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Woehlke assumes AFS leadership.

New AFS President Tom Woehlke reveals his thoughts on the industry and the direction in which it is headed.

A fourth-generation foundryman, Tom Woehlke, Lawran Foundry Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, assumed the presidency of AFS in May at the 1994 AFS Casting Congress in Hamilton, Ontario. He has been an AFS member since 1968.

"Growing up around the foundry business," the 48-year-old Woehlke began his foundry career the summer before entering Iowa State University, where he earned a degree in industrial engineering/engineering operations. Starting at Lawran as a general laborer in 1964, he also worked as a molder at Federal Malleable and Pelton Casteel, and as an assistant foreman at Grede Foundries' Spring City Div. during summer breaks.

Following his service as a Navy officer, he joined Grede Foundries/Iron Mountain Div., Kingsford, Michigan, in 1971 as a pouring foreman. The following year, he went to work for Grede's Spring City Div. in Waukesha, Wisconsin, running the melt operation and later the molding and coreroom departments. In 1974, he moved to Wichita, Kansas, as Grede's plant superintendent and later works manager.

From 1979-1984, he operated a small Kansas iron foundry pouring and machining large castings. In 1985, Woehlke joined Wells Manufacturing in Skokie, Illinois, as vice president-manufacturing. In late 1989, he returned to Lawran as president and partner.

In an exclusive interview, Woehlke provided some insight on the foundry industry and his term as president.

Q What can you tell us about your foundry?

A Lawran is a 60-employee nonferrous and ferrous foundry. On the nonferrous side, we produce large, intricately cored and complicated aluminum castings. Six months ago, we entered the gray and ductile iron field. One-half of our volume is now larger, intricately cored gray and ductile iron castings. Our markets include transmission products, gear cases, medical products, office and commercial printing products and electrical equipment castings. Additionally, we pour unleaded bronze castings for the glass mold industry as well as plunger tips for diecasting machines.

Q In your opinion, what is the key to a foundry's success?

A Training and motivation of its employees is the key to meeting customers' needs. In doing so, foundries must make sure they are prepared and willing to meet changing market needs.

Q What is the greatest strength of the foundry industry?

A People. The industry's biggest assets are the dedicated, hard-working employees who are intrigued by taking scrap metal and energy, coupled with good foundry techniques to manufacture good, finished goods and products.

Q What is its biggest area of weakness?

A Foundries need to have more environmentally friendly binders and materials available to them. We need to be able to focus more on capital expenditures for equipment and advanced technology that result in productivity and quality improvements, rather than collection and environmental control equipment.

Q What opportunities for new growth for the industry are out there?

A There are many opportunities for ferrous, copper-based and light alloy castings to replace fabrications and forgings, and to ensure that metalcasting is the process of choice for new products and vehicle applications.

Q How has the industry changed since you entered it in 1971?

A The biggest change today, as opposed to nearly 25 years ago, is that foundries are much better mechanized. Health and plant safety have been tremendously improved. Foundries today have much better control of nearly all their operations, providing better quality and more predictable results.

Q How will the industry be different in the year 2000?

A There's no question there will be widespread use of computer-controlled and assisted equipment. This will give foundries the ability to design more precise, near-net shape castings. New processes for molding and coremaking will help reduce costs. Also, foundries will have the ability to design prototypes for preproduction runs quicker, becoming more reactive to customers' needs.

Q What role do you see AFS having on the industry in years to come?

A The role of AFS is to help members develop and stay on top of emerging technology. AFS needs to:

* train members using the best available technology transfer methods;

* make sure that technology is ultimately transferred to the worker on the floor and is usable--not just information for information's sake;

* help foundries hold their own in meeting laws and regulations, especially in environmental, and plant safety and health areas:

* provide more effective management services, including marketing of castings.

Finally, the industry must continue to give support to the Foundry Educational Foundation universities and AFS' Cast Metals Institute in their development of the next generation of skilled foundry and managerial personnel.
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Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Tom Woehlke
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jul 1, 1994
Words:759
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