Recently, a manufacturer serving the mining industry started developing a new product line to expand its portfolio. Although they already manufactured other lines similar to the new product, this was the first in a larger series of machine sizes. In addition, they planned to incorporate some new design ideas into this product. This manufacturer contacted The C.A. Lawton Co. to see if we would be interested in working on this product development project.
As with all new projects, Lawton investigated the basic requirements to see if this product was a good fit with our capabilities. The prospective customer was invited to visit our facility in De Pere, Wisconsin for a detailed discussion of casting design requirements. During this visit, they also had an opportunity to assess the degree of fit between their needs and Lawton’s capabilities.
In order to understand how Lawton approaches this type of project, you need to understand how Lawton views new projects in general. As Alex Lawton, CEO and fifth-generation owner of the company views it, “We must not only be a source, but a resource, to our customers.”
Discussions of form and function with the customer’s engineers soon led to Lawton engineers making suggestions for optimal casting designs. These recommendations were focused on improving the manufacturability of the castings, which promised to make them both reliable and affordable.
The customer’s engineers reviewed these recommendations to determine if they would improve or diminish the functionality of the overall machine. This give-and-take discussion allowed both teams to capitalize on each other’s expertise to arrive at a cost-effective solution.
As soon as the customer developed preliminary part designs, Lawton provided project cost estimates on seven different castings, to be used to build three prototype machines. Six of these castings and associated tooling would be provided by Lawton. The seventh, an item which did not fit the Lawton process, was discussed with one of our casting partners whose processes were a better fit for its requirements. Cost estimates for all of these components were returned to the customer, who reviewed the entire project to assess its market feasibility.
The first 21 castings (three each of the seven casting designs) were ordered to complete the three prototype machines for beta testing. As of the writing of this article, 15 castings have been delivered; the customer has been extremely positive in its assessment of the timeliness, quality and appearance of these items. Delivery of the last two items is expected within the next few weeks, which will allow the customer to begin its prototype testing phase.
We are very excited to be part of this new product development process. Although the work is not completely finished, we look forward to being able to congratulate our customer on their new product design in the coming months.
If you have a need for design for castability input on your large casting project, look for a foundry who will not only be a source, but a resource. The C.A. Lawton Co.: Remarkable people providing remarkable results for over 139 years.