Ensuring consistent supply of bentonite is a crucial element of foundry management. Simply put: you don’t want to run short.
However, keeping track of bentonite consumption and supply can be complex. This is particularly so at larger foundries, which might receive multiple deliveries a week to keep up with demand, at foundries with limited bentonite storage capacity, or at foundries serving the automotive sector, where even the slightest delay is unacceptable.
Automazing the bentonite management
Supporting foundries at potential pain points and helping to improve the ease of doing business is one of the main aims of the digital innovation strategy at Calderys. The company has spent significant time understanding what these pain points are and developing a product development pathway that aligns with them. It’s a customer-centric approach that enables the company to offer solutions that make a tangible difference to foundries’ day-to-day operations.
One of the solutions that has resulted from this approach is the CALDE® e-Supply stock management system. Volumetric sensors installed inside the silo keep track of stock levels. These data are sent to the e-Supply software platform, which combines them with other factors, such as silo capacity, historic usage rates and the distance from a Calderys supply center, to determine when a new shipment of material will be needed. At this point, the system will create and send Calderys an automated order.
Maximilian Eilhard, Account Manager Metallurgy at Calderys, explains: “CALDE® e-Supply is an example of a vendor-managed inventory (VMI) system. These have long been used in the foundry industry to manage stocks of various process gases, such as hydrogen and oxygen.
“We have simply taken this well-known concept and applied it to manage bulk material supplies, such as bentonite and bentonite premixes, to prevent stock shortfalls and emergency orders.”
Foundries are therefore assured of proper and demand-based material planning, continued Eilhard.
“With CALDE® e-Supply, there are no more rush orders. It also eliminates the potential for human error creeping in when sending orders to Calderys, as the system is connected directly into our ERP system and runs automatically.”
CALDE®e-Supply: a simple implementation process
Installation at the customer site is relatively straightforward. In the first step, a technical audit is undertaken to establish whether there are any existing silo monitoring sensors on site and, if so, whether the output from those systems can be integrated with e-Supply. If no sensors are present or if they are unable to be integrated with e-Supply, new sensors are installed in the silos.
The sensors are then connected to an outstation box, installed close to the silo, which takes the sensor outputs and sends them to e-Supply’s web-based interface. Here, they can be viewed by foundry personnel at any time, from anywhere, via mobile devices, as well as on traditional desktop systems.
“We generally start running CALDE® e-Supply in parallel with the foundry’s traditional bentonite management system, with the customer continuing to place orders,” said Eilhard. “When we have established that the system works and is running well – building up the trust of the foundry operators – we let CALDE®e-Supply take over the ordering.”
Technology at the service of productivity
Pilot trials of CALDE® at Olsberg GmbH and Miele & Cie. KG have proven successful, with the technology now rolled out at further foundries.
Implementation at Olsberg GmbH was a particular test for the CALDE® e-Supply system. Located in North Rhein-Westphalia, Germany, the company produces series and hand-formed, core-intensive iron castings. The key challenge, however, was the site’s low silo capacities for bentonite and a bentonite-coal dust premix: just 37 tonnes and 31 tonnes, respectively.
“There’s not much capacity at Olsberg GmbH to add new shipments, which come in 25-tonne loads,” explained Eilhard. “The foundry has to run the silo level down quite low before it can take new shipments. To determine at what point an automatic product order should be generated, CALDE® e-Supply must ensure the silos have capacity to take delivery of the load, but sufficient remaining stock in the meantime to make sure the foundry doesn’t run short.”
Despite the challenge, CALDE®e-Supply has been successfully implemented at Olsberg GmbH, providing peace of mind at a previous pain point. And as the foundry’s general manager pointed out,
“if the CALDE® e-Supply systems work at our plant, it will work anywhere”.
“The ultimate benefit of e-Supply is time,” concluded Eilhard. “Customers no longer need to spend time managing and worrying about stocks of bentonite and other bulk materials, so they can focus elsewhere, on more critical tasks.”