A great achievement for any team is the moment when a customer expresses how well their product hits the mark, then shares that view with the world. At General Kinematics, we’ve worked with Waupaca Foundry, Inc. for decades, together we have developed some of the industry’s best vibratory and rotary technology.
Waupaca Foundry, Inc. (WFI) started operations in 1955, as a grey and ductile iron casting metalcaster and came to be among the world’s largest independent iron foundries. Its global markets include automotive and light truck, commercial vehicle, agriculture, construction, material handling, and other industrial sectors. The company employs around 3,900 people in eight plant locations.
Since WFI’s inception 63 years ago, the processes for manufacturing cast iron have changed dramatically. To stay competitive, WFI has continuously upgraded its facilities to improve quality, safety and the speed of production. General Kinematics (GK) has worked closely with WFI to help achieve these goals.
Claude Hutchens, International Foundry Market Director for GK, has worked closely with WFI to collaborate on their innovation. “One of the things that I love about Waupaca Foundry,” he says, “is that they are always pushing the envelope; they are always asking us, as design engineers, to improve and design equipment that is bigger, faster, and better.”
At WFI, Bob Jezwinski, Vice President for Manufacturing and Engineering, said he’s impressed by GK’s commitment to innovation. “If we are going to do something that is a little bit over the top—something that involves risk, they [General Kinematics] will participate in that risk, so if something doesn’t work, they are going to provide the solution for it.”
Innovation Balanced With Reliability
“GK offers repeatability and reliability, which are a couple of facets that we rely on to keep our company effective,” added Michael Hemmila, Assistant Maintenance Manager, WFI.
The latest upgrade took place at the WFI location in Etowah, Tennessee. The facility was built in 2001 to produce grey castings, but in October 2016, the facility switched from pouring grey iron to ductile iron and now casts automotive parts for powertrains, braking, suspensions, drivelines and more. The plant employs 525 administrative and production workers.
During the Etowah factory redesign and retooling process, General Kinematics design engineers consulted on the design of everything from the molding lines to the cleaning room.
“We worked with GK on several engineering projects, all the way from conceptual design to plant layouts, system layouts, all the way through approval drawings,” said Daniel Reed, Assistant Engineering Manager. “They help us look at the entire system rather than just a piece of equipment. GK’s field installation has also been critical for us on some newer applications. We consistently strive to improve our processes and equipment and reliability and GK helps us out a ton with staying on top of the most current conveyance technologies.”
Key to the improved production of this facility is the melting department, which is now, one of the fastest in the world where 12,000-pound batches of scrap metal are fed into the furnace every three minutes. To process that amount of material, WFI engineers worked with the GK team to install a GK Vibrating Charge Feeder with the patented charge feeder nosepiece that expands to prevent jams. The feeder fits tight to the furnace hood to contain fumes and any potential splash back and directs the charge into the center of the furnace to reduce furnace damage.
By installing a SPIRA-COOL® Casting Cooling, the top of the line in the industry, GK was able to eliminate the long footprint previously need to cool the casting from 1200 degrees down to 100 degrees. According to WFI Engineering Manager, Steve Carr:
“The SPIRA-COOL® is not only a more productive piece of equipment, but also a safer piece of equipment that protects our environment, protects the employees, and gets the job done.”
The shakeouts are another key component in the process. They remove much of the excess casting material from the final product and reduce the amount of buffing needed by hand. “We went through many generations of design with Waupaca in developing the shakeouts,” said Hutchens.
Reducing Maintenance Needs with GK
In addition to performance, maintenance requirements are a major factor when choosing equipment. GK equipment normally requires basic inspections on a regular basis, but other than that, maintenance is minimal.
“GK equipment is very reliable. Our molding machines in this plant have been changed out to be better, bigger, higher and we push it harder than it was meant to be pushed. We perform maintenance inspections at 10 – 15 percent of its runtime. We are able to look at it and ensure that it’s in good operating condition, efficiently, running well,” said Bryce Borba, WFI Assistant Maintenance Manager.
Steve Carr, agrees:
“The one thing that to me makes GK special is that you can call them and they will help you find out why or what the problem might be and they don’t criticize you. They jump in to decide what can we do to make this piece better, how can we make this piece work. Their engineering department has been spectacular as far as buying equipment that meets your needs.”
WFI is continuously innovating and improving their production. The faster the molding line runs, the faster the GK equipment must run.
With a focus on excellence, safety, and a commitment to innovation, WFI is an industry leader. With solutions from General Kinematics, WFI is providing their customers the highest quality product, with reliability their operations can depend on.