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Steady Improvements Paying Off for Pier Foundry

Sept. 12, 2010
Impressive progress charted for Minnesota ferrous foundry

Minnesota’s Pier Foundry & Pattern Shop Inc. reports that it recently completed its re-certification to the ISO 9001-2008, the latest in a series of process improvements and capital investments at the St. Paul ferrous foundry.

Pier Foundry uses green sand and no-bake molding to produce gray and ductile iron castings in a wide range of weights and dimensions, for customers that produce agricultural and industrial machinery and equipment, pumps and valves, and transmission components.

The foundry earned an Honorable Mention in the AFS 2010 Casting Competition, for a cast component that replaced a steel weldment and provided a 34% cost savings and lead-time reduction of several weeks, by eliminating laser cutting and welding together of steel pieces.

The ISO recertification follows a number of recent accomplishments at Pier Foundry. In mid 2008 a new, 20x24 Hunter molding machine and automatic mold handling line were installed. A thorough update to the plant’s lighting equipment followed in the fall of 2008, and a new Romer CMM arm was added to the plant’s product inspection line later that year.

Recently, Pier Foundry moved all its tooling and part design work to CAD programming with Solidworks 2010 and adopted Magmasoft’s Magma 5 casting process solidification modeling tool.

The company also has added three new engineers to its staff over the past three years, and the improvements have been rewarded: 236 new work orders were assigned to Pier Foundry in 2009, and 155 new orders have been earned to-date in 2010. The company has acquired 24 new customers since the start of 2009, and an official there indicates the Pier Foundry is up over 70% versus 2010 sales.

Over the past two years, Pier Foundry has been working with a local non-profit organization, Enterprise MN, to implement a lean manufacturing program: All Pier Foundry staff attended outside training on lean principles, and three of the foundry’s operations departments have held Kaizen events, which a source there confirms have saved the foundry “hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary waste, and … increased our efficiency to the point where we now produce on the same amount of tonnage on one shift as we used to put out on two shifts.”

Pier Foundry also is one five Minnesota foundries working together on a grant from EnterpriseMN to create and deploy a “green manufacturing for sustainability” program. The initiative will combine lean process improvement and sustainability practices, to target practical energy conservation and waste-reduction opportunities. The University of Minnesota’s Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) and Change Management Associates of Mt. Laurel, NJ, will help Enterprise MN to develop the program.