Worth the Risk? 4 Critical Questions to Ask Before Working with a New Foundry.

There are many reasons why original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) question their relationship with an existing foundry partner, from inconsistent quality to ineffective communication. But there is typically only one reason they continue to work with the foundry anyway – the risk of uncertainty.

 

We don’t deny that moving to a new foundry is a risk. First, there are the upfront costs – an investment needed prior to being confident that this relationship will be better than the existing foundry. Then, the risk of supply chain disruption as the changeover is completed. And lastly, the whole process can be time consuming as the OEM and foundry iron out the details, collect materials, get approvals, and finally start production.

 

The good news is that there are progressive foundries focused on customer service and quality assurance, with the goal of creating long-term partnerships with their OEM customers. By being transparent, communicative, and thorough in the quoting and vetting process, these foundries can help reduce the risk of uncertainty and give OEMs a clear picture of what it is like to work with them, before they even do.

If you are an OEM looking for a new foundry partner, asking these four questions will help you understand how each foundry manages the challenges and risks you would face as a new customer.

 

  1. What are the upfront costs?

OEMs don’t always have a budget to build new tooling or patterns, or to cover an adaptation cost to modify a tool or pattern from one foundry to the next. The need for new tooling can be both a risk to disrupting a supply chain and a barrier if they are not prepared for the investment. Another upfront cost might include one-time engineering and programming fees.

 

Stainless Foundry & Engineering (SF&E), for example, does invest its own time and budget upfront when bringing on a new customer. To ease the transition, we have the ability to amortize the pattern costs over time with guaranteed price reduction in the long run. Additionally we are able to share in the upfront costs for a long term commitment. We work to minimize our own costs through the development of in-house capabilities and partnerships with local tool and pattern shops. And, most importantly to an OEM, we absorb a typical engineering fee if an order is won with a volume commitment.

 

  1. What is the 1st article and Sample approval process?

If the 1st article and Sample approval process is not smooth, it will delay the time to get to full production. With each attempt comes additional inspection time and documentation time in order to complete the qualification process and for the OEM to have quality assurance.

 

SF&E has experienced the pain points of the OEM during this process. About two years ago, we implemented a New Product Introduction Process to streamline it. The New Product Introduction Process involves:

  • Dedicated project management.
  • Defined, measurable steps with key check points before proceeding from one step to the next.
  • Cross-functional participation from Engineering, Quality, Production, and Sales teams. This includes weekly internal status updates from engineering, operations, and quality teams with action plan tracking and pre-set countermeasures if problems arise.
  • Clear communication to customers, including weekly status updates and a pre-production kick-off meeting after Sample approval.
  • If necessary, SF&E is willing to rely on its technical expertise and experience to release production prior to Sample approvals in order to reduce lead time.

 

  1. What happens if the 1st article fails?

Foundry processes can differ drastically from one foundry to the next. It is important for OEMs to know if the 1st article failure is due to the nature of trial and error, or, more seriously, a foundry’s lack of understanding on critical customer features and controls.

 

SF&E protects against a lack of understanding by combining its 70+ years of experience with a robust 1st article process. Our technical resources team consists of eight degreed engineers and metallurgists, as well as resources such as magma solidification modeling. Together, with the customer and external partners if needed, we have the ability to prove out concepts with additive manufacturing such as printed waxes and printed sands.

 

Some customers come to us while they are experiencing problems with a current source, let us know the issues, and we work to resolve them. Or they are converting products from different foundry processes. SF&E has experience:

  • Converting shell molding to Investment
  • Converting shell molding to traditional cope and drag
  • Converting fabrications to castings
  • Adapting tooling designed for filled wax or unfilled wax
  • Working with multiple sand options to optimize performance

 

  1. What is your commitment to timely communication?

The quoting, vetting, and onboarding process is time-consuming in itself. Any lag in communication will drag the process on longer and in some cases, cause it to lose its momentum, resulting in the need to backtrack.

 

SF&E has a commitment to turn around non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in one business day. We use a checklist to build a fast and accurate quote. We created a database to quickly and efficiently respond to supplier surveys. And, we can easily reference ISO, Nuclear, and Military qualifications.

Moving to a new foundry does come with the risk of uncertainty. But remaining with a foundry that delivers inconsistent quality, a lack of responsiveness, and minimal flexibility creates a larger and more certain risk. OEMs can prevent a costly, avoidable disruption to their supply chain by asking critical questions of foundry sources upfront. The diligence in the beginning will be worth the smooth transition and sustainable long-term relationship in the end.

 

To learn more about our customer commitments, lead times, and capabilities, contact us at sales@stainlessfoundry.com OR submit your request directly HERE.

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