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Keep It Public

Alfred Spada

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.