Closing Comment:

Nov. 1, 2006
Metalcasters serve the market, the nation online

The U.S. Government is the world’s largest buyer of supplies and services. Of the 50 federal agencies that purchased more than $106 billion in manufactured goods in FY ‘04, the largest buyer was — and still is — the Dept. of Defense (DoD).

The specific DoD buyers are the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). DLA supplies U.S. military services and several civilian agencies with logistical support, including acquisition of spare and repair parts for weapon systems. The Non-Ferrous Founders Society (NFFS) is part of the American Metalcasting Consortium (AMC), a partnership of DLA and metalcasters that aims to supply resources to stimulate cost reductions, product quality, and marketshare growth.

But, sourcing castings is a problem for the defense industry. DLA supply centers report that castings are a significant portion of the parts backorder in the current procurement system, frequently because of “gaps” in the supply chain: lack of tooling, capable suppliers, diminishing domestic manufacturing supply base, or no responses to solicitations. This impacts administrative lead-times, resulting in unnecessary costs and a reduction in weapon system readiness.

The Tooling Database project was NFFS’s first effort to assist DLA in reducing backorders by cataloging existing defense-related patterns and suppliers for procurement personnel. It provides opportunities for foundries to receive follow-up orders they may not have received otherwise. Despite its continued value to both government and industry, if a pattern cannot be located in the tooling database, the supply center or prime contractor still must identify a capable supplier for the part.

To this end, NFFS is creating an online database of metalcasters that manufacture defense-related castings, directly or as subcontractors. The database will enable DLA personnel and defense contractors to identify capable casting manufacturers quickly by searching plant capabilities and technical specifications. The database also will be used by NFFS to support a new procurement solutions network, which reviews and delivers open-bid solicitations to capable casting suppliers. The result is a proactive approach to develop and sustain casting supply chains for the government, while directing new business opportunities to the metalcasting industry.

The defense casting suppliers database will help defense-industry buyers identify metalcasters, allowing them to locate one or more suppliers using customized search parameters:

CAGE code — The Commercial and Government Entity Code, a unique code assigned to a company by the government;

Company name — Searchable by a company’s full name, or any word within the name;

Rapid tooling — Identifies foundries that have rapid prototyping capabilities, and the processes used by them;

Low volume — The government frequently buys small quantities of parts: identifying these producers helps the buyer source castings;

Business classification — Many defense contracts are set aside for small businesses or other supplier classifications (e.g., veteran-owned, hub-zone certified, 8A program, etc.);

Federal supply class — Uses the four-digit codes the federal government uses to categorize all the goods it purchases (e.g., 1560 - airframe structural components.) The NFFS can help identify these supply codes;

Casting process — Identifies a supplier’s casting process(es): sand, investment, diecasting, permanent mold, etc.;

Secondary operations — Lists common secondary operations, locating companies that have in-house capabilities beyond producing raw castings: pattern shop, machining, assembly, radiography, dimensional inspection, etc.;

Materials — There are five searchable material categories: aluminum, copper-based, iron, steel, and other nonferrous. Once a material class is selected, the search is narrowed by selecting an alloy or a general material classification. Users may search by alloy designations for aluminum and copper-based materials from the Aluminum Assn. and Copper Development Assn. Iron is organized as “gray” and “ductile”; steel classifications include carbon/low alloy and stainless steel; and “other nonferrous” includes general classifications such as carbon, titanium, magnesium, and cobalt-based;

Size (weight) range of castings — Select a material category and specify a particular weight range within the category that suits the suppliers’ capability. Because a foundry may pour varying weight ranges for different materials, the user may specify a weight range for each material category.

Once a supplier is selected, a company profile is displayed. The profile page provides a contact name, address, telephone, fax, e-mail, and website address. And, there is information on rapid prototyping processes such as stereolithography; quality systems and certifications, including ISO 9000 and Mil-I-45208; and the SIC and NAICS codes related to the company.

To be eligible for listing, your company must be a current defense industry supplier, or interested in getting involved as a supplier. You need not be a government contractor, as defense contractors will use this database to find potential subcontractors to manufacture cast components. The database will include foundries and diecasters using all processes and materials.

NFFS is using AMC and government databases to develop a list of metalcasters currently serving the defense industry, starting with the Central Contractor Registry of organizations seeking to do business with the government. Using SIC codes, NFFS identified nearly 200 foundries, like Amite Foundry which cast the bow section of the new USS New York.

If you would like to register your foundry in the database, contact the Non-Ferrous Founders Society to receive a user name and password, in order to update your foundry’s profile. Soon, NFFS will begin directing only those bid solicitations that fit your plant’s capabilities.

Ryan Moore is the director of membership with the Non-Ferrous Founders Society. The NFFS is the principal North American trade association representing aluminum and brass and bronze foundries and ingot manufacturers. Contact him at Tel. 847-299-0950, or visit NFFS online