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Optimizing Performance, Expanding Enterprise-Wide Visibility

Jan. 30, 2024
A highly specialized casting operation has gained more control and flexibility over its manufacturing, quality, sales, finance, inventory, and data analytics.

Spuncast Inc. is an unusual metalcasting operation, producing high-caliber stainless steel (HSLA, duplex, PH) components for hydraulic cylinders, accumulators, and roll bodies used by customers in the oil-and-gas, water-treatment, glassmaking industries, as well as some consumer goods. The Watertown, WI, operation’s production processes are appropriately distinctive, including centrifugal casting, heat treating, CNC machining, as well as metallurgical testing.

The business is also employee-owned, and operates with an emphasis on metallurgical expertise and a comprehensive understanding of its customers’ needs. It’s a metalcasting business that functions as an engineered product manufacturer, including “one-off” projects involving a die rather than a mold. As such, Spuncast required a technology partner that understands metalcasting and is able make any necessary enhancements to address the business needs, centrifugal casting, and final assembly of cast parts.

For eight years Spuncast has relied on Odyssey – the B&L Information Systems cloud-based ERP system to manage operations across its manufacturing, quality, sales, finance, inventory, and data analytics operations.

Rob Kluz, Spuncast’s quality and safety director, and Jody Naatz, senior accountant, pointed to three factors that distinguish Odyssey: a) the cloud capabilities and access; b) the potential for streamlining and consolidating systems; and c) the visibility and direct access to all data and reporting.

“Since using Odyssey, we have been able to consolidate numerous systems into one integrated cloud solution,” according to Naatz. “Having everything at our fingertips in one system is so much easier than having to go to four or five different places to find the information you need.”

“If you have multiple systems feeding each other, just one upgrade can cause serious problems and broken connections,” Kluz offered. “Then suddenly, we aren’t receiving new shop orders or communicating what jobs need to be done. But with Odyssey, we have been able to streamline processes, improve accuracy, and work more efficiently.”

Prior to Odyssey, Spuncast’s certification process was based on an inflexible system prone to errors and vulnerabilities. “It wasn’t seamless; we had to manually update and manipulate data to get the information we needed. With Odyssey, the process is now much smoother,” Kluz recalled. Odyssey helps to save time and eliminate data-entry errors by importing data directly from a spectrometer. The certifications can be printed or emailed to the right contact, and the foundry has the flexibility to customize certifications to customers' requirements.

“We have auto feeds of the chemistry and conduct a daily review as the information is loaded in the system. When our products hit shipping, they're ready to leave; the certification has already been cleared and approved,” Kluz said

Shopfloor management, scrap control

Odyssey’s Shopfloor Manager module is a flexible two-way communication tool with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. It give Spuncast supervisors the ability to present real-time work instructions at each machine, receive quality alerts, schedule priorities, and other critical production information to the shop floor. It helps them collect production data, including hours worked, quantity of castings, order number, and more from the shop floor. 

“We designed the screens so folks on the floor can punch in on a job and see all of the jobs that are on a particular machine along with instructions on what they need to do for that order,” Kluz explained. “Supervisors don’t have to put together schedules and send out emails – it is all in the system. They also have visibility into what their people are doing, what they have been working on and for what duration. This level of visibility is a tremendous benefit.”

Odyssey’s scrap control module helps customers prevent scrap from getting out of control and hurting profitability. They can avoid costly rework and dissatisfied customers by identifying root causes of high-scrap jobs. Customers can compare actual scrap to estimated scrap, view scrap by product, molding line, pattern, die and metal, and capture the work-in-process value up to the step when the part was scrapped.

“The ability to run reports monthly to look at what we've scrapped out is very helpful. Managers can identify possible trends we need to be concerned with,” according to Kluz. “And if there are issues, we will issue CARS to document and control our continuous improvement from an ISO standpoint as evidence if we get audited.”

Heat number tracking

With Odyssey, operators safeguard the consistency of their heats to ensure parts meet customers' requirements. “We are very sensitive to heat, so it’s incredibly important for us to do heat number tracking for every batch,” Kluz explained. “Using Odyssey, every batch of metal we produce has a unique identifier like a serial number.”  With the ability to track castings back to specific heats, Spuncast can pinpoint problems and reduce the rate of defective product. 

Because it is a low-volume/high-mix producer, Kluz detailed how Spuncast operators use urgent notes to identify risks or concerns problems they recognize, which can be instructive to the next person tasked to work on the same project, so that days or even years later that worker will know what to watch out to mitigate difficulties.

“This capability is great for quality control and customer satisfaction,” Kluz said. “It helps us close the loop. While we will take corrective action once, we identify any issues, we won’t know if it was effective until we make the product again. With the urgent notes, you can put your best efforts in place to cement the changes solidly in place, and then just close the order and move on.”   

Naatz noted Odyssey offers multiple capabilities that Spuncast has not yet taken advantage of, but hopes to do in the future. Currently, she and Kluz are working with B&L to implement a new program to track vacation information. “By integrating time and attendance into Odyssey, everyone will be able to log into their dashboard and see how many vacation hours they have available – how many they have used and how many they have remaining, which will be a great time saver for HR and for our users.”

Jim Eaton is the vice president of Business Development at B&L Information Systems.

About the Author

Jim Eaton | v.p., Business Development

Jim Eaton is the Executive Director of Sales at B&L Information Systems. Contact him at [email protected].