Greater use of lean manufacturing techniques to improve foundry competitiveness

No matter how big or small a manufacturing facility is, issues of inefficiencies and low productivity seep into the production system, which can later affect many aluminium sand-casting foundries in some form.

This is according to the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN) Senior Project Manager Isidore Kilongozi at the recently hosted AFSA International Aluminium Conference in Cape Town.

Kilongozi’s insightful presentation focused on how aluminium sand casting foundries can improve productivity and become competitive by implementing the Lean Manufacturing concept. The Lean Manufacturing concept is a straightforward idea that entails cutting excess waste and achieving more with less.

“Companies that take action by locating these bottlenecks and using process optimisation approaches become competitive, while those that do not eventually lose ground and lag in their pursuit of ongoing change, optimisation, and improvement,” he explained.

National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN) Senior Project Manager Isidore Kilongozi

The Lean Manufacturing concept was chosen for an unnamed aluminium sand casting foundry specialising in pattern making, sand casting, and die-casting. The foundry is one of the numerous South African foundries in distress that the NFTN supports and helps through technical interventions, skills development, and regulatory compliance.

Introduction of a sand casting foundry process flow tool
Kilongozi introduced an easy-to-follow sand casting foundry production process flow tool developed by the NFTN to achieve improved efficiencies by evaluating and assessing the organisation’s processes, recommending improvement opportunities for improved productivity and efficiencies and facilitating a quality awareness and improvement process throughout the organisation.

Kilongozi used a case study, and an example of work done in an existing foundry by the NFTN, to demonstrate his point. “With this specific foundry, it was recommended that the foundry introduce a more organised and systematic flow of work and ensure continuous improvement of value and non-value-adding processes. This factor can increase profitability substantially in the long and short run. Although the tool focus on the automated production line, this concept also applies to the jobbing sand casting foundries,” he added.

How does the tool work
The sand casting foundry process flow assessment tool provides foundries with a systematic framework to let them undertake facility audits on their own, which will boost production through the following steps:

• Conceive a floor plan with optimum positioning of the machines and materials
• Map the core and supporting processes
• Draw up machine operating instructions so that machines operate efficiently and safely
• Ensure that standard operating procedures exist for key processes in the organisation
• Identify key problem areas
• Develop key performance indicators and track these to improve business performance and employee satisfaction
• Have quality inspections for improved customer satisfaction and continuous improvement
• Improve logistics processes from receiving to despatch
• Through activity sampling, recommend process flows for avoiding bottlenecks

The tool, which is created as a Microsoft Excel sheet, enables numerous users to access the same data set. The data set is filled out by the user choosing several drop-down options and windows, from which they choose the option that best suits their needs at the time. The information that results is then appropriately entered, making it simple to retrieve in the future, whether it is to address a potential problem or simply to be aware of the information.

The sand casting foundry process flow assessment guideline can be requested by contacting the NFTN at

The AFSA International Aluminium Conference took place on 26 and 27 October 2022 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (ICC) and was hosted by the Aluminium Federation of South Africa 9AFSA) to reinforce relations between the local and international aluminium industry.

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