Look around the city at all the metal casting - bollards, tree
grates, manhole covers, wheels, and much more. Everything you see
was cast by someone, somewhere. Some things are cast as a single
item; others are made of many individually manufactured parts that
are then assembled into a final product.
Companies that require metal castings have three choices:
Manufacture the needed parts themselves
Purchase stock parts from a supplier
Custom design their own parts and outsource the manufacturing
In years gone by, North American companies outsourced their casting
projects to local, or at least regional, manufacturers. The recent
rapid evolution of technology, and the spin-off effect on
transportation and communications, has made it possible for
companies to outsource their casting requirements internationally -
without ever having to leave the corporate office.
For products made by casting, companies have a range of North
American and international foundry options to outsource
manufacturing. (A foundry is a factory that produces metal
castings). Reliance Foundry has been involved in casting work since
1927. Since that time, we have carefully monitored the evolution of
the foundry industry towards international sourcing.
Here are some important considerations when choosing an
international provider for outsourcing your castings work:
BEWARE OF HIDDEN COSTS
Deciding to outsource your metal castings internationally has unique
considerations for costs that may not be apparent on the surface.
Some things to consider that will not be on your bid:
Currency Valuation - Some countries keep their currency artificially
low to make their exports more attractive. Ensure that you have
taken exchange and other currency factors into account, including
the historical currency fluctuations of the country in question.
Cost of Staff Travel - You definitely want to factor in the
following potential personnel expenses:
Travel costs for sending staff overseas, additional travel
insurance, airfare, hotel, transportation, travel VISA requirements,
All of the above are costs that many companies do not initially
think about, but are time and cost considerations that must be taken
Warehousing - Depending on the quantity of product being produced to
maintain just-in-time delivery (as opposed to production on demand),
will a warehouse be required? There is a cost involved for
warehousing. Logically the importer will need to bear that cost. How
will you be charged for these costs? Are there inventory issues?
Customs - Is labeling required for the country of origin? Are there
unique duties or levies applied to the parts in question? Are the
castings you are looking for subject to anti-dumping actions? Do you
have a customs broker in place to manage your documentation and
Processing Fees - Custom broker’s fees, merchandise-processing fees,
port processing fees, etc. These may not appear on your bid, or may
appear as an estimate, but they can be quite high. Remember that
freight and handling costs have more to them than simply the cost to
transport the items.
Air Freight Charges - Overseas ocean freight can be time-consuming
(logistics to port, mustering, consolidation for bulk shipping,
ocean travel time, customs clearance, etc.), so there will be
occasions where expensive air freight may be required, whether to
expedite orders due to unforeseen delays, or whether it is
considered for initial sampling or prototyping in order to speed up
the final metal casting manufacturing process.
Email has indeed made communication faster, easier and more
efficient. However, when discussing metal casting manufacturing with
potential outsource partners overseas, there may be language
differences, differences in drawing interpretation, or differences
in production processes. When outsourcing, you need to be aware that
these differences can often lead to miscommunication and result in
errors or delays in the final metal casting product.
Spell out your production criteria.
Ask: Will the parts be made on an automated machine that provides
consistency or will they be made with a great deal of human
variables? Either method may be acceptable to you, but you should be
entirely aware of what methods are being employed.
Ask: What QA (quality assurance) inspection levels are included in
your pricing, and are these being conducted by third parties? Many
quotes do not include specific inspection details, and inspections
are often not followed on a consistent basis, unless specifically
requested and monitored. Make sure you ask for and receive these
details prior to engaging production. (See “Metallurgical Integrity”
Ask: Who will own and maintain the tooling used to produce your
parts? It is advisable to maintain possession of your tooling and
design unless your parts are generic. Also, ask: “How will the
privacy and security of my designs be maintained and monitored in
Asian countries are 12–14 hours ahead of North America, so there
will likely be a need for middle-of-the night, or early morning
conference calls if you are outsourcing your castings work there.
You need to be committed ahead of time to being available during
METALLURGICAL INTEGRITY / TOOLING: QUESTIONS TO ASK
You will need to intimately know what level of physical and
metallurgical integrity is important for the products you are trying
to outsource. This should drive you to obtain the answers to a host
of other questions:
Will the foundry use raw material, ingot or scrap?
Does the foundry have a spectrometer? (Spectrometers are used for
metal analyses in the foundry.)
How much confidence can be placed on certification from this
foundry? Is a reliable, professional, 3rd party inspection company
required to provide verification of inspection results from
time-to-time, in lieu of your physical attendance on site?
If a wet lab is used, do you believe the foundry will take the time
to check each heat (batch) prior to casting? Are heat analyses
sufficient, or do you need individual product analyses?
How confident are you in the foundry’s quarantine system for
instances when quality issues are uncovered? Is the foundry’s QA
staff provided with authority to accept or reject materials beyond
the authority of production management staff?
While tooling can often appear inexpensive, long-term durability of
the tools should be considered. Premature tooling wear will alter
the performance of the casting and/or change the outcome of the
parts; questions on who will resolve and pay for the dimensional
changes over time must be addressed. You should ask: “What type of
tooling is being paid for - metal, wood, or urethane?”,” If metal
tooling is used, what grade of metal is being used for the tooling?"
MAKE A THOROUGH BID REQUEST
Take the time up front to prepare a thorough, detailed bid request.
A well-organized, clear, and concise request makes all the
difference between a project running smoothly and a disaster waiting
to happen. Before submitting a bid request for metal castings, take
the time to read the article that describes how to streamline your
casting project - the useful information provided there will help to
guide you in your bid request preparation.
In spite of all these extra considerations, global outsourcing of
your metal casting projects can still result in significant savings
for your company.