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be the primary focus,” Gigante said. “But we also will be able to produce construction and agricultural castings that aren’t possible to produce in ductile iron on vertical molding lines.” Waupaca Foundry expects to be


supported by Hitachi Metals engi- neering and product development departments, which have worked with horizontal operations in Japan and South Korea, in learning the different design and process demands. Te addition of horizontal mold-


ing will allow Waupaca Foundry to produce different castings, while also opening the door to new customers. Still, such an investment will require time to sell the open capacity. Wau- paca Foundry would prefer to receive commitments from customers before installing the new line, but such a situ- ation may not be realistic. “In today’s market, you have to build it and they will come,” Gigante said. “Even if you have an anchor cus- tomer who can bring in 30% of capac- ity, that leaves a substantial amount of business you need to go out and get.” Company officials are projecting the line to begin operation in 2018, though filling capacity may take two or three years.


Crossing the Border? Waupaca Foundry’s fourth initia-


tive in its 2018 mid-term plan might still be further on the horizon, but it has the potential to be a major step forward for the metalcaster. “Hitachi Metals has a strong foot-


print in Mexico with other product in other divisions,” Gigante said. “We are strongly encouraged to come up with a [casting-specific] solution because they don’t currently have that in Mexico.” Such an expansion was in the works


a decade ago, when Waupaca Foundry presented a fully designed greenfield project to the TyssenKrupp board of directors. But, because the metalcast- ing business was not prioritized at that time, the project was not approved. Te recession the next year ensured any plan to enter the Mexican market would be shelved. Now, considering Hitachi Metals’


willingness to extend ROI, such a proj- ect could be in the foreseeable future.


Waupaca Foundry plans to increase annual capacity from its current level of of 1.8 million tons.


Waupaca Foundry has received encour- agement mainly from its automotive customers because it would be able to supply large volumes in relative proxim- ity to many major assembly plants. “Having a global footprint has


always been a part of our long-term strategy,” Gigante said. “We want to be in Mexico, Hitachi Metals wants us in Mexico and our customers want us to be there.”


Building on Common Ground With such comprehensive plans


for the future, the excitement extends from the executive levels of Hitachi Metals all the way down to Waupaca Foundry’s shop floors. Much of the uncertainty that accompanied previous ownership appears to be transformed into optimism for what’s to come. A number of “quick wins,” as


they’re calling them internally, come along with combining the capabilities of Waupaca Foundry and HMAC, which formally merged April 1, 2016. For example, the two companies can share accounts payable and receivable services. Best practices are shared. Both Hitachi Metals and Waupaca brands can be cross-sold to open up both sides to new customers. Additionally, benchmarking


exercises after the acquisition allowed both Hitachi Metals and Waupaca


Foundry to identify best practices that could be standardized across all facilities. For example, a method of problem resolution that Waupaca Foundry began under KPS owner- ship has been implemented across its North American casting, machining and assembly operations. Te work- force is divvied into four levels: Level 4 being on the shop floor, 3 being foremen, 2 the superintendent and 1 operations management. “Level 4 can try to solve the


problem before it goes to Level 3,” said Joey Leonard, executive VP, human resources. “Employees are able to make changes themselves, instead of a top-down process. We went from management ownership to operator ownership. Since then, we’ve seen improvements in produc- tivity and quality.” Te Hitachi Metals acquisition


has impacted Waupaca Foundry from day-to-day operations to long-term planning. But a sense of stability accompanies these changes, allowing the metalcaster to best position itself for the future. “It feels really good to be back in this position again, to be investing in our future,” Gigante said. “Tis is a chance to move forward, being a part of a larger company with a metalcast- ing backbone.”


April 2016 MODERN CASTING | 23


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