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Engineering is CarKing

Continuous investment and an emphasis on engineering drove 230% growth at Carley Foundry in the past decade.

Shannon Wetzel, Senior Editor C

arley Foundry, Blaine, Minn., was a healthy, 92-employee sand cast- ing facility that dabbled in low-pressure permanent

mold and generated $10 million in sales a year just more than 10 years ago. In the last decade, its permanent mold business has gained traction, and the addition of investment casting has en- hanced the company’s trajectory. Today, the shop is a 230-employee operation generating $33 million in annual sales. “Our plan is to grow 10% a year—

that’s what we strive for,” said Mike Carley, company president. “Any more, and we won’t be able to service our customers properly. Much less, and people within the company won’t see room for advancement.” To that end, Carley Foundry has

steadily reinvested in its casting facility, whether through implementing automa- tion on the shop floor, adding casting equipment or expanding the plant’s physical footprint. Along the way, the sand caster became a jack-of-all-trades, earning new business from permanent mold and investment casting customers.

Building on Permanent Mold In 2000, Carley Foundry had one

low-pressure permanent mold machine. Since then, the company has added three more, along with several tilt-pour and semi-permanent mold machines.

MODERN CASTING / January 2011

Permanent mold casting now accounts for 45% of the metalcaster’s business. “We’ve always had green sand, dry

sand and low pressure permanent mold, but we weren’t always so strong in per- manent mold,” Carley said. “[To grow that process] we hired people like Randy [Oerhlein, vice president of engineering].” Carley Foundry currently employs 12 engineers, nine of which are dedicated specifically to sand, permanent mold or investment casting. “New jobs and pre-production is a

big part of our business,” Carley said. “We have a lot of new work coming in, so our engineers are needed to develop lean processes.” As customers have purged their inter-

nal casting expertise, they have become more dependent on their suppliers to help them with part design, according to Oehrlein. “It’s what customers need, and we

Carley Foundry Blaine, Minnesota

Metals Cast: Aluminum and stainless steel.

Molding Processes: Permanent mold, green sand, nobake sand and investment casting.

Markets Served: Aerospace, military, medical and recreational.

Size: 177,000 sq. ft. Employees: 230.

are able to sell it,” he said. “What also has driven demand for engineering is higher part quality. You can’t take those demands lightly.” Carley Foundry’s capabilities in

permanent mold were showcased in a Harley Davidson oil tank cast- ing that won the AFS/Metal Casting Design & Purchasing Casting of the Year in 2008. The 9.25-lb. aluminum casting was converted from a plastic part and required heavy involvement from Carley Foundry’s engineering department to provide a workable solution for the customer. The component featured cast-in oil

circulation tubes that eliminated costly machining and design constraints to al- low the tubes to span the length of the tank and circulate hot oil throughout. “A lot of what our engineers provide

are castability suggestions or how to take some money out of the part,” Oehrlein said. “In some cases, we even give them suggestions or support with alloy choice and heat treating cost.”

Change of Plans With permanent mold operations ex-

panded, Carley Foundry was preparing additional space to put in more sand casting and cleaning operations in 2003. But while the building addition was being erected, a different opportunity presented itself. Although the company was not actively seeking to add invest-


ley Foundry at

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