WO Foundry overcomes challenges of foundry operations

WO Foundry, previously known as “Workers Only” Foundry, is a small jobbing operation situated in Wadeville, east of Johannesburg. Through a National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN) project, which started in September 2015, WO Foundry has resuscitated its business drive and has recently reemployed seven workers who were previously laid off. The NFTN is a Department of Trade and Industry initiative and is managed by the CSIR.

The foundry was established 10 years ago and started with three employees. The business specialises in manufacturing small engineering components of nonferrous base material, mainly copper alloy valves, impellers, pumps and actuators, for the local electrical, engineering and capital equipment sectors.

Over the past years, the foundry has generated employment for 13 workers, with Bettie Coetzee taking over the management, following her father’s retirement. However, due to issues of quality and delivery, the new management has experienced shrinkage of the business and loss of influential customers. In addition, Coetzee’s role as a foundry manager has been repeatedly challenged by the internal workforce and by the negative reaction of end-users of casting products questioning the change in management, which has resulted in a woman-led foundry. As a result, the foundry has been struggling to survive; it was forced to restructure and cut seven jobs representing 54% of its workforce.

To assist WO Foundry, the NFTN’s Technical Advisor, Isidore Kilongozi, initiated a Value Stream Mapping project to improve the planning time, processing time and post-processing time of the foundry business. He has undertaken the foundry lean and lead time management to analyse the current state of the foundry in all sequences that take place during the production of castings.

The project covers aspects such as identifying the inherent waste and loses within the foundry operation, identifying bottlenecks and all factors that limit effectiveness, developing and implementing counter measures that facilitate culture change, as well as improving the foundry lead-time on critical customers’ orders.

The NFTN’s support has given Coetzee much needed confidence to manage the WO Foundry operations well into the future.