Keech automates moulding at its No.1 foundry
Bucket and ground engaging tool manufacturer Keech Australia is upgrading its No.1 foundry with world's best practice automation technology in a major project to improve its processes and products.
The foundry, which also produces tillage implements, rolling stock components and custom casting products, will house a new fast loop mould handling system, manufactured by UK firm Omega. The system automates the moulding part of the foundry process, to consistently produce a higher quality result.
"This system is designed to automatically handle all the moulds we make by hand now, which we use lots of labour for," Keech chief operating officer Cameron Watts says. "It's capable of doing all the processes we do to the mould in an automated fashion, to the point of even closing the mould automatically."
New multi-cavity pattern designs taking advantage of the fast loop system will help to triple the foundry's productivity by allowing more than one casting per pattern. In addition, where previously the two halves of a mould would have to be manufactured separately and combined, the new system allows the two halves to be produced and brought together in a single process.
"It will halve our production time, increase our productivity by three times, and give us efficiency and quality because it's all done automatically," Cameron says.
Although the system will reduce labour requirements in the moulding process, Keech will not be reducing its staff. The firm says it is using the upgrade as an opportunity to retrain employees and allow them to gain skills in other parts of the business.
"Even though you may automate, retaining personnel is about retaining the underlying foundry skills and fundamentals that you can't necessarily just get off the street," Watts says. "It's a skillset that you put a lot of time and money and effort into.
"If we see that if the system is full to capacity, we'll actually triple our workload," Cameron said. "So we'll actually put people on. Any people from the moulding area will be retrained and redeployed to other areas of the company. It's about job training and job rotation, which gives us flexibility.
"The foundry fundamentals can be used in many aspects in the business, so retraining personnel in other areas when they've got the basic skillset of how a foundry works is critical for us, because there aren't many of those people available in the workforce."
The flexibility of the company and its staff has allowed the foundry to maintain production as the upgrade proceeds, even as half the site has been fenced off for redevelopment and more than 7km of electrical wiring is installed for the new system.
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