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50 Years of Quality, Reliability and Productivity

With a pedigree in greensand which has now been successfully transferred to no-bake customers, one foundry equipment supplier is celebrating five decades of repeat business and satisfied customers, thanks to a commitment to selling the customer exactly what they want.

For the past 50 years, moulding plant from FTL Foundry Equipment has adorned the shop-floors of foundries throughout the UK, Europe, Turkey, Russia and further afield. The distinctive FTL blue can be seen on continuous sand mixers and auto resin blending control systems, compaction tables, moulding lines (carousel, shuttle or moulding loop), auto rollover stripping, mould manipulators, tilt spray and coring belts, casting cooling lines, shakeouts, mechanical and thermal sand reclamation, sand cooling classifying, pneumatic conveying, sand distribution and storage hoppers.

Foundries throughout the world have chosen FTL for three primary reasons – Quality, Reliability and Productivity.

It is often said of FTL kit that “it does exactly what it is meant to and it does it consistently.” The often used quote is something managing director Brian Griffiths says fits the company philosophy. “We sell the customer what they need for the production they want. To us quality, reliability and productivity is key, and quality, reliability and productivity is what the customer wants too. For example, if a company asks us for plant that produces a certain amount of moulds per hour, that’s what we sell them. We are in the business of giving the customer exactly what they need to achieve the production rate they require providing good quality moulds 'day in and 'day out' - we do not overcomplicate it.”

Because FTL is so focussed on quality, reliability, productivity and on-time delivery, they have also been chosen by many to undertake complete layout and foundry relocation work. “We are good at fitting in with existing plant layouts when we are installing equipment,” Brian said. Because of this FTL can help a foundry plan any extensions and layouts with the minimum of disruption not just to the equipment but to the foundry’s all-important production schedule.

An undisputed track record

Although Brian’s statement seems unconventional in times when on-going technological development is paramount, it is backed up by a track record that shows the majority of FTL customers return time and time again for more equipment from them as their needs arise and as time dictates. Sales director John Griffiths says this is borne out of the faith existing customers have in what is proven technology. “We’ve done work for most of the major foundries in the UK, so we have lots of repeat business. We’ve been doing this for 50 years.

We have built our reputation on designing and supplying solutions to specific problems for our customers, rather than just selling them a list of standard machinery. We keep it relatively simple and we ensure our equipment does what we say it will do. That way, the customer has a large degree of control over the plant he has in his foundry. If a switch fails, the customer knows how to replace it, but high tech software is a different matter. If your equipment is based around this and something goes wrong, the options for speedy repairs are fewer. We also deliver on time which means not only is our equipment reliable but so is our word.”

The attitude is one which has seen FTL flourish over the decades but is it outdated or is there now a backlash to the technology overload consumers and manufacturers have to cope with on a daily basis? At FTL, the answer is clear – technology for technology’s sake is a costly and sometimes problematic response. “We aren’t saying that high tech solutions aren’t worth investing in, but what we are saying is why do so if you don’t need it? Why pay for something that is ‘all singing and all dancing’ if what you actually need right now is a reliable machine that will produce a consistent amount of moulds per hour to suit your personal demands? We don’t push high tech solutions unless they are beneficial but if that is the case, then FTL would have no problem rising to any challenge.

One of the most recent high tech solutions is the wireless controlled pouring lines system FTL installed at William Cook (UK) to eradicate the problem of metal spill damaging wiring; utilising the latest laser and radio control technology. “Again this was a particular need for a specific customer,” John told Foundry Trade Journal.

“What we generally concentrate on is reliable and proven technology backed up by on-line and personal support from our technicians. We believe using dial up, modem support is a far more effective use of technology. If there is a problem at a customer’s plant, our guys can log-on to their system and identify where the problem is in the programme which cuts down the solution time. Also every customer knows that if something does go wrong, we fix it – it’s as simple as that.”  They can have the benefit of FTL's back-up even when we are not on site.

From greensand to no-bake and beyond

Having initially built its reputation in the UK greensand business before natural progression saw foundries move from greensand to no-bake, FTL has been able to extend the knowledge and competence it has developed in the home market to international markets and is now experiencing a similar business model overseas where they have been winning repeat business from customers in Russia and Turkey. Brian explains: “Often plants in Russia or Turkey will start with a mixer then come back for reclamation equipment and moulding automation. A lot of greensand has moved to Turkey, Germany, India and China where more mass production is in vogue. We have completed over 80 installations in Russia in the past 15 years.

 Much of our reputation around the world has preceded us because we have experience and expertise in greensand moulding systems and have adapted our pedigree in highly automated greensand plants to no-bake. All of our first no-bake installations were large plants like the one at Parkfield Castings plc (UK) in the late 1980s to cast the channel tunnel segments. We have started big and sized down for those wanting smaller plants.”

In recent years the company has also adapted its tried and tested mould handling principles to lost foam and shell moulding automation.  

Teamwork throughout the supply chain

FTL are very much rooted in today’s and tomorrow's immediate requirements. “We developed our own greensand high pressure moulding machines, mixers and vibrating equipment which we are still selling today,” John said. “We have adapted this technology and expertise and incorporated it into no-bake. We build reliable and solid equipment. Our engineers have process experience so they understand and appreciate the industry and the demands on the equipment. The customer gets good value from us because we manufacture our equipment here in the UK rather than subcontract the work overseas. The value is in the equipment not in a middleman’s mark-up. Even the control panels are electronically and mechanically fabricated, assembled and tested in-house. We still manufacture in the UK so we can be competitive with a far better control on quality. This is also how we can control and guarantee the delivery.”

By employing a skilled workforce, FTL is able to support customers with its own fitters, maintenance and aftersales engineers and very seldom uses contractors. “It’s important to note that we undertake mechanical and electrical maintenance for other equipment, not just our own,” John continued. “We provide service and renovation and updating of other people’s equipment.”

FTL has been supplying vibratory equipment for over 25 years and has recently signed an agency agreement to offer Webac GmbH greensand equipment including: coolers, mullers, resin-coated plants, core mixers, sand processing, conveyers and thermal reclamation plants.  FTL has also been supplying Didion® rotary drums for more than 25 years for sand and casting separation and casting cleaning and the new Didion® rotary separator/metal reclaimer provides a solution to recover dross from the waste stream.

FTL has worked with many blue-chip companies over the years – St Gobain, Grainger & Worrall,

William Cook, Harrison Castings, Sheffield Forgemaster, Rolls Royce, Triplex Foundries and Ford to name but a few. So clearly they have not shied away from a changing world or changing needs. “Many of our old plants are still working after 20 years. Generally our customers install our equipment, make money on the investment, grow their business, and then come back for more, thus repeating the cycle.   John Griffiths said that "we get foundries to tell us where they want to be in five years’ time so we can design their plant in stages to cope with their anticipated growth.”

A 50-year legacy

Having worked with their late father Sid Griffiths, for many years after he set up the business, John and Brian are immensely proud that FTL is still a family business, with Brian’s son Matthew the third generation to work at the busy and often hectic site in Willenhall in the West Midlands. “We are still working to the same principles set out by Sid,” Brian said. “Listen to the customer, find out what they need, offer professional world-class expertise, provide tailored solutions including: detailed layouts, comprehensive quotations, in-house manufacture, installation and commissioning to the customers complete satisfaction.”

Most foundrymen know what FTL designs and sells, most will have either seen or experienced FTL equipment at some point over the past 50 years. If quality, reliability and productivity are top of their wish list, then FTL blue may well be the dominant colour in many more foundries over the next 50 years.

 

© FOUNDRY TRADE JOURNAL OCOTOBER 2013

 

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