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Getting to the source of the matter

With what he calls a generation shift in the international foundry industry, Thomas Bloch of DISA Industries A/S has the challenge of developing business solutions to satisfy the current and future metal casting leaders as they strive to improve profit margins.
Speaking exclusively to Foundry Trade Journal, Bloch - who is general sales and product manager in DISA’s aftermarket department - said the change in the sector is something DISA has been aware of for some time. “There has been a generation shift and the owners of foundries are not necessarily metallurgists or practical foundrymen any more – they have finance and business backgrounds. We need to offer sensible and achievable business solutions for them,” he told editor, Lynn Postle.
“It has been difficult to get the foundry industry to not just think about technical issues as it is such a technical industry, so the technique is always there and you have to be able to show that you have advanced technologies. However, as an industry we will be approaching things in a different way in ten years’ time.”
Bloch says the business potential for those companies which embrace global sourcing and a new way of thinking will be vast. “Overall productivity in any foundry is related to so many factors and our global services role encapsulates soft services which are promoted in a business approach.”
Bloch believes the new generation of metal casters will help the industry grow as they appreciate that success is not just about making good castings but also about making good profit-margins. “We are often talking to owners of foundries who come from a non-technical background but who are very successful businessmen. They look at things differently and this is an important step forward for the industry.”

NOT JUST AN ADD ON
Spare parts sales account for 40 per cent of DISA’s overall turnover and offering global solutions backed up by 40 years’ technical expertise have seen the company develop systems to support a wide customer base in all parts of the world. “Obviously we have to balance the inventory as we are owned by an investment company,” Bloch said. “But we have to hold the stock that our customers want in various parts of the world.” The spare parts department at the company headquarters near Copenhagen ensures that most customers can maintain production without too much downtime as does the stock held in Asia and other parts of the world. Over 10,000 spare part item numbers are held in stock around the world so current machine variations and older equipment can be serviced. “It is rare for us not to be able to fulfil customer needs quickly and efficiently.”
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is the variation in customer systems resulting in an ever expanding range of products for the Danish-based supplier. Having built its reputation on production of high volume moulding and coremaking solutions, the company is now producing an expanded range of equipment and supporting foundries with much lower volumes. “We are a global supplier and our customers demand guarantees on uptime so it has to be more of a partnership approach. We have to provide spare parts and service engineers globally so we can ensure we meet the commitment DISA has to lowering a customer’s cost per part.”
Those working for DISA often use this terminology and it is clear to see that they are fully supportive of this approach. “For those setting up new foundries we can offer the complete solution and our application engineers will base themselves in the foundry for a period of time. Contracts are now more complex than ever before which is a natural development in industry. Our customers are making a profit on tight margins so we have to be up for the challenge.”
Different solutions are required in differing markets and in developing regions, for example Bloch says one opportunity for the company is the trend in China to improve processes. “Chinese foundries are suffering the same fate as the rest of the world with a loss of skilled staff as they leave the industry. This is an opportunity for us as we can improve and develop the performance of their equipment. Bundle packages are appropriate whereby a requisite of buying our equipment is that a regular service and spare parts package is built in. This is more transparent for the customer as they are combining hard and soft products. There is a real value in this approach as it gives the customer security for ‘trouble-free’ running of the equipment. The automotive industry has done this for years, building warranties into the sale.”
The DISA global services solution includes a 24-hour helpline, fast installation and start-up time, a short spare parts delivery time, and the constant availability of qualified engineers to provide assistance when required.

FOUNDRY OPTIMISATION
As part of the commitment to reduce everyone’s cost and increase productivity, DISA offers a foundry optimisation service which includes: customer optimisation programme, standard and customised training courses, advanced training courses for existing customers, problem solving, pattern plate layouts, gating design, and foundry audit/benchmarking.
The service involves a process review over a three to five day period where a process engineer evaluates a foundry’s business. The next stage is a process upgrade with a three to twelve month contract where DISA helps foundries implement procedures. The level 3 service involves managed operations where DISA supplies parts within operation and/or maintenance.
For Bloch, the road is clear: “I’ve visited over 300 foundries in the last four years and the issues are similar – they involve knowledge, time and financial issues. I am not in a position yet to say that we have a product in DISA Global Services that outperforms everything else – but that is the challenge. Soft services are definitely a vastly important part of a successful business approach.”
Contact: Thomas Bloch, general sales and product manager – global services, DISA Industries A/S, Hojager 8, DK-2630, Taastrup, Denmark, Tel: +45 44 50 50 50, email: thomas.bloch@noricangroup.com web: www.disagroup.com