Saturday, December 15, 2018Canada's Leading Online Business Magazine

Forest City Castings

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Forest City Castings Inc. creates premium quality castings using graphite mould casting technology, and this young company with plenty of experience under its belt provided castings for projects such as illuminating the Statue of Liberty after Hurricane Sandy, and parts for prototypes of electric cars.

Forest City Castings specializes in graphite mould making, aluminum and zinc castings, and custom CNC machining, providing customers with turnkey service for their specific casting needs. Michael VandenBoom and Scott McRae started the company in 2004 with only three employees, and grew this business exponentially, and today’s 73 full time employees work in a 114,000 square foot facility based in St. Thomas, Ont.

Graphite casting provides die cast quality castings for projects that require lower number of pieces cast. In the casting industry, sand casting serves markets for lower quality products, while die casting provides for the highest quality products but is only cost efficient for high volume products. Graphite mould technology offers a middle road — die cast quality for low to medium volume products.

“I’ve spent my whole career in graphite casting and I wanted to start my own business because I saw the potential of the graphite casting in the market. Graphite mould technology, which is a very unique technology – there aren’t too many companies in the world that do this. The graphite mould technology is used by the industries for short to medium volume cast parts. These products are as close to die cast part as you can get, but for only 10 per cent of the tooling cost. So if the client needs say 200 to 5000 parts a year, they need die cast quality but will use our graphite technology,” says VandenBoom.

The graphite casting has been around since the 1980s, which is young in comparison to sand and die casting. That is one of the reasons graphite remains relatively underutilized by the engineering professionals, creating a whole new market of opportunities for Forest City Castings.

The company’s ideal customer is a client who gets parts machined out from solid. They traditionally pay high prices for machining their parts, so they seek to save money.

“That’s why our ideal customer is one who’s seeking to create new parts for new projects. It’s also about being in front of the potential customer at the right time, because, surprisingly, many are not aware of this option. It’s very exciting when we have a client who was not aware of the potential coming in, and they start thinking in terms of ‘How else can we use this technology’?,” says VandenBoom.

“We do a lot of prototypes. If the client is not sure whether the product will be accepted in the market or they are not sure the design is going to work, they’ll use us as precursor to die cast. They order some prototype parts, they tweak them according to their needs, and then they order die cast tool,” added Scott McRae.

Industries Served

Forest City Castings provides services to medical, communications, electrical, industrial and transportation clients. “The medical industry has been strong for us for a couple of years now. Prior to 2009, communications had been also a strong driver. Now we are getting into wireless, military, electronics, and so on. We are possibly one of the largest – if not the largest – graphite casting companies in the world, so we are constantly pushing the parameters with graphite casting,” says VandenBoom.

In the medical industry, graphite mould products provide aesthetically pleasing castings with superior surface finishes and high durability that can withstand the harshest of medical environments. In the communications industry graphite castings offer good heat transfer properties and opportunity to create complex shapes and geometry. In the electrical segment Forest City Casting provided parts for light fixtures, and receptacles and housings in all shapes and sizes.

In the industrial sector these castings offer exceptional strength and surface finishes, and over the years, the company created products such as heat sinks for cooling industrial engines, components for air compressors, industrial equipment and even castings for the simplest of equipment – hammers. In the transportation industry, Forest City Castings provided castings to some of the world’s largest automakers, where graphite moulds offer an ideal solution for development mules — prototype cars built for testing new equipment and designs.

“I would say that our strength is in our diversification. That’s what allowed us to grow over the years. Having sales in a variety of industries really allowed us to stay competitive and not be affected by the economy,” added Devin McRae, Production Engineering Manager.

The company does not shy away from challenges proposed by the clients, always trying to find suitable solutions. “We are very clear with our customers where we see the project going, whether it’s possible for us to deliver or whether the project needs revising for us to deliver, but we always take on challenges and try to make things work, ” says VandenBoom.

With its unique focus and effective diversification across various industries, the company also continues to expand its services, including chemical coating, plating, painting (wet and powder), silk screening, pad printing, assembly work and vibratory de-burring, and plans to add more to become a true one-stop-shop in graphite casting.

“We continue adding and updating our machines, because the industry technologies continue to evolve. The technologies we use today were not available 10 years ago and they are already becoming outdated, so we constantly stay on top of new technologies, new programming, new cutting methods, new cutters, etc.,” says Devin McRae.

A Family Company

The company’s biggest challenge to date is keeping up with the demand, and finding the skilled professionals that can deliver and fit the company culture. Forest City Castings is constantly seeking new talent, quality workers, CNC operators, and programmers, working to get the right people for the right position, finding people with the right skills but also the right mindset.

“We also want to maintain the family feel within our business. We are family driven business, and we want that to run through our shop. We are all very hands on, working on the floor. We work together and build personal relationships with our employees. Our employees are not just a number to us. We do the small things, such as employee luncheons, and holiday parties, and all that,” says Scott McRae.

“Before we launched Forest City Castings, what we didn’t like was that the companies only took the money out of the business, and what we didn’t like was being a number rather than a person. We are not owned by any conglomerate or an investment firm, so we don’t have deep pockets,” adds VandenBoom.

While the sand and die casting markets are already saturated, the graphite casting remains an underserved market, with some potential clients not even being aware of the option for small run castings. That’s why the company’s growth plan includes raising awareness with potential clients and presenting this unique solution deeper into the marketplace. Forest City Casting grew exponentially over the past several years and the management plans to maintain its competitive edge by offering a one stop shop solution to customers.

www.forestcitycastings.com

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