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Evaluating operating costs of melt systems.

Selecting the right melting furnace for a nonferrous foundry requires, first, an accurate analysis of expected melting and capital costs associated with energy usage, materials, refractories, labor, maintenance and pollution controls. Relating all of these operating costs to different melting systems can challenge most foundrymen, but now a computer-based nonferrous melting cost model can make the task more precise.

The model, based on information obtained from surveys of the foundry industry by the Center for Materials Production (CMP), considers all of the variables that are important to the selection process. The computer program's user responds to interactive questions and, when completed, the model's results can assist in the evaluation of competing furnace systems.

The CMP is an R&D organization funded by the Electric Power Research Institute and operated by Carnegie Mellon University's Research Institute. Using basic operating and cost data gathered from foundrymen and related to practical cast metal economics and manufacturing, the computer program incorporates many practical and some often overlooked suggestions to aid in the

selection and evaluation of a melting system for any given set of operating circumstances.

These considerations are grouped into seven areas:

* Metal-the melt loss occurring in certain

alloys and melting systems can

be more important economically than

other factors. A melting system's ability

to handle lower cost charge materials

and the ease with which alloys

can be changed can have a marked

effect on melting economics. Current

customer quality demands also

mandate systems that have the flexibility

to control metal analysis and


* Energy-the cost of the energy consumed

by melting is a significant cost

and the program reflects the melter's

concern for knowing and controlling energy efficiency and energy unit cost.

Melting Labor-foundrymen frequently consider labor virtually equal for all types of melting, but a careful analysis of the hours required for melting is a necessary cost determinant. The survey revealed that the two most variable cost items by furnace type are the hourly labor rates and training time for melters. The program reflects the implication by survey respondents that certain furnaces require more highly trained melters than do others. Maintenance-the survey revealed two maintenance costs that deserve close attention when comparing old and new melting systems: what costs come from the lost time due to breakdowns in the old system, and what is the reliability history of the new melting alternatives?

Maintenance costs include the expected frequency of maintenance, the required time and costs of replacement parts and the maintenance crew skill levels required to service various melting systems. Maintenance people qualified to work on older furnaces are not always qualified to work on the newer systems. Refractories-the labor involved in repairing refractories frequently appears in accounting summaries lumped with other melting labor while the cost of refractory materials generally has its own budget category.

When considering a new system, both labor and materials should be budgeted together. Sometimes a change in a melting system means repairs cannot be done at the same time as with previous furnaces and work formerly done on straight time may have to be performed on overtime.

Pollution Control-pollution control costs are frequently accounted for in many different areas of the melting budget. Beside the energy to run the environmental equipment, labor, maintenance and spare parts are essential considerations, as is the amount and composition of the waste product. Hauling and disposal fees for waste material have been growing tremendously and do not show signs of slowing.

Working Conditions-the survey also showed that working conditions are an economic factor; some older melting units have noise levels that demand the added expense of noise testing and work schedules that limit the amount of time employees can spend in a melting area.

There is little doubt that making a comparison of the actual operating costs of different melting systems is difficult. The results of this survey will help identify a true profile of melt cost data by including information often overlooked or otherwise obscured by faulted cost accounting practices.

The survey provides a warning about comparing the capital costs of melting systems. Frequently, when capital costs are presented for consideration, they do not include like items or all cost information. Differences in the various melting systems must be equalized before fair comparisons can be made and conclusions drawn. The Center's new computer program should answer that need.
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Title Annotation:non-ferrous foundries
Author:Svoboda, John
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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