KCS Foundry and Engineering starts to pump out castings

After many months of planning, managing, ordering and installing the necessary casting and processing equipment and implementing environmental compliance requirements, KCS Foundry and Engineering can now say they are operating as a fully-fledged foundry.

“A completely new plant is the most cost-efficient solution and the best alternative from an environmental and quality standpoint when it comes to the future supply of strategically important castings for our client needs,” stated Ernest Suluma, founder and Director of Operations at KCS Foundry and Engineering.

“We might not have had the budget of a big corporate to spend but we still have to comply with all the social and environmental requirements when embarking on a development like this. Our intention was to produce quality castings from day one. Therefore our equipment purchase decisions were influenced by the reputation and service records of the supplier, while still operating within our budget constraints,” continued Suluma.

Ernest Suluma, founder and Director of Operations at KCS Foundry and Engineering with his son Craig and daughter Karyn who both work at the company

“Principally I am in partnership with one of my biggest clients, a Gauteng-based company that specialises in the manufacture of precision components including covers, shafts, shaft sleeves, lantern rings, stuffing boxes, seal rings, glands, neck rings, impellers, expellers and other pump components linked to the mining, rail and military industries.”

“They wanted a secure alternative supply of castings as the company had been experiencing incredible growth over the last few years and needed to make provision for this and future growth.”

“Through my many years in the foundry industry I had made contact with them and our business relationship began back in 2017 when I was given the chance to cast some steel components for them. It was a successful first-time engagement and from there we began to enhance and increase our relationship, which has culminated in us starting a greenfield foundry together.”

KCS Foundry and Engineering is a relatively new foundry casting cast iron, steel, bronze and SG and are currently doing trials in stainless steel

“The site we chose to operate from is a fully developed building within the established industrial area of Roodekop, Gauteng. The site is characterised by paved surfaces and factory buildings and when we found it there were no activities taking place on site. The previous occupants of the facility were a glassmaking company. Our proposed foundry activity was to be located within the existing buildings and would require minimum alteration to building structures. All operations take place within the confined boundaries of the facility.”

“The size of the site that we have purchased is 4 000m² but before we could move in, we had to upgrade the power situation and also invest in a new transformer and a generator. These are added expenses that are now becoming grudge purchases but to survive you have to have them.”

“Equipment related to the foundry operations, such as furnaces, a shot blast machine, a sand reclamation plant etc., were systematically installed within the existing buildings in the dedicated areas, as required to make the casting and finishing process as efficient as possible.”

“The installation of the foundry equipment that we purchased enables us to melt ferrous and non-ferrous metals and alloys, then reshape them into the desired products at or near their finished shape through the pouring and solidification of the molten metal or alloy into moulds. The melting capacity at the facility at any one time while running the two one ton furnaces that we have is four heats per day per furnace, with a maximum of 10 tons per day at full capacity.”

The melting capacity at the facility at any one time while running the two one ton furnaces that the foundry has is four heats per day per furnace, with a maximum of 10 tons per day at full capacity

At the moment KCS Foundry and Engineering are producing over 100 tons of castings a month

“But before we could start any production we had to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in terms of Section 24 of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, Government Notices R. 325 and 326 of 17 April 2017. We commissioned the EIA and a 30-days Public Participation Process (PPP) for the EIA Phase was undertaken in April 2021 and in due course we were awarded the EIA licence that is necessary for any foundry to operate in South Africa.”

“The two furnaces that we have installed both have a one ton capacity. One is a new one supplied by a local manufacturer and the other one has been refurbished and upgraded by myself. My working career in South Africa began in 1992 when I was employed by Vigar Power Electronics, who were based in Alrode South.”

“The business of the company was to install new and fix furnaces. I spent seven years with the company and got to know virtually everything about a furnace. Prior to joining Vigar I had spent 13 years working in a foundry in Malawi so when I left Vigar I had built up 20 years of experience.”

“This attracted the likes of Forbes Brothers Foundry to offer me a position. I was maintaining and servicing their furnaces at the time and the security of a bigger company persuaded me to join them. This relationship lasted until 2014, the year I decided to do something on my own. The fact that the owners were not prepared to invest in the business did help me to make my decision to leave them and probably contributed to the company’s demise.”

A casting in the fettling area

KCS Foundry and Engineering are not limited to one-off castings

“Until I established KCS Foundry and Engineering, I continued to create all sorts of opportunities for myself in the foundry industry, including maintaining and servicing furnaces, source castings and contract foundries for casting work. Some of these contracts have been behind the inspiration to start a foundry.”

New foundry equipment
“Besides the furnaces the other important equipment in the casting process is the resin sand continuous mixer, the dust collector, the core shake-out machine and the sand throughput and the cooler/classifier unit for the reclamation process.”

“While there are many other tools and equipment that you need in a foundry one of the other most important instruments that analyses the majority of metals and their alloys is the optical emission spectrometer.”

“All of this had to be analysed and incorporated into the project and capital expenditure undertaking.”

Some of the castings produced by KCS Foundry and Engineering are pump components that are linked to the mining, rail and military industries

KCS Foundry and Engineering’s arc/spark OES metal analyser was supplied by Spectro

“The majority of this equipment has been manufactured and installed by Endeco Omega Sinto. The reclamation plant includes the shake out, which consists of a 12 tons an hour low level reclamation unit where the knocked out sand lumps fall into a primary vibrating compartment where they are reduced by the attrition of the sand lumps on each other to <6mm, a dust hood, a nine tons an hour V9 sand vator unit that compliments the low level attrition unit by allowing hot reclaimed sand to be elevated to a high level to alleviate the need for pits, a nine tons an hour G9 cooler/classifier which is put after the mechanical reclamation to de-dust and cool the sand, the pneumatic conveying unit to pressurise and convey the sand smoothly along a pipeline to a receiving hopper, a reverse jet type dust extraction unit, a water cooling tower and the ducting used when the dust is extracted from the cooler classifier and conveyed to the dust extractor.”

The reclamation plant, which was supplied by Endeco Omega Sinto, includes a 12 ton an hour shake out

The new plant includes a cooler classifier

“But before the reclamation takes place, we needed a continuous mixer for the mixing of the sand and chemicals. It must have pre-programmed recipes for use with core or mould, good control of the chemical addition rates, air injection at the entry point to the mixing trough and must be easy to calibrate and monitor. It must produce a consistently homogeneous mix, have the ability to produce small batches or long continuous runs of mixed sand at the touch of a switch, all mixed sand must be of good quality, chemical additions must be at the absolute economical minimum, the mixer must be easy to maintain and of course user friendly.”

“For this piece of equipment, we have opted for an Endeco Omega Sinto 15 tons an hour Spartan series continuous mixer.”

“At the moment we are producing over 100 tons of castings a month and the majority of this amount is made up of the various components used in pump manufacturing, which is what are our partner is very strong in. We have dedicated a line in the foundry for these types of castings.”

Endeco Omega Sinto also fabricated and supplied the sand holding silos

A Endeco Omega Sinto 15 tons an hour Spartan series continuous mixer is also part of the equipment in the foundry

“However, we are not limited to this type of work and client. Another major client of ours is involved in valve manufacturing. We are also continuing to supply a client of mine from pre-KCS days with over 100 a year cast iron duplex doors used on boilers. Each weighs in the region of 240kgs.”

“We cast components in cast iron, steel, bronze and SG and are currently doing trials in stainless steel. We also hope to increase our non-ferrous capacity in the not-too-distant future.”

“Currently we employ 52 staff on a two-shift system and will be looking to increase these numbers.”

“But like every other foundry we battle with the skills levels.”

For further details contact KCS Foundry and Engineering on TEL: 010 141 3952 or 073 993 3366