Lusafrica executives constantly look at their operation to ascertain where they can be more productive

The latest equipment – an Inductotherm VIP Power-Trak and two 120 kilogram bodies –has increased capacity and productivity in its bronze melting department.

Growth is the “prime directive” for any manufacturer, however saving operating costs in all departments and boosting staff moral will reap the rewards a lot quicker and, once implemented, will be far more sustainable than increased orders. Cost savings are recognised immediately on the bottom line and will often leverage funds for more investment in technology and processes that are at the heart of the company’s core.

Executives need to constantly look at their operation to ascertain where they can be more productive and set out a programme of implementation, whether it is in the short, medium or long term. Foundries have many opportunities to adhere to cost saving measures especially if you consider the wastage that takes place in the melting areas.

One such foundry doing just that is Lusafrica. The programme of change in the company started some years ago. Some changes were forced upon the company but most were decided upon because of management’s assessment of the company’s situation.  

“We began by adding 2500 m² of extra floor space to the existing foundry, moulding machines were moved around, and a dust extraction unit was installed as well as a new crane. Effectively we reduced the bottlenecks that were hindering production,” said Paul Coelho, one of two sons of the founder, working in the company.

“The improvements led us to look at the whole operation of the business. We wanted to add value where we could and also take control of the elements of the business where we were relying on outside influences,” Paul continued.

“Once the foundry was operating the way we wanted it to we then looked at the pattern store. We realised it was a mess and we were wasting valuable time locating patterns. First we put in a mezzanine floor to create extra space and catalogued the over 5 000 patterns that we have in store. Each and every pattern is recorded on computer and it now takes less than a minute to locate any particular client’s pattern,” commented brother and fellow director Pavel.

“Next we looked at the quality of the castings, mainly on the surface finishing side and the time it was taking to cast. Although we had improved our efficiencies greatly by reorganising the foundry we knew there was still a lot of room for improvement,” Pavel said.

“So we both decided to visit GIFA and we were amazed at the equipment that was on display. We had done our homework before going and we soon found what we were looking for. The knowledge that we gained by talking to the international companies has also been invaluable,” Pavel said.

“We placed the orders for two Omega Spartan 3 PLC controlled sand mixers, each with 20 ton capacity, as soon as we returned from GIFA. One of them is the pivotal type and the other one is an articulating type. Since installation we can see a huge difference in our production times,” he continued.

“With our old Omega 22s we were taking 35 minutes to mould and set a one ton casting and now this same operation is taking us only 12 minutes. Because the machines are PLC controlled we have complete control of the process. Sand temperatures are monitored and adjusted automatically and before we start the process we know exactly how much sand, resin and catalyst to use and what the moulding time will be,” Pavel continued.

With a constant eye on costs, Paul was pleased to say that costing a casting is far more accurate these days.

In addition Lusafrica also purchased a second five-ton an hour sand reclamation plant and today, although the company consumes 60 ton of new sand a month, 90 percent of the sand is reclaimed.

With the power shortage and shedding problems that beset South Africa the company then had to invest in an one megawatt generator, which keeps the whole company running in times of need.

“We were not happy that we had to make this R1.5 million ‘out of the ordinary’ capital equipment investment at the time, but in hindsight it has more than paid its way, and as a result we have not let our clients down with late deliveries because of not having energy,” Paul explained.   

Lusafrica followed up this investment when the company purchased a larger baghouse/dust extractor and a wet scrubber, approximately two years ago.

“This took care of air quality within the foundry and also gave us an opportunity to make money out of the ‘waste’. The resultant offshoot of wet scrubbing is sludge that is sold to the brickmaking industry,” said Paul.  

Staff welfare
The foundry has operated from the same site in Industries East, Germiston, Gauteng since its inception. As a result ‘tired’ looking buildings that had not had a coat of paint for a number of years have been spruced up, rooftops have been replaced with modern, environmentally friendly materials that allow in more natural light, as well as a general clean up of the factory and office facilities.

“We are currently building an outdoor area that will allow the staff to relax in a more friendly atmosphere, during their breaks. It will include cooking facilities and a grassed area with trees and plants to enhance the space,” said Paul.

“But the biggest investment has been in the staff changing rooms. We completely revamped this area to a five-star facility that includes natural lighting and a hot water system that uses the natural elements and ensures that there is no shortage.”

“All these upgrades have allowed us to not only increase the morale of the staff, which naturally increases their productivity, but also to make savings on electricity costs,” continued Paul.

New fettling area and laboratory
The company is currently building a new fettling area that will take it out of the foundry space while also allowing a better flow of castings from the pouring and cooling section to despatch. In addition this area will include the company’s shot blasting activities that will be upgraded with new equipment.

“More importantly we have built a new building that will house our laboratory in future. It is not quite complete yet but will give us a huge boost in our testing and quality checking operations. It will house all the usual equipment including a spectrometer, which we have never had before.”

The latest investment – an Inductotherm VIP Power-Trak and two 120 kilogram bodies for melting bronze
The most recent acquisition for the foundry’s melting department is an Inductotherm 125kW VIP Power-Trak power supply, connected to two push-out furnaces, which was supplied by Cerefco. The 120 kilogram bodies are removable crucible furnaces, which will give the foundry the ability to remove the crucible from the furnace and pour directly into their moulds without having to transfer the metal via ladles. It also provides Lusafrica with the flexibility to use multiple crucibles depending on the type of alloys they want to melt, and by using different crucibles, they are able to avoid any cross contamination. A furnace selector switch also allows them to switch furnaces and provision has been made for a third furnace for future demand.
 
To save on costs, Pavel, who is the more technically minded of the two brothers, did the installation himself and Cerefco commissioned the installation.

The new furnaces were installed as a cost-saving measure. “We crunched the numbers and realised we were spending more per year to run the old reverb furnace than it cost to purchase and operate new ones,” stated Pavel.  
 
“Our old furnace had been in operation since the 1970s and was energised with foundry coke. However the cost of foundry coke, compounded by the difficulty in obtaining foundry coke, pushed us to look at new and also induction,” explained Pavel.

“We have since lowered our scrap rate with the new furnaces by exacting precision metal treatments on each melt and maintaining tight sand control,” Pavel emphasised.

History
Founded in 1975 by Tulio Coelho the company started trading as Lusafrica Founders in 1978. Eldest son Paul joined the company in 1988 and brother Pavel in 1993.

Lusafrica’s speciality is the production of pump castings, namely horizontal split casings, volute casings, impellers, bearing housing, diffusers, delivery covers and suction covers. However, being a jobbing foundry they can supply virtually any type of castings of any shape and complexity.

Recognised as a foundry that supplies many of the major pump manufacturers in South Africa, Lusafrica now regard themselves as a one stop jobbing foundry that takes on castings from one kilogram and up to one ton. They cast in grey iron, SG iron, Meehanite, bronzes and aluminium.

Lusafrica is one of only three foundries in South Africa that operates a Meehanite licence, which has just been renewed until 2016. This Meehanite licence acts as the company’s ISO quality management system.

Although Lusafrica are casting all the various ranges of Meehanite, by far the most popular is the HS range, which is a heat resistant range and CB3, which is used in castings where acid resistance is of utmost importance.

Moulding is done by the Furane process, with cores in Furane and CO2 and Lusafrica are tapping about 40 tons of grey iron and 60 tons of SG iron a month. On the bronze side the company casts about five tons a month with a maximum size casting of 30 kilograms. The staff compliment is currently 40.

“We will continue to look at various commercially available services and technologies that will reap the financial rewards for us and our clients. It does not happen overnight but if you are not looking for opportunities you are losing out,” concluded Paul.

For further details contact Lusafrica Founders on
TEL: 011 873 8910

WEB: www.lusafrica.co.za

 

The most recent acquisition for the foundry’s melting department is an Inductotherm 125kW VIP Power-Trak power supply, connected to two push-out furnaces, which was supplied by Cerefco. The 120 kilogram bodies are removable crucible furnaces, which will give the foundry the ability to remove the crucible from the furnace and pour directly into their moulds without having to transfer the metal via ladles. It also provides Lusafrica with the flexibility to use multiple crucibles depending on the type of alloys they want to melt, and by using different crucibles, they are able to avoid any cross contamination. A furnace selector switch also allows them to switch furnaces and provision has been made for a third furnace for future demand


A pit where larger castings are poured


A casting in the fettling bay


A large casting manufactured by Lusafrica


The company purchased a larger baghouse/dust extractor and a wet scrubber, approximately two years ago


A pour taking place