hungry for it.”

Considering a number of worldwide economic factors, including steadily increasing labor costs in developing economies, U.S.-based metalcasters can provide benefits not available to overseas suppliers. Ruebusch, after signing the biggest contract in his company’s 110-year history, expects the future to be bright.

“This award is the single-largest order to date in the long history of Buckeye/Columbus Castings, continuing the forward momentum of our organization,” he said. 


Keep It Public

The annual casting competition is a showcase for the 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 casting 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 and has opened the door to a new line of thinking at Aarrowcast. 

“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 casting marketplace, the push for open, up-front communication is critical. Whether this communication is centered around product development or your firm’s capabilities, the reality is that not all casting buyers have read the headlines and realize the offshore sourcing movement isn’t as perfect as everyone once thought.

“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 I recently had 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) they can find in these other countries. Even though these buyers require smaller runs of many different materials and sizes, global sourcing is an attractive option. 

In the last few years, manufacturing in the U.S. and North America has seen a resurgence in both production and reputation. Within metalcasting, we have seen a customer base refocus on regionalized sourcing, reshoring castings with regularity back from the low-cost sources that dominated headlines less than five years ago.  The conversations appeared to have turned from casting price to total cost of acquisition, so costs like defects, shipping and engineering time were being factored into the final decision.

But not all buyers have realized the benefits of working closely with your casting manufacturer like John Deere did with Aarrowcast.  Some buyers still require convincing.  Maybe it is time for your facility to do what Aarrowcast has done and publicly proclaim that your firm is working up-front with customers to offer assistance with casting design for manufacturing.  While some of you do offer this service already, what could hurt to scream it from the mountaintops of your website, business cards and letterhead?  We must continue to reshape the minds of current and potential customers one at a time.

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