Waupaca Foundry opens facility
Adds machining services in Waupaca
By Robert Cloud
When Waupaca Foundry opens its new production facility in the former Add Inc. building, the company will be machining parts with tolerances of 40 microns.
A human hair is about 90 microns.
To achieve this level of precision while mass producing parts, Waupaca Foundry has invested in robotics and automation at every stage of the process.
Automated guided vehicles transport heavy parts first to an inverted vertical CNC lathe, then to a parts washer, then to equipment that wraps the pallet, then the finished part is ready for shipment.
According to Jason Grasman, the machining manager, the robotic vehicles are programmed with maps of the facility and can carry out specific missions or jobs as required.
The robotic vehicles and robotic arms move parts that weigh over 80 lbs. Company policy prohibits employees from lifting anything over 50 lbs. without a lift assist.
Another process in ensuring precision parts is a coordinate measuring machine, which “extracts features to generate comparisons and true positions of geometry,” according to Josh Armon, who operates the machine.
“The skill set needed to be proficient at these jobs is pretty high,” Grasman said. “All the guys here are learning quite a bit.”
John Wiesbrock, executive vice president, said the foundry’s machining center will initially employ 12-15 people, but that number is expected to grow in phases as the foundry develops more contracts for its machining services.
“We have to embrace technology because of workforce availability,” Wiesbrock said. “Unemployment in every county in Wisconsin is at a 20-year low or an all-time low.”
Wiesbrock said robotics will allow the foundry to compete globally.
The company will initially focus on machining brake rotors for the commercial truck market.
“There’s a change in the commercial vehicle industry,” Wiesbrock said. “Large trucks are transitioning from traditional brake drums to disk brakes (which need rotors).”
In the past, Waupaca Foundry did not have machining at its Waupaca plants. The machining of parts was either outsourced or done by the company’s customers.
Waupaca Foundry is also repositioning itself as not just a foundry that produces raw castings, but as a Tier 1 iron casting component supplier.
The company is machining the parts itself as part of its efforts to streamline the supply chain to ensure reliability and maintain quality control throughout the manufacturing process from raw material to finished product.
“We’re getting waste out of the supply chain,” Wiesbrock said. “We’re eliminating not only waste in movement and logistics, we’re recycling our own waste stream from the machining.”
The Waupaca Foundry Machine Center has about 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space and is located on a 7-acre parcel that abuts the foundry’s property.
Plans are for the machine center to open in late April.
Currently, there is a lot of empty space in the building, as there are only two CNC lathes needed to fill existing customer agreements.
However, the company is so confident of future contracts that it has poured the pads for six more machines.
“Our intention is to fill the entire plant,” Wiesbrock said.