Weir announces that upgrades are to start at Heavy Bay Foundry

Fourth moulding bay to be commissioned.

In line with its oil sands business growth, engineering solutions provider Weir Minerals Africa has received capital expenditure approval worth R30 million for upgrades at its Heavy Bay Foundry in Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape.

Significantly, the foundry supplies castings across the globe both to Weir Minerals operations as well as direct customers.

Weir Minerals GM of operations Danillo van Eck said in a recent report that this approval will lead to the company opening its fourth moulding bay, which it plans to have commissioned at the end of June this year.

Van Eck explained that the moulding bay will be able to produce four castings of 18 tons each in a month, using the company’s largest box size of 4.5m by 4.5m.

This will enable the foundry to reach 100% capacity, with the plant currently only operating at between 60% and 70% capacity.

The foundry at Weir Minerals Africa Isando manufacturing facility comprises three foundry lines and that produce castings of up to one ton

The Heavy Bay foundry has the capacity to produce about 500 tons a month of castings, but with the fourth bay, Van Eck notes that Weir Minerals intends to ramp this up to about 630 tons per month, which would subsequently require a three-shift system to be implemented by adding a shift from 22:00 to 06:00.

Van Eck noted that this would result in employment for 50 people, in addition to the 140 personnel already working on the existing three bays.

While quality control calls for inspection at the end of a process, quality assurance focuses on redesigning the elements of a process to ensure that the quality of the product is 100% when it reaches the client, he pointed out.

An important investment at this foundry was the carousel system, which has enabled an efficient production line process for small castings. The carousel is used for single or multi-cavity moulds, and allows Weir to produce high volumes and facilitates high variability requirements. This is important not only for meeting local supply requirements, but also improves Weir’s capacity for international supply

Other recent investments in the foundry include the installation of a R10-million Giesserei Umwelt Technik (GUT) secondary sand reclamation plant last year.

The investment is aimed at improving the reclamation and reusability of the sand used in the moulding process, thus reducing the impact on the environment while improving the quality of the product at substantially reduced production costs, Van Eck explained.

The GUT plant is a pneumatic conveyor system that is operating at 14 ton per hour. The plant consists of three 70 ton silos that store the facing sand, reclaimed sand and new sand, cooler-classifiers, rotary scrubber and magnetic separator.

Although the foundry has ISO 9000 accreditation, it is transitioning to the new standard, ISO 9001 accreditation.

“Quality is a central philosophy at Weir Minerals and its quality strategy has brought about a fundamental shift from quality control to quality assurance,” said Van Eck.

The Heavy Bay Foundry in Port Elizabeth was acquired by Weir Minerals Africa in 2013, and it is there that all castings larger than one ton are cast. This foundry, which has received significant upgrades since it was acquired, can accommodate individual castings of up to 18 tons. There are currently three floor moulding lines at this operation with the expected completion of a fourth moulding line in June.

The fourth line will double Weir’s large casting capacity, and enable them to improve delivery to their existing customers as well as to expand further.

The foundry at Weir Minerals Africa Isando manufacturing facility comprises three foundry lines and that produce castings of up to one ton.

An important investment at this foundry was the carousel system, which has enabled an efficient production line process for small castings. The carousel is used for single or multi-cavity moulds, and allows Weir to produce high volumes and facilitates high variability requirements. This is important not only for meeting local supply requirements, but also improves Weir’s capacity for international supply.

The carousel also facilitates high levels of repeatability, which is important in components such as wet-end parts where quality is critical to the reliable performance of pumps. Heavier castings, between 150kg and 350kg, are produced on the fast loop line at the Isando site.