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American Flux, a producer of ESR flux and molybdenum refining agents, installed two, 300-kW Inductotherm VIP® Power-Trak® units, and one Melt-Manger Plus® control system for each power unit; as well as a new, cooling water system.

Powering Up for Productivity and Performance

April 3, 2023
A specialty alloy producer found that its long-term investment in induction power control systems has immediate rewards, including higher volumes produced, profitability, employee morale, and customer satisfaction.

Metal-producing businesses, including foundries and diecasters, operate in a highly competitive market environment, and must constantly seek new ways to improve the production processes. One of these ways is to invest in new or updated technologies that will increase productivity and production efficiency. American Flux & Metal LLC is a company that made such an investment.

American Flux is the world's largest producer of ESR flux and molybdenum, chemical refining agents used by metalcasters to produce high-performance superalloys for aerospace, chemical, and automotive industry products. The Hammonton, NJ, company has been owned and operated by the Rudoler family and occupied the same location since 1994.

In 2021, as demand increased for its metallurgical products, American Flux found that its production capacity was unable to keep up with increasing demand for its metallurgical products. They encountered delays with order fulfillment and downtime due to the age of some of the production equipment. After nearly a quarter century powering American Flux’s melting process, it was agreed that the Inductotherm 250-kW VIP® Power-Trak® induction power supplies were ready to be replaced.

Inductotherm had kept the old power supplies running reliably, and those systems had returned the initial investment many times over, but American Flux recognized that newer technologies and systems are available to support their goal of increasing productivity and improving processes – and that they needed more power for their operations in order to accomplish that.

After conducting research and consulting with Inductotherm, they settled on a machine that was more powerful than their existing equipment but was still able to utilize their existing furnaces and coils. The new machine had the capacity to produce more products in less time, which would help the company meet the growing demand for their goods.

American Flux’s decision to purchase the new power control systems was not without challenges. The initial cost of the equipment was substantial, and company officials had some concern about how quickly they would be able to recoup their investment. Additionally, there was concern about the training necessary for American Flux workers operating the new machine, as well as the potential impact on the existing workforce. Despite all this, the company moved forward with the investment.

The new systems consists of two VIP® Power-Trak® units at 300 kW, versus the earlier 250-kW VIP® Power-Trak® units; a completely new, closed-loop water system, with adiabatic coolers located on the ground for easier access; and a Melt-Manger Plus® control system.

The previous dry-air cooler water system had been installed on the roof of the plant and it was difficult to reach when it was necessary to carry out preventative maintenance checks or to investigate any other issues. The VIP® power supplies were designed to occupy the same space and location as the prior units, and the water system was moved from under the melt deck to behind a wall for much easier access.

Every decision about this update was made to improve the functionality of melting area for the next 25 years. Because they were able to continue using the existing furnaces with the new power supplies, American Flux achieved productivity and performance improvements with significant savings in capital-equipment and installation costs.

The investment had an almost immediate effect. With the new equipment in place, American Flux was able to increase its productivity by nearly 30% in the first month.

“We just completed our first full month of melting with the new power supplies,” Stuart Rudoler, CEO, reported late last year. “I’m thrilled to report that we produced 330,000 lbs. of flux in November. Our highest amount ever with the old power supplies was 250,000 lbs./month. “It is very rare that we get a 30% improvement out of any upgrade right of the box,” according to Rudoler.

Furthermore, American Flux found it was able to fulfill customer orders more quickly, resulting in higher levels of customer satisfaction and fewer lost sales. Additionally, the increased productivity allowed the business to take on new customers and expand its product line, driving further growth.

In addition to the tangible benefits of increased productivity and improved profitability, American Flux also reported a boost in employee morale. The new equipment represented a tangible investment in the company's future, and the improved efficiency and productivity allowed employees to take pride in their work and feel more invested in the success of the company.

Deciding to invest in newer, more powerful equipment can be a smart move for businesses looking to increase throughput and production efficiency. While there may be initial costs and challenges to overcome, the benefits of increased productivity, improved profitability, and employee morale will make the investment well worthwhile, as demonstrated at American Flux. Its investment brought immediate positive results, and serves as inspiration for others looking to stay ahead in today's competitive business environment.

Michael Fanz-Huster is a District Manager with Inductotherm Corp. Contact him at [email protected], or visit www.inductotherm.com