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CMI provides education and training for industry growth.

"Educating its own" is the driving force behind AFS/CMI's job enhancement coalition for excellence in metalcasting.

"We saved our foundry nearly $400,000 in the last 10 years simply by upgrading our work force through job-specific education courses, seminars and in-plant training--and we're just a 25-man foundry."

For Jack Rice, vice president and general manager of Texaloy Foundry Co., Inc., Floresville, Texas, the investment in foundry employee education has made a positive difference for his company. He regularly sends key employees to the Cast Metals Institute (CMI) for specialized instruction and operations refresher courses. Rice believes the job updating and the training in the newest technologies have been important factors in doubling his foundry's size and increasing its profitability.

"The foundries that will be around 10 years from now will be the ones with the best-trained workers," he said. "Training has been critical for us. It has let us build on the strengths of each employee. We have been able to develop a highly flexible, trained team able to affect continuous improvements in our total operation. CMI taught us to learn fast and change fast."

Productivity Gains

"For instance," Rice said, "three days at an Institute high-alloy casting course taught me that part of what we had been doing in our foundry for 15 years was an economic pothole we worked hard everyday to fill with manufacturing errors. But we learned, we changed and we profited."

The regular training of his employees now allows him to attract business and guarantee services he otherwise would avoid. Rice credits continuous training with helping to increase his workers' technical and mechanical skills.

"They know what to look for and how to correct things, and that has raised productivity and cut manufacturing costs. It has meant a greater return on investment for Texaloy," he said.

CMI encourages employees to think for themselves, giving them the confidence to take those countless small steps that together mean continuous improvement in processes and products. That is good for a foundry and good for its customers. Getting employees involved in operations through education is just another way of showing them how they and the company benefit from production efficiency.

In meeting counterparts from other foundries, many CMI students learn from the exchange of foundry experiences. Talking to one another at the informal roundtables that follow many classroom exercises encourages the passing on of ideas and techniques. Discovering what works at different shops adds to the learning process and is important to formal course information. CMI becomes a learning experience in the social sense as well as from the purely academic perspective.

"There are many subtleties in foundry operations, any one of which can make or break a customer's part as it moves through the shop," said Carl Nowak, president of Teledyne Cast Products, Pomona, California. "Specialized education is an inexpensive way to continually upgrade our operations and personnel to avoid problems or handle them quickly when they arise. Without question, job training helps improve efficiency and makes each one of us more effective and efficient."

His sentiments were underscored by Glen Petit, foundry manager for New England Union Co., Inc., West Warick, Rhode Island, who said his nonferrous foundry has saved countless hours and thousands of dollars since he attended his first CMI gating and risering course in 1979. Without the information he gained then, his foundry might be a much smaller operation today--if it survived at all. That's how important CMI and its staff have been for his foundry, Petit stated.

"I can't say enough about the training and technical support we have received other than to state the essential fact that we feel CMI's contributions have grown to provide a lifeline for many foundries like ours," he added. "The staff and its facilities are always available when we need them, and they have been unfailing in their cooperation."

CMI's Mission

CMI is the embodiment of the old industry dictum that "foundries train their own." CMI is the educational arm of the American Foundrymen's Society. It was formed in 1957 "by foundrymen for foundrymen to strengthen people, processes and product knowledge through broad educational programs."

The Institute is structured to respond to advances in foundry technologies and operations that have become more sophisticated in recent years. Originally known as the AFS Training & Research Institute, its purpose was to disseminate technical and managerial information to foundries, their suppliers and customers. That basic mission has not changed.

To date, nearly 60,000 foundrymen and women have been assisted to better understand and thrive in the metalcasting industry. CMI has no peer in teaching the practical application of the foundrymen's skills.

Though CMI's initial mandate remains the same, its methods and the facilities it uses have been greatly expanded. In 1977, the Frank S. Ryan Memorial Laboratory was dedicated, followed in 1983 by the dedication of the H.H. Harris Laboratory. These two sophisticated learning and research facilities not only provide CMI with the unique capability for academic classroom instruction, but, where appropriate, they also provide hands-on application of theory.

The two laboratories encompass a complete working foundry, sand and investment casting labs, modern non-destructive testing equipment, fully functional coreroom and pattern shop, spectrographic analysis and scanning electron microscope facilities. They are able to initiate or support laboratory research programs geared to foundry operations and have the capacity to investigate unique foundry manufacturing problems and provide workable solutions.

Many foundry operators, like Rice, long had felt that their shops were operating with little access to the basic metalcasting fundamentals--even though small foundries such as Rice's form the backbone of the country's sixth largest basic industry.

Though foundries use some of the world's most complex manufacturing technologies, the view persists that metalcasting is more art than science, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For many foundries, the main survival mechanism is to melt more metal and pour more castings with little regard for efficient foundry practice or return on investment. CMI was formed to help and continues to help foundries find better ways to profitability.

Training employees is the single most important function of successful foundry management, according to Jack Wright, CMI chairman, and others in the industry. That competition-driven need has never been so great as it is in today's global economy where products must be of world class quality.

CMI instruction, Wright explained, is available through AFS chapter programs, in-plant training, and the broad, cost-effective curriculum of technical and management courses offered at CMI's campus in Des Plaines, Illinois. CMI's objective is to make operations and management training affordable and accessible, going, if need be, to wherever education is required.

CMI Versatility

The path to foundry viability, Wright pointed out, is not isolated solely in the need for or lack of adequate technical preparation. The way is also strewn with scientific, environmental and operations difficulties and with technical problems that can be solved or eased through CMI's broad array of special testing and processing laboratories and consulting services. These include:

* a pilot foundry available for instruction and research projects;

* a renowned, 50,000-volume, foundry-specific library;

* fully equipped physical testing and environmental sciences labs;

* a staff of technical experts available for project investigation, scientific testing, product analysis and process research;

* technician certification programs acknowledged as a standard of excellence throughout the metals industry.

"The metalcasting marketplace today demands a product technically engineered and designed to the best process advantage," Wright said. "Access to markets depends upon the continued supply of skilled labor, and that dependency, it has been conceded, is now largely the foundry industry's responsibility. Present and future foundrymen must be prepared to assume greater technical responsibility, and that preparation is available now primarily through the foundry-supported CMI.

"Traditional avenues for apprentice foundrymen used to be vocational schools and junior colleges, but these resources have dried up for the most part. It is foundry managers who must accept the task to oversee the training of their people. We have the essential training tools at hand in the programs of CMI, but the initiative for recognizing their worth and seizing the opportunities they present is the challenge for foundry management."

Tom Hurley, executive vice president of Bodine Aluminum, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, said customer demand for higher-quality castings at less cost poses an educational dilemma for foundries. For America's foundries, he stated, the choice is to educate employees or perish. It is that simple.

"CMI offers the best vehicle in the world for foundry technical training, and the Institute's existence and record of excellence are vitally important for our industry at this delicate time of global market realignment," Hurley said. "CMI has contributed significantly to my company. If we in the industry took seriously the challenges that foreign foundries pose to the domestic metalcasting industry, I'm convinced that CMI would be two to three times as large as it is now."

Employees who have been to CMI training courses and seminars are among the most enthusiastic boosters of the Institute and its ability to make the difference, he added. However, lukewarm management interest, in many instances, has not recognized training as a priority.

CMI Instructors

The permanent staff of instructors at CMI has its course work supplemented by a cadre of 45-50 outside instructors who are selected for their expertise on specific course offerings. All are acknowledged leaders in their fields, and most of them serve on one or more of the various AFS technical committees.

Dieter Leidel, president, Tanoak Enterprises, Inc., Barrie, Ontario, Canada, is one such outside instructor who has been affiliated with CMI and its teaching staff for several years. Leidel, who specializes in sand reclamation and reuse, is considered one of a handful of international experts in sand conservation. Like most committee members who double as CMI instructors, he recognizes that technology is never at a standstill but, rather, is in constant development. There is the overriding obligation that an instructor be current in the advancements pacing all aspects of his foundry field, accompanied by the skills necessary to expertly and interestingly share what he knows.

At the end of each course, seminar or in-plant training session, attendees complete a critique of the content and presentation of the course material. These critiques are useful in recognizing and correcting weak spots.

Leidel says the course work, whatever the subject, is dynamic and contemporary. He cites the evolution of his courses on sand reclamation. Leidel said that, years ago, he concentrated on solid waste, adding new reclamation techniques and an analysis of equipment available. Later, he added new sections about gaseous emissions as they pertained to the Clean Air Act and potential areas of sand reuse.

Teaching for CMI, he notes, can be demanding, but the rewards far outweigh the time and effort expended.

CMI Endowment

In 1989, the industry rallied behind a $5 million capital fund-raising effort to strengthen CMI. The drive's purpose was to keep tuition costs affordable, expand research facilities, and permit necessary staff and equipment upgrading.

The drive for funds was successful, and the results are just now being seen. New furnaces, laboratory equipment and an expanded core curriculum have been put in place.

Always a leader in metallurgy-based training and research, CMI has rightly assumed the mantle as the world's premiere continuing education center for the advancement of the foundry industry.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Cast Metals Institute; foundry industry
Author:Bex, Tom
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:UA Metalcasting Center receives federal contract.
Next Article:Solid fluxing practices for aluminum melting.

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