The future looks bright for the Germiston, Gauteng based mixed metal foundry. The company’s recent move into a new building has freed up plenty of space to expand and organise production flow.
Around the world one dream unites metalcasters, regardless of their experience or specialty: greenfield capacity. It’s fine to add new melting or moulding machinery, or to update cleaning and finishing systems, but there are limits to expansion and modernisation. Cost and market opportunities are obvious constraints to many operators’ potential, but plant infrastructure, inaccessibility, and local zoning rules are often overlooked as the limiting factors to a foundry’s growth opportunities.
The experience of Viking Foundry shows how much can be accomplished with a clean slate. Four years ago Viking Foundry management took the brave decision to uproot its complete foundry and move to a much larger facility.
Viking Foundry installed a Haas GR-510, which is a gantry-style router with 3,073 x 1,549 x 279 mm travels and a 40-taper milling head, three and a half years ago in the patternshop. Its 10 000-rpm spindle and powerful 11 kilowatt vector drive system provide the power and speed to cut patterns
“We did not have far to go. It is literally up the street but the logistics involved in moving capital equipment can be a nightmare. But if we were going to grow the business and add value and quality to our products, as well as become faster and smarter in our delivery times, we needed to move. So when the opportunity arose to purchase the building in Van Lingen Street we did not hesitate,” said Grant Estman, MD of Viking Foundry.
“We were operating in an environment where everybody was falling over machines, patterns and castings. The 3500 m² under roof facility had served its purpose since my late dad George and I started the business in 1994. Keeping it in the family Greg, my son, joined the company in 2008. He is a qualified patternmaker.”
“The move in 2008 represents another significant milestone in the company’s history. We now have 10 000 m² under roof at our disposal. The increased space and separate buildings that we moved in to gave us the opportunity to locate the ferrous and non ferrous foundries in their own buildings. The fettling shop and patternshop are also housed in their own buildings. An added bonus is that we have a completely separate building for management and administration, one for all the production staff and one for where we store all our patterns.”
One of the new furnaces that have been installed recently
“Eight years ago we had no plans to expand but rather to focus on what we do best, which is to continue to operate primarily as a jobbing and mixed metal foundry. However with the increased orders it soon became inevitable that we would have to move and now that we are settled in our new facility we have not looked back.”
“Besides the obvious advantage of having the space to streamline our production flow in the various areas we also knew that we needed to upgrade and introduce extra equipment if we wanted to increase our output. The first area to experience investment was the patternshop, shortly after we moved.”
“Here we installed a Haas GR-510 which is a gantry-style router with 3,073 x 1,549 x 279 mm travels and a 40-taper milling head. Its 10 000-rpm spindle and powerful 11 kilowatt vector drive system provide the power and speed to cut patterns.”
“The machine’s 1,5 x 3 metre fixed table provides plenty of support for large workpieces. We use EdgeCam as the machining programme and at the moment we have two fully trained operators that are working on the machine. Not only has the machine increased production for us, it has improved the quality and repeatability.”
Moulds being filled
“In total we have five qualified staff in the patternshop and two apprentices. We are also registered with the relevant authorities to train apprentices.”
“We have also increased our melting capacity in both the ferrous and non ferrous foundries. From a total of 130 tons a month we are now able to produce in the region of 220 tons a month. The majority of this is made up of ferrous metals but on average we cast 25 tons of aluminium, copper, brass and the bronzes a month. Stainless steel comes in at about 10 tons.”
“More importantly with the addition of new furnaces, one of which has just been installed and another commissioned at the end of November, we can now manufacture a steel casting up to 4,25 tons in steel and double that in iron.”
Phenolic resin introduced
Throughout the company’s history it has used greensand and CO2 moulding techniques. However with the acquisition of some equipment purchased at an auction, Viking has introduced chemically bonded sand moulding into its production process in both foundries.
“We have done this so as to become more competitive by reducing production costs and improving casting quality. In the last month the SI Group have been implementing and training our staff to use the new system.”
A general view of the ferrous foundry
Viking Foundry recently purchased new equipment such as a 20 ton an hour continuous mixer supplied by Lauds Machinery
“We have had to purchase new equipment such as a 20 ton an hour continuous mixer supplied by Lauds Machinery and a vibrating table to compliment the shakeout, classifier and other equipment that we acquired on the auction. We built our own silos, both with 30 ton capacity and did most of the installation ourselves.”
“The ferrous side is up and running very successfully and the non ferrous side should be completed by the end of the year.”
“We will continue to offer greensand and CO2 but with the changing times we have to adapt as well.”
The company regards itself as a jobbing foundry because it is recognised for its ability to cast a very diverse range of materials in small quantities in a very short turnover time. Typical industries serviced in the foundry are those in the crushing, mining and engineering related fields including pump components. It is a varied base, with SG forming the bulk of the work, followed by iron, steel, manganese, chrome and stainless steel.
The fettling area
A general view of the non ferrous foundry
Although Viking Foundry has no intention of becoming a high-tech foundry, the company does intend to become faster and smarter to improve delivery times. With an existing customer base of over 150, Viking Foundry intends to become more service and quality oriented. Currently the company employs 130 staff.
For further information contact Viking Foundry on TEL: +27 (11) 873 5093 or visit www.vikingfdy.co.za