Local foundry bucks downward spiral with $3 million equipment upgrade

While news of manufacturing plants going offshore or closing down is all too common in this volatile market, a 78-year-old Victorian foundry is bucking the trend, utilising a $3 million equipment upgrade to boost its steel castings business business both at home and abroad.

The equipment upgrade at Keech Australia’s Bendigo foundry will allow the steel castings manufacturer to battle import competition, the company says.

The upgrade, at Keech’s No. 2 Foundry, will enable the firm to “dramatically increase output of ground engaging tools along with its agricultural points and tynes and industrial products, while improving quality and ensuring cost competitiveness,” claims the company.

According to Keech Australia chief operating officer, Cameron Watts, the upgrade began a year ago, when the company realised that in order to stay afloat, it must battle import competition from China and India, by pushing well-made, locally produced product in to both local and overseas markets.

“However, there is a significant strong demand for products which are manufactured in Australia due to their superior quality and a market willingness to support Australian industry where possible,” said Watts.

“To compete, we’ve spent the past year undertaking a $3 million upgrade of our No. 2 Foundry, which involved a complete overhaul of our facilities, from our moulding equipment to our cooling and shakeout systems.

“We’ve achieved a dramatic increase in production capacity for new castings by installing the latest in moulding and pouring technology.

“Our new systems have also improved our dimensional accuracy, which means higher quality products.”

In January this year, Keech announced it was working on delivering product for some strong global contracts, and would be hiring new staff so it can expand its operations.

“Our Number Two Foundry has been refitted with the latest pouring and moulding technology for steel casting and will be operational next year,” said Keech CEO Herbert Hermens at the time.

“We need to fill existing customer orders and future contracts, so we are putting on new weekend shifts and more full time positions in foundry operations, patternmaking, engineering, IT, logistics and R&D.”

The recent installation of equipment in Bendigo Foundry has reportedly allowed Keech to dramatically increase output of ground engaging tools, along with its agricultural points and tynes and industrial products, while improving quality and ensuring cost competitiveness.

As part of the upgrade, Keech also improved the company’s environmental footprint, with more than 90% of sand used in the production process able to be recycled.

The new, state-of-the-art technology automatically is said to separate the sand from each casting, ensuring more sand is able to be recycled.

“With the improved process efficiency we also ensure reduced energy use,” said Watts.

“There’s also less wear on the equipment, no airborne silica and less clean up time. As a result, we’re able to produce more competitively priced products.”

Keech Australia also produces steel castings for use in national and international mining operations, excavation, construction, agriculture, rail transport and the defence industries at its nearby No. 1 Foundry.