Elmacast Engineering exits the grinding media business to concentrate on operating as a foundry

Will continue as Elmacast (Pty) Ltd.

The future of the Elmacast foundry, based in Nuffield, Springs, Gauteng, looks positive now that the company has taken very strategic decisions to focus primarily as a supplier of high-quality casting.

“A major investment in 2018 to convert the foundry into a grinding media supplier to the mining industry. The owners at the time were convinced there was a future in grinding media, and this initially entailed spending R134 million to do upgrades and expansions to the foundry,” explained Nino Ciani, who has been appointed as COO of the company and is currently tasked with converting the 66-year-old foundry back to being a foundry that manufactures quality castings of all sizes and shapes.

Elmacast was established in 1956 and primarily served the electrical motor industry supplying castings for motor casings. Over the years the foundry shifted its focus to supply products for the mining, agriculture, automobile and cement industries

Wear parts for the mining industry is part of the mix at Elmacast

“The project entailed the installation of four new induction furnaces, an automated continuous caster, and a fully integrated double line heat treatment plant. Further developments in the foundry included upgrades to the existing two 6-ton induction furnaces, an overhaul of all cranes, the installation of a shot blasting machine, a ball-breaking machine, a shell coating plant, and a thermal sand reclamation plant. With the initial goal that the foundry’s capacity would increase to produce more than 2 500 tons of grinding media comprising high chrome balls a month.”

“However, what we could not foresee at the time, were the various barriers to entry into the grinding media business and that the timeframe to validate your product, to get it approved and accepted takes an extended period, exasperated by the fact that the market of the product – chrome cast grinding balls in sizes from 40mm to 110mm with Chrome (Cr) contents of up to 28% – is extremely competitive and has many established manufacturers and suppliers.”

“Additionally, the influx of products from China, like other products in South Africa, has had a major influence on the local industry.”

Big decision to return to being a foundry
“We had to make a major decision to exit the grinding media business and go back to the company’s origins.”

“The foundry, established in 1956 and primarily served the electrical motor industry supplying castings for motor casings. Over the years the foundry shifted its focus to supply products for the mining, agriculture, automobile, and cement industries. This included components ranging from pump casings, brake drums, bearing housings and gear housings.”

Components manufactured by Elmacast range from pump casings, brake drums, bearing housings and gear housings

Boxes being prepared inside the foundry

“The major challenge for the team was to make it a foundry again and where possible convert the new equipment into foundry equipment. We have invested heavily into the green sand plant, with upgrades such as purchasing new green sand moulding boxes and getting previously neglected equipment back online.”

“We installed a new 12-ton-an-hour Endeco Omega Sinto continuous mixer for our heavy floor section, as well as installed a new Endeco Omega Sinto shakeout and are currently upgrading all the ducting and piping for dust extraction to meet the required levels.”

“We now have a strong floor foundry influence, but a major investment went into the ball caster, and we had to figure out a way of converting this equipment to suit our needs. Although not the primary objective of the foundry initially, we can now offer a high-definition caster for high-volume conventional castings. The maximum size casting that we can offer is 600mm by 600mm and 150mm high.”

Metallurgists James Mcleroth and James Roodt

Elmacast have recently installed a new Endeco Omega Sinto shakeout

“Our full conversion to focus on the foundry only began seven months ago, and we are already exceeding our record production levels every month. Last month alone we grew by another 30%.”

“More importantly we have been able to achieve major cost savings, by implementing improved manufacturing methods and changing the mindset of the employees into one of being positive and thus improving each individual’s productivity.”

“I have not done this alone as no man can do it by himself, it is, and always will be a team effort. We have employed industry experts in their fields who also have vast amounts of experience in the foundry industry. Mr James Roodt is a prime example. Mr Roodt worked at Standard Foundry for much of his career. Even though he is past his retirement date he is an experienced metallurgist, and we are putting his knowledge and experience to beneficial use.”

“Another example is Mr Sydney Zimucha, whom I have appointed as Head of Production.”

In 2018 Elmacast decided to manufacture grinding media and a major investment went into the ball caster. Now that the company has exited grinding media production Elmacast had to figure out a way of converting this equipment to suit their needs

Elmacast have recently installed a new 12-ton-an-hour Endeco Omega Sinto continuous mixer for the heavy floor section

“Sydney has spent years in the foundry industry on both sides of the ‘divide’. Sydney is a Zimbabwean who has lived in South Africa since immigrating in 2007 and started as a moulder for the well-known Zimbabwean foundry and manufacturing group Nimr and Chapman Manufacturing.”

“When the manufacturing environment got tough in Zimbabwe, Sydney decided to head south and has over 15 years of experience in the foundry industry in South Africa, adding to the 17 years he already had in Zimbabwe. Most of his time was spent on the foundry consumables sales side, but a few years were also spent back in a foundry as a Foundry Manager. Sydney has also done further studies in mechanical engineering and business management.”

“Stephen Groenewald, who comes out of Steloy Castings, is another prime example of hand-selected talent. Steven is our current Foundry Manager, supported on the floor by Danie Stroebel, a qualified moulder who did his trade at Iscor Vanderbijl Park and is our current Technical Floor Manager.”

The melting platform

Inside the core room. Core room manager Brian Skhosana with Nino Ciani, who has been appointed COO of the company

“Marius Vermeulen, a qualified Industrial Engineer with a master’s degree in Engineering Management is our current HOD of Sales and Marketing.”

“All these guys we selected for their skill and talents.”

“We must also not forget Elias Mina, who has been with the company for over 40 years, and the ladies in the laboratory who have been selected from the tough mining environment.”

“They all understand that if we don’t work together, we are not going to achieve anything, and the possibility of the company closing is real and 130 colleagues will be unemployed.”

“Elmacast, which was until recently part of the Actom Group, before the new owners got involved, did lapse into a state of comfort as it was a supplier to Actom, and some say there was no investment in the foundry for many years and once the well-known MD Koos Cronje retired after being at the helm for many years, there was no direction.”

“This has now changed, and we have started a new chapter in the history of Elmacast.”

Elmacast have also purchased a 3D printer which is making an enormous difference in the company’s R&D work

The resultant components after R&D on the 3D printer

“Other investments include, improving the lighting and roof structure and closed non-core and non-profitable areas. We also have set up each area of the foundry to run as mini-business units. Take the core shop for example. We are refurbishing all our core making machines, but they must validate this investment with what they are producing.”

“Our focus is on SG, high-chrome, cast iron, manganese steel, low carbon and alloy steels including stainless steel castings.”

“The size of the property totals over 80 000m² of which 20 000m² is currently under-roof. The foundry is now undergoing an under-roof expansion project as we are running out of space and need to separate the various departments, for example, fettling, which is a challenge for all foundry owners.”

“Additionally, the foundry has undergone substantial upgrades to the laboratory and implemented the latest computer simulation technologies to model various casting procedures before they are executed.”

Technical Floor Manager Danie Stroebel standing in front of a 2.2 ton high-chrome cone casting

A 1.2 ton high-chrome inlet shoot casting for a mine – the first of its kind to be cast in South Africa, says Elmacast. Previously the inlet shoot was fabricated

“And we have also purchased a 3D printer, which is making an enormous difference in our R&D work.”

“We recently acquired a fleet of seven brand new 2.5-ton forklifts to assist with the handling of materials, loading vehicles and in the general day-to-day foundry operations.”

“We have seen improvements in the mineral processing, pumping, crushing, earth moving, and water industries and we will continue to service these areas with wear part castings.”

“We are still not in a position where we would like to be but at least the strides that we have made in the last seven months are incredibly positive. The staff are now walking around with smiles on their faces, a huge step in the right direction for any business.”

For further details contact Elmacast Pty Ltd on TEL: 011 818 3511 or at sales@elmacast.co.za