“DIE-CASTING 4.0” - Driving the Digital Transformation in High Pressure Die Casting
"Die-Casting 4.0" - A case study on how die-casting-operations can benefit from computer aided production and resource planning and controlling from inquiry to dispatch all on one standard platform.
Die Casting operations are – among other metal casting / foundry operations – on one side the last frontier when it comes to digital transformation and digitalization of company processes as ancient traditions carried forward by generations and huge amounts of experience may be replaced by modern state-of-the-art software-based company solution technologies, making the industry more attractive to young talent and providing new insights. On the other side die casting companies are catching up when it comes to digitalization like no other industrial area. The reason for this is the relative process easiness in comparison to iron / steel casting operations.
Although metals & alloys have been melted and cast in foundries and for many centuries and for die casting since many decades; ever since sophisticated planning and control systems were introduced, processes have changed, and these are now constantly being put to test.
Cost transparency, material and energy efficiency and process security in real time, combined with the much quoted “fast time to market”, have become essential if especially die casting operations want to survive. The digital transformation in die casting but very much in the foundry world is taking place right now with more and more interest in items like IoT = Internet of Things, BIG DATA management, Data Analytics and ultimately Data Visualization in real time – if possible.
In this paper, a case study of 2 totally different foundries are presented and on how a die casting operation can achieve process controls using “Foundry 4.0” insights, but the journey to that goal can be long.
In a foundries business, like all competitive businesses, a good customer does not want a great deal nor the best deal. All he wants is a sustainable win-win FAIR deal. And a sustainable win-win FAIR deal is only possible when the supplier knows the right processes and have the expertise to manage the Product Actual Base Cost = ABC. You must know your ABC as it is YOUR strategic asset! This counts ESPECIALLY for metal casting operations!
By definition, ABC covers all the associated cost of raw metal materials, man-power direct cost, factory overhead, sales and the general administration cost all in a variable and fixed component where applicable. In metal casting we also name it C2C = Cost to Cast, comprising of more than just a BOM (Bill of Material) as it entails a “Bill of Operation”, “Bill of involved Machinery”, “Bill of Sequence of Work”, “Bill of Manpower used” and many more in a precise digital replication (digital twin = resource plan) of the metal casting process.
THE ACTUAL SITUATION
In most foundries that we have worked with, unfortunately, many do not know their real ABC. This happens because, often times, one fails to recognize that knowing the foundries process and knowing the foundries business are two different things. These two are inter-related and NOT mutually exclusive. If they are treated incorrectly, one may end up either overprice itself out of the market or in the other extreme case, underprice too low to even stay in the business. Many foundries we worked with look for $/kg pricing on their castings. That merely reflects (sometimes poor) assumptions and does not reflect actual situations happening daily. The more is assumed the rougher the ABC becomes the less precision is prevailing.
Furthermore, in many foundries and due to the above-described situation, they assume they are profitable as at the end of the month the cashflow is positive. However, they forget that maybe only a fraction of castings produced / orders fulfilled really contributed to this, whereas other orders / other castings produced actually created a loss to the operations.
Many foundries fail to recognize and provide the right infrastructure and resources to an effective implementation. Like all Digital Platforms, FRP® works on a Data Base that requires timely inputs in order to CAPTURE the Actual Cost Data; material quantity, labor factor, cycle time and tie that to the product identification. In many foundries that we worked with, digital platforms as such fail to take off because of inadequate resources for the data inputs and the culture to sustain the system.
The challenges of determining a product ABC = C2C in foundries business are as per below and is considering all aspects of the main casting process having a discontinuous workflow. If foundries put their operations on an integrated digital platform with a seamless reporting chain and fully understand the importance of deploying a digital twin model in their daily operations, then they can easily overcome the described challenges.
THE 3 – “ABC” & “C2C” - CHALLENGES
#1. Metal Price Volatility:
Metal price volatility, although some degree of adjustment is allowed in some cases, but few in between. With proper database correlation foundries could easily create “raw material price scenario manager” hence be in a position to enhance their resilience against any price volatility. This is easily done when raw material prices are not merely captioned in an Excel file but in form of an integrated database with automatic and real time adaptions to international price indices as well external sources web-site source (e.g. Steel-Mint, Metalshub, etc.).
When this is done, a metal casting / foundry procurement officer / manager will be in a positive position to even “predict” future trends and counter react in an early fashion / manner since he knows the actual production cost / raw materials consumed and compares easily with the planned figures.
#2. Process Uncertainties:
Process uncertainties associated especially in die casting where tool life and the diecast machine operating conditions that make them determining a Standard Cycle Time impossible. In sand-casting the material conditions, melt quality, core quality and many more aspects contribute to these uncertainties. The metal casting process is THE ONLY manufacturing process where a product is shaped from a liquid. Hence, it is at times extremely difficult and involving a lot of guess work and numbers by experience, to check on the actual process conditions and accordingly on the process variables. The more this can be standardized again via bringing all on an integrated data platforms the better it is. Planning the process and making the plan precise is one thing. Executing the plan is another.
#3. Labor Cost:
Direct labor cost build-up as secondary process work increases with tool life. E.g. in die casting extensive deburring and reworks that kill your profit because many times it is not accounted for. In sand casting you would talk about additional fettling and cleaning cost OR in further secondary processes in additional heat-treatment and machining cost. Also, here the major principle counts: what you cannot measure you cannot control and the better you plan and better execute the plan the better you will be able to get your labor cost and many others under proper control. This may also involve organizational control at times.
The EUROGUSS 365 NewsletterDon't miss our best content and news around the die casting industry!
Sign up for the newsletter now for free.
THE SOLUTION FOR “ABC” & “C2C” - TRANSPARENCY
Therefore, an Integrated and Continual Process Management (ICPM) tool, driven by high integrity live data is the way forward to minimize the above uncertainties; eliminating surprises that eat into the bottom line, and a scientific way to drive your PVP (Process Value Proposition).
The live data enable you to drill your cost down to each stock keeping unit (SKU) level (effectively that’s your multiple BOM-cost, see above) in a timely manner and to bench mark against the ABC = C2C; the result is a clear Price Quote Variance (PQV). Furthermore, with a real time dashboard looking at your inventory in every foundry stage would allow you to minimise SKU levels and provide transparency on never seen before transparency. With this, what we call also “SeW-inventory” (Sequence of Work) you will be able to look at every order, at every foundry stage, at every product and at every single piece that is part of your current “rolling” inventory in your operations. Examples have shown that by just providing clear and tangible transparency in this area, real $$$-savings in a magnitude of US$ 80-100k in one year can be achieved for a typical SME – iron / steel or even die casting foundry!
Again, production data MUST BE IN FORM OF A DIGITAL TWIN MODEL CAPTIONED PLATFORM, else it is not possible to achieve such number and many foundry / metal casting operations stay as a “black hole”.
FOUNDRY EXAMPLE AND CASE STUDY #1 FROM INDIA
This Aluminium die casting foundry operates about 500 ton of castings every month. For IP-reasons the identity of this foundry is kept secret and not to divulge information that may compromise their competitive level.
The processes applied are purely LPDC / GDC and no HPDC in this location. From the various pictures seen in the presentation only there is no or very little data transparency and / or traceability of castings. The C2C is estimated and most if not all operational control is done using Excel files and paper and pencil, and only partially information is fed into the corporate system resulting in daily / weekly / monthly adjustment in terms of sequence of inventory and material management. Productivity is despite the volume and high labor-intensive production volume on a medium level with almost daily fire-fighting and production meetings. Still they produce quality castings even for EV’s.
FOUNDRY EXAMPLE AND CASE STUDY #2 FROM INDIA
This Aluminium die casting foundry operates a similar tonnage than example #1 however with much less manpower volume and higher amount in automation and digitalization deployment. Again, the identity of this foundry is kept secret and not to divulge information that may compromise their competitive level.
The process applied is LPDC only in this location with HPDC / GDC in other locations. From the various pictures seen in the presentation there is right from the beginning a very high level of data transparency and digital data collection available. Every casting is after its “birth” coded with a QR code and traced /tracked inside the factory. The process steps may differ for different casting models and as such the casting itself via the QR code can “tell it’s story” to the respective production sequence and site. This is btw, the true essence of what “Foundry 4.0” is all about. In addition to that, the furnaces are centrally monitored, energy consumption is digitally controlled, such as temperatures, metallurgical measurements and the like. In the end and at a pinnacle of production planning and controlling this foundry operates an MCT = Manufacturing Control Tower. All information comes to the “control room”, there are data analytics and other tools applied to make data driven decisions in real time and on-time. No lengthy meetings required and no manual interventions unless there is an un-planned and un-controlled occurrence. This foundry operates with the motto: What you cannot measure you cannot control and lives by this principle.
In today’s world (M)-SME foundries need intelligent solutions! It is not enough to merely rely on manpower especially in and labor-intensive processes. Cost optimizations start at the RFQ level especially for low volume / high mix operations but just as well in the reverse.
Big date is Big money, data analytics and data visualization in real time requires more than what classical enterprise software platforms deliver, especially when a typical MS-Excel economy develops under the Level 4 application. In such cases a MES system like the one introduced is paramount to be deployed.
Case studies from two totally different operations have been described but cannot be disclosed in paper form, only the neutralized pictures will be made available in the presentation itself but not the publication.
The competitiveness of metal casting enterprises depends very much on their ability to foster a digital mindset, only then they will start exploring and ultimately deploying modern state-of-the-art software-based systems allowing to reduce wastage and increase productivity.
This paper is based on a presentation by Christian Kleeberg held at ALUCAST 2022.
Contact the Authors
Mr Dileep Yadav – Vadodara, Gujarat, India; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Christian Kleeberg – Singapore; Email: email@example.com
Mr U Chang Eng – Malaysia; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org