Pier Foundry adds $2 million in new equipment

AFS Corporate Member Pier Foundry & Pattern Shop (St. Paul, Minnesota) added a new Hunter HLM Series automated molding machine and a new 14-cu-ft tumble blast BCT (Blast Cleaning Technologies) system in October. Together, the new installations represent a $2 million investment for the gray- and ductile-iron, green sand foundry located on the banks of the Mississippi River. 

The new Hunter replaces a 1999 Hunter H, and the BCT replaces a machine from 1947. The foundry remained in operation during the decommissioning of the old equipment and the installations of the new equipment during the second and fourth weeks of October. 

“We’re making sure that we’ve got reliable equipment so we can produce our customer orders when we commit to producing them,” said Pier Foundry Sales & Operations Manager John Dulaney. “It’s about the reliability and the quality of the castings. In the case of the Hunter 1999 vintage compared to the current HLM model, the technology is a big leap forward.”

The footprint remained intact with the installations, but considerable construction work surrounding the Hunter and BCT has brought big changes to the shop floor.  

Although the recent capital investments won’t, by themselves, increase capacity, Dulaney said they are a part of their 12-month, $8-million-dollar investment plan. The remaining investments, coming this December and in the spring of 2024, will position the company to handle more jobs.  

“With those upcoming projects, we’re going to have increased capacity of 30%” said Dulaney. “Any of these projects as a standalone wouldn’t have done that—it’s a combination of them that will get us to that point.” 

In 2020, the company replaced its manual cope and drag line with a Sinto 20x24 FBO III-S and automated Mold Handling Line, with Sinto Smart Foundry, which set the stage for its capacity-growth strategy. 

Owned by the fourth generation of the Grilz family, Pier Foundry employs 65 people; the recent upgrades are making a positive impact on the workforce.

“Everybody knows how hard it is to get good employees, so it’s important to us to make the job as easy as possible,” said Dulaney. “It’s still foundry work and it’s still difficult, but we’re trying to make it better for them by providing more reliable automated equipment.

“They’re all really excited to see the reinvestment into the company,” Dulaney continued. “We have several employees who have come out of other foundries and manufacturers that haven’t had the opportunity to reinvest or have been closed down in recent years. And it’s encouraging to all of the employees that we’re moving ahead with these projects.”

Next year, Pier Foundry & Pattern Shop, which is ISO 9001:2015 certified, will celebrate 135 years of metalcasting at its original location. It serves customers in agriculture, heavy duty truck, construction, machine tool, material handling, pumps, and valves, producing castings up to 70 lbs.