Rimrock's automated sand-core assembly in action.
On the top, a staff photo of the original company, CALCO, and on the bottom, today's staff at Rimrock.
While there have been numerous changes in automation technology through the past several decades, one company has been a reliable presence in this changing industrial sector. Columbus, OH-based Rimrock Corp. (www.rimrockcorp.com) is celebrating its 50th anniversary, with a rich and innovative history that has helped to shape the way automation is used in foundries.
The vision for superior customer service and a rugged product line began in 1956 as a family-owned company known then as CALCO, or Columbus Automatic Lubrication Co. Founded by Franz Stone, CALCO supplied spray equipment to foundries, glass and rubber molders, and extruders. In 1962, CALCO changed its name to Rimrock as a tribute to Franz's grandfather who was nicknamed "Rimrock" due to his love of geology and the Grand Canyon. (The name is also a word-play on the founding family's last name, Stone or "Rock.")
Rimrock began developing its own line of automated products, and introduced its first ladler and extractor in 1974. The company continues to research and develop new products to meet with today's industrial demands, and today's Rimrock line ranges from multiple ladlers and extractors to several reciprocators and a variety of spray equipment.
In the early 1990s Rimrock pioneered foundry robotics in collaboration with ABB, a power and automation technology group that has one of the world's largest installed base of industrial robots.
"At that time, Rimrock management saw an opportunity to provide a product line extension to their portfolio," explains Doug Niebruegge, ABB Inc.'s segment manager of Plastics and Foundry, Robotics Div. "Over time, Rimrock gained the expertise and knowledge to supply robotic systems for die spray, ladling, material handling, and part finishing for foundry applications. Rimrock robot sales have likewise grown steadily over the years of cooperation with ABB in the diecasting and foundry segment."
Presently, Rimrock is a strategic partner with ABB, which is the highest level of the ABB partner program, and is based on unit sales and industry focus by the partner. According to Niebruegge, a strategic relationship means more than just selling a significant amount of robots every year. It involves collaboration to position both companies for long-term success, which is achieved by researching and developing new products, market penetration, and global expansion.
Another notable development was Rimrock Corp.'s purchase in 2003 of ABB's New Berlin, WI, division and Wolf Robotics. Rimrock's New Berlin office provides expertise in material removal, machine tending, and material handling. Wolf Robotics, formerly ABB's welding division, has installed more than 6,000 welding and cutting robots in North America over the past three decades.
In July 2004, Rimrock forged another partnership, this time with the Austrian firm Fill, a global leader in foundry industry machinery and plant production solutions. Fill's popular Swingmaster sm3 is among the expanded line of products that is proven for superior decoring performance and flexibility, while reducing investment and maintenance costs.
"The partnership between Rimrock and Fill is a big opportunity for both companies," states Andreas Fill. "It is a partnership between two strong, successful companies with the same philosophy and extensive combined experience in the foundry industry. This joint venture is a unique combination of Rimrock's automation expertise and experience with the North American customer base, and the innovative technology of Fill."
So, how does Rimrock convert these active principles — valued partnerships, R&D toward cutting-edge technology — into real world results?
As the global market grows more competitive, North American foundries must produce and deliver higher-quality castings and parts at lower prices. In order to remain stable in this aggressive economy, many of the most successful operations indicate that automated production processes are critical to their competitiveness.
"We understand our customer's needs and requirements better than our competition," stated Rimrock Corp. general manager Mike Gaby. "Rimrock has the best and most experienced application expertise in the business, to provide the most innovative automation solutions to our customers.
"There is nothing more frustrating than a supplier not understanding their customer's process," Gaby continued. "It is imperative, as we move into new markets, that we understand our customer's ‘pain.' To have this understanding, we acquired supremely talented individuals with specific industry knowledge and experience."
"Rimrock has designed flexible automation cells that can handle multiple products. The timing of this new technology could not be better, as we are quoting many of the new products at lower volumes," according to Ryobi Die Casting president Tom Johnson. "We are mainly in the automotive market, and with all of the transplants and the Detroit Three fighting for the same consumer, the volumes are no longer huge as in the past."
Ryobi, in Shelbyville, IN, is one of the largest independent diecasters in the world, with 2006 sales totaling $205 million. With 43 diecasting machines ranging from 500 tons up to 3,500 tons, and 650 employees, Ryobi supplies various parts to the automobile industry, including cylinder blocks and transmission cases.
Johnson emphasized the cost-saving aspect of the automation technology his company has purchased from Rimrock. Currently, Ryobi has four Flex Cells running nine different products. Using their old debur method with dedicated cells, the diecaster would have purchased at least six debur cells and used manual deburring for the lower volume products. Now, according to Johnson, "We saved two extra debur cells at $1.5 million each, plus we saved at least six operators or $240,000. This means that on an annual basis we are saving at least $540,000 per year in labor and depreciation costs."
Cost savings and innovative products are significant achievements, but a company cannot remain successful for half of a century without an intimate knowledge of its customer base, as well as superior customer service. A constant factor throughout Rimrock's history has been a commitment to the customers, and to providing exemplary service, and this is what stands out in the recollections of David J. Ryan.
"I was always very proud to be known as the owner of Rimrock because of the excellent reputation that the company had in the industry," Ryan reveals, "but mostly because of the very fine people at Rimrock, and their efforts to always do the right thing."
Niebruegge adds, "From my point of view, Rimrock should be very proud of their history and development. I knew the founder [of Rimrock] and the values he established as a basis for business over his tenure: the customer and the employees. I find it refreshing that these attitudes have stayed with the company through the years. ABB is proud to have an alliance with Rimrock Corp."
"Our employees are hardworking, dedicated, loyal, and smart. We have so many people who celebrate 20- and 30-year anniversaries monthly," offers Gaby. "We have seen many competitors come and go over the last 50 years, while Rimrock remained strong within the automation industry. I think this speaks volumes about the quality people, both past and present, who have made our company a long-term successful operation."