Wisconsin permanent mold aluminum foundry increases its productivity and product quality through simulation of the entire process
Watry Industries (Sheboygan, WI) has been a customer of MAGMA as a licensed user for over 5 years and, on a project-by-project basis, even longer. Watry very quickly found MAGMASOFT® simulation software an indispensable business tool that paid for itself almost immediately, according to General Manager, Jason Dannenberg. Watry believed that adding a tool that simulates the whole casting process to their foundry would benefit the entire operation and not just be a tool for the engineering department. Watry credits adding this business tool to their foundry with contributing to moving them ahead of their competition and considers themselves among the upper echelon of aluminum foundries.
In selecting the best process simulation software, it was important to Watry to run test comparisons with multiple vendors on a project that was previously completed. By already knowing the results and the trials and errors that occurred when producing that particular part, they were better able to critique the different softwares they were considering. Watry chose MAGMASOFT over the other options, based on the quality of the results and customer experience. According to Dannenberg, "MAGMA's well forged track record and established reputation as well as their user base made a significant impact in choosing MAGMA over the competition."
In addition, Watry perceived that MAGMASOFT was further along in its technology and better developed than its competition. Watry was also impressed with the clear, concise way they were able to communicate the simulation results to their customers, benefitting not only the engineers and the quality department, but purchasing and the sales department as well. From the very beginning, Watry saw the software as a business tool, not just an engineering tool. "The expectation was always there for MAGMASOFT's effect to roll through the organization." Dannenberg explains.
The engineering, quality and sales departments at Watry all find accurately simulating the entire casting process a huge advantage when communicating to customers why a design change is necessary. Customers find the software impartial, keeping the emotions out and making decisions based on facts. Both Watry and their customers see how this lowers their costs and helps avoid problems, while validating what is best for the production of a particular part. Watry's customers recognize the need to run the simulation and are more apt to go along with design changes when presented with the simulation results. Watry customers find this leaves very few questions when the "before" and "after" comparisons are right in front of them.
Initially, Watry felt the expense of the software was a roadblock. Sales Manager Wayne Bennin, who was at Watry when they converted from using MAGMASOFT on a project-by-project basis to being a licensed user, says, "The software is expensive and, before purchasing, it was hard for us to justify the cost savings of a problem that never occurred because we made the change that avoided the problem."
Dannenberg goes on to explain, "Although process simulation is not a machine that produces a part, it immediately became just as important as the machines that do so by becoming a valuable tool that helped quickly and efficiently facilitate the production of quality parts at our permanent mold aluminum foundry."
While using the software, prior to purchasing, it was clear to the Watry team that the value and time saved by analyzing the part and coming back to the customer with changes would avoid problems later. One of the advantages in becoming a licensed user was that Watry now had the ability to run many simulated iterations on a part. Watry has gone back to parts they were producing for years and started running them through the software to make them better and more up-to-date. Quality Manager Gary Haas adds, "There are many parts we make that have been around for a long time. What was good quality 5-10 years ago is not acceptable anymore, so we use MAGMASOFT in a lot of retro jobs, as we go back and look at a part to see what improvements we can make."
Sales and engineering, as well as the quality department, have all seen the benefits in the decrease in lead times. All departments are positively affected by the reduction in time from inception of the project to completion of the part. Mike Kamin, Engineering Manager, says, "Lead time has definitely shortened, we spend more time up front, but we don't sample three, four or five times before we get a quality part. We are more likely to make a good, quality part the first day it's in the machine. It used to be we were a long way away from making a good part on the first day, pulling and making gating changes was very common. It just isn't common anymore. The software gives us the opportunity to dig through a lot; everything from processing and moldmaking back to part design. It helps us really do some fine tuning to get to that 'good part quality' a lot more quickly and with minimal iterations."
Dannenberg adds, "We see MAGMASOFT as an indispensable tool that Watry customers have come to expect. As a matter of fact, before having the license, it was the high level customers who own MAGMASOFT themselves who mandated it back our way."
In the years since owning the software, Watry has been using it more and more for optimization of runs, to investigate metal temperature or tilt time; before owning the software, they were very selective of what was run through simulation. The accuracy of the software results depends on the accuracy of the data that are input. Watry believes that MAGMASOFT has given them the confidence to input the proper values right from the start, to yield what will be seen in the real world casting application. Kamin adds, "You go from a trial and error situation to a more educated decision process. That's important. We have recently taken a replacement tool for a job we already had, we used the software to simulate a completely and drastically different gating system. Without the software, our confidence would have been very low. It would have felt like a huge risk to make that change."
"Having MAGMASOFT cuts across all disciplines, whether it's manufacturing, quality or sales and marketing. Even time spent in the tool room. Now, we have less and less rework of the mold needed before it makes a good part," Dannenberg says.
Engineering sees it reducing the time spent and thereby reducing the cost of their work, in general. Having the software changes how quality functions overall and, most importantly, it reduces scrap. Sales sees process simulation as a necessity, not an option. It segregates Watry Industries from their competition. It reduces costs overall, while strengthening ties with customers, as the foundry is perceived as being more forward-thinking and tech savvy.
The level of expectations has changed and MAGMASOFT has allowed Watry to transition smoothly with that change, even beating the customer's expectations, according to Dannenberg.
When discussing an issue regarding a part, the quality department often hears from customers, "Did you review it in MAGMASOFT?" or "What does MAGMASOFT say?" Haas notes that it has become common knowledge to their customers that simulation will be run. They are able to trust changes that are recommended when the results are given to them.
Engineering Manager Mike Kamin says, "In 95% of the simulations run, we predict exactly what will happen. The other 5% of the time, when we go back, we see there is definitely some indication of concern when reviewing the MAGMASOFT casting data. It is very rare that we have a defect where there wasn't some sort of prediction from the simulation."
Watry sees the effects of process simulation in all its organizational facets. From the engineering perspective, they have the confidence to run several iterations resulting in multiple solutions to come up with the best overall result. Quality has the confidence level to go back to the customer knowing certain changes can be made to improve the part. Sales now has the ability to support their claim that Watry is the superior choice when choosing a permanent mold aluminum foundry, the result of more efficiency and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in their operation.
Another important point in choosing MAGMASOFT over other simulation software was MAGMA's reputation, customer service and hands-on approach, as well as MAGMA's constant presence in the market and its ongoing training programs, according to Dannenberg. "Watry always feels supported and our questions are answered each time challenges arise."
As new projects come their way and as Watry pushes the envelope as far as the software can go to improve manufacturing capabilities, even 5-6 years after purchasing their license, MAGMA is still present with excellent customer care and hands-on with problem solving as well as continual training and annual user group meetings. All of this allows Watry the comfort and confidence to use the software to its fullest potential, with their customers reaping the benefits.
General Manager Jason Dannenberg concludes, " Having MAGMASOFT helps highlight deficiencies organizations experience out on the factory floor. If you say you are going to do something for a customer, you must do it. MAGMSOFT helps you 'grow-up' as an organization. It helps identify critical characteristics that must be met. Having MAGMASOFT teaches us more about the moldmaking and casting process. It helps us understand which parameters of the process will greatly affect the outcome of the quality of the part... MAGMASOFT is an indispensable tool that Watry customers have come to expect. There is no way around it."
For more information on this story, please contact:
Vice President - Applications and Technology
MAGMA Foundry Technologies, Inc.
10 N. Martingale Road, Suite 425
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Phone 847-969-1001 ext. 225
Bernard & Company