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Estimates based on the recent survey, which asked


metalcasters about their current capacity and future plans, indicate the domestic industry reduced its capacity by approximately 1.1 million tons from 2008-2009. How- ever, this is believed to be based primarily on equipment capabilities with current shift levels, meaning some of the reduced capacity stands to come back when facilities are able to secure more labor and return to normal levels of operation (two shifts, fi ve days per week).


Evading Defi nition Metalcasting is a multi-faceted process. In any one facil-


ity, more than half a dozen operations might be going on at the same time. For example, a standard green sand casting plant might break down its operations by molding, core- making, pouring, shakeout and cleaning/fi nishing. In order to defi ne casting capacity, the facility must fi rst determine its constraining operation. “I have a customer right now that can’t get the castings


they need because the supplier doesn’t have the core capacity,” Lane said. Next, the facility must take the cycle time of its


constraining operation and determine how many times it can run during the available work schedule. The avail- able work schedule is itself a moving target, as there is no way to standardize the number of days per week facilities should operate or the number of shifts they should run per day. “We want to get our plant up to six days a week and 20 hours a day,” said Chris Campbell, business development manager at Bombardier Recreational Products’ (BRP’s) lost foam casting plant in Spruce Pine, N.C. “We leave four hours for furnace cleaning and other maintenance.” To defi ne its actual capacity, BRP Spruce Pine subtracts


company holidays and two one-week shutdowns from the hours available in a calendar year for major melt system ser- vice. More hours are subtracted for equipment downtime, operator effi ciency and scrap rates. All told, BRP believes it has 4,821 available hours to run its equipment eff ectively. But that’s not the end of the story. “We try to improve on that continuously and make


capital investments to improve,” Campbell said. “We do things to make operators more effi cient and decrease equip- ment cycle times.” Campbell said there is considerable debate as to whether


a metalcaster should expect to run two 10-hour shifts six days a week. While he says it is the most eff ective way to use energy resources, staffi ng constraints can keep some facilities from reaching that goal. “Even calculated capacity is based on how busy [the


metalcaster] wants to be,” Lane said. “And a lot of companies won’t work on the daytime shift during peak [energy] demand.” T e fi nal variable in the capacity equation is utilization.


According to Campbell, diff erent facilities will have diff er- ent targets for how much of their capacity they are willing to run at a given time. “T at’s the key thing—what is your ultimate goal?” Camp-


In order to determine its capacity, a facility fi rst must break down its operation and fi nd the constraining process, whether its melting, coremaking, molding, pouring or cleaning and fi nishing.


Mar/Apr 2012 | METAL CASTING DESIGN & PURCHASING | 43


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