Waupaca Foundry Upgrade Reduces Downtime

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Waupaca Foundry successfully completed a significant capital project during a 16-day holiday shutdown at its Marinette, Wisconsin, location. The introduction of a new conveyor system in Plant 4, a ductile iron foundry, marks a pivotal upgrade from the 30-year-old vibratory system previously in place. This change is anticipated to cut maintenance downtime by more than 50%, showcasing a significant leap forward in operational efficiency.

The project involved the replacement of an outdated vibrating shaker system, used for transporting gating and sprue material, with a cutting-edge conveyor system in the foundry’s ductile casting shakeout department. This upgrade necessitated extensive modifications downstream of six iron casting sorting tables, highlighting the project’s ambitious scope.

Jarrod Osborn, vice president of manufacturing engineering at Waupaca Foundry, emphasized the importance of preparation and planning for the success of this project. The foundry’s engineering teams had been laying the groundwork since 2022, ensuring that the new, longer conveyor system would fit within the existing manufacturing footprint without compromising production processes.

The replacement of the old system with two parallel Magaldi Superbelt conveyors was a strategic move to reduce maintenance and energy costs, prevent iron casting jams, and minimize noise and dust exposure. Nearly 300 action items were identified to guide the project to completion, including detailed installation plans, risk assessments, and simulations of the plant and new equipment.

To accommodate the new chain-driven belt system, the project team undertook significant modifications, including removing concrete, relocating support beams and ductwork, and adjusting casting coolers. The conveyor system, delivered in 15 40-foot shipping containers, was preassembled and installed with precision, thanks to the collaboration between Waupaca Foundry’s in-house team and contractors.

Rob Jezwinski, Waupaca Foundry engineering manager, praised the advantage of having an in-house engineering team intimately familiar with the foundry’s operations. This insider knowledge was crucial for creating an efficient installation process and ushering in a new operational era for the foundry.

The new Magaldi Superbelt conveyors offer significant improvements over the old system, including enhanced gate and sprue transportation uptime, reduced energy and maintenance costs, and a quieter, cleaner working environment. Brandon Kruse, general manager of Magaldi Technologies, highlighted the innovative features of the new system, such as its ability to transport large volumes without generating dust or noise and its energy-efficient operation.

This project represents the second major capital initiative at the Marinette foundry in recent years, following a multiyear power service upgrade completed in 2023. Plant 4, spanning 327,000 square feet, operates six different grades of ductile iron using eco-friendly electric melt technology, underscoring Waupaca Foundry’s commitment to sustainability and operational excellence.

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