The future of foundries and industry 4.0

By C.A. Lawton | June 9, 2021
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The fourth industrial revolution – commonly called the “smart factory” or Industry 4.0 – is upon us. It weaves together multiple technologies that will revolutionize how manufacturers and their foundries coordinate and collaborate in the years ahead. Industry 4.0 offers tantalizing opportunities to reduce costs and improve casting quality, on-time delivery, and service levels.

Industry 4.0 will bundle today’s state-of-the-art technologies, such as additive manufacturing/3D printing, robot-molding, PLC controls, CAD/CAM, and simulation capabilities with new technologies like smart sensors, big data, autonomous robots, and advanced simulations to create a manufacturing revolution. These developments will be many years and iterations in the making, but I believe the improvements will be very worthwhile to Lawton and our customers.

At The C.A. Lawton Co., we’re focused on serving our customers as a value-added supplier of iron castings. We’re always on the lookout to save them time, money and provide them with better-quality castings. Not surprisingly, information is a big part of that equation. That’s why we’re so hopeful about the possibilities and opportunities that Industry 4.0 will enable.

Here are some of the possibilities we see:

Closer coordination of casting orders across large organizations: We work with multiple locations and divisions of a growing number of global companies, especially since the formation of The Lawton Standard Co. This often eliminates scheduling conflicts and delays.

For example, let’s say one division has ordered a set of castings to replenish its inventory – it’s not an urgent order. It’s first in the queue for production, even though a day later another division submits a rush order for a critical casting.

In a perfect world, casting orders should be harmonized between these divisions and the foundry so that we can make intelligent trade-offs in our production schedule. We’re proud to say, we’re beginning to meet this need. Industry 4.0 has the potential to help our customers be more efficient at scale.

Improved access to real-time information helps us improve our cycle times and be more agile when responding to changes. On-time delivery, cost, service level, and casting quality can all be improved with better, more detailed, and up-to-date information.

Better quality castings: The more we know, the better we can optimize the part design and casting process to maximize quality. Today, conversations with engineers at our customers take place via phone and email. But it’s often a long process of back and forth communication, often with only limited information. Closer collaboration on a shared electronic platform could speed this process, enabling us to anticipate and to better accommodate changes and ultimately produce higher-quality castings. Stay tuned to find out how we plan to implement more technology to streamline the communication between all of our sister companies.

Improved logistics costs: Another way that improved order visibility can pay off is by reducing logistics costs. Today, to manage trucking costs, castings must be batched for delivery. This can often result in lengthy delays and significant expediting charges. Better planning and scheduling – enabled through improved, real-time communication with trucking firms – can help foundries to improve delivery timetables. It can also sharply reduce expediting charges and other associated costs.

Lawton’s commitment

The tools and technologies of Industry 4.0 have the potential to help us achieve our vision: To provide not only better castings but also a better buying and using experience. That may include higher levels of customer and technical service, greater responsiveness, faster cycle times, lower costs, and other benefits.