‹ Back to Columns

How Foundries Are Changing Perceptions

Rich Jefferson

There are two critical communications ideas: brand and reputation. Brand is how you want to image your company to customers. You control what you tell your customers. Brand is how you compete. But you don’t control how the message is received. How your customers receive your messages and how you’re perceived—that’s your reputation.

The metalcasting industry does a fair job of proactively managing its brand. However, there seems to be a consensus the industry’s reputation could at least use some machining and polishing. We all know of instances in which news reports covered foundries that paid millions in OSHA fines for serious environmental violations and safety lapses that have led to injuries and deaths at the plant.   

That kind of news can be difficult for the industry to prevail against. If the industry doesn’t aggressively manage its reputation, who will? The industry has ways it can its value to a wide audience: Scientifically sound research, case studies, and community outreach.

Dan Oman illustrated using scientific research and case studies for reputation management in the 2018 Hoyt Memorial Lecture, Changing Perceptions: The Need for an “Unbalanced Force.”

Using science, research, and the attendant case studies can take years to accomplish, but they are absolutely necessary. Oman explained how the right communications is an “unbalanced force” that changes perceptions and improves a reputation. Public relations borrows from science with Oman’s take on Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object (reputation) at rest stays at rest, an object (reputation) in motion continues on its trajectory. In today’s patois, an unbalanced force is usually called a disruption.

Gray Iron Foundry Sludge as a Listed Hazardous Waste
Back in 1980, the industry needed to disrupt an object (regulation) in motion when the EPA decided to list gray iron foundry sludge as a Hazardous Waste. This would have put casting production costs through the roof. AFS persuaded EPA to join in testing sludge samples for cadmium, chromium, and lead. As a result of this AFS research, EPA’s perception was disrupted and neither dust or sludge from gray iron foundries was regulated as a hazardous waste.

By Oman’s calculations, the results of this AFS research with EPA resulted in cost savings to the industry of $30 million per year, or roughly $1 billion since 1980. Many in the industry are unaware of this great regulatory victory, Oman said.

Unbalanced Force 1, Bad Results 0

Foundry Sand Shakeout
In 1994, EPA had a regulatory trajectory to evaluate foundry sand at shakeout as a hazardous waste. This was a watershed. It was the first time the agency “gave any indication that it might have the ability to regulate the foundry production process, meaning the sand system,” Oman said. Where’s that unbalanced force when you need it?

AFS struck up a conversation in early 1995 with EPA. The agency stuck to its position that “foundry sand is a waste at point where mold is broken and separated from casting at the shakeout table.” In 1999, AFS invited EPA staff that had never been in a foundry to tour three plants in Pennsylvania. They drove together and got to know each other.

They got to see first hand the unintended consequences of the (agency’s) decision. We were at a small foundry in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We walked down the aisle, and on one side we have a hand molding operation, with some strike off sand. And 15 feet over here they were shaking out castings on the floor, and there was a pile of shakeout sand on the floor. I said ‘do you realize if I collect a sample of the sand from these two adjacent spots, they’re going to have the exact same characteristics? One is a hazardous waste, and the other isn’t even considered a solid waste. This is madness.’ Fortunately, they agreed.”

The EPA got that one right, and sent a letter thanking metalcasters for the tours.

Unbalanced Force 2, Bad Results 0

Beneficial Use of Foundry Sand
The case of beneficial use of foundry sand arose in the mid-1980s. Foundry sand was about to be regulated in a way that dramatically increased disposal costs. AFS research in 1989 led to joint research between the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources. Two “piles of highway construction materials” were tested to determine the quality of the leachate below both piles, one of foundry sand and one of, well, dirt.

The leachate quality was similar, and the foundry sand allowed less leachate than the dirt. As the Wisconsin Cast Metals Association asserted at the time, foundry sand was “cleaner than dirt.”  

USDA got in on the research, and after several years, EPA and USDA sent AFS a message:

“Based on the conclusions of the risk assessment conducted for specific Spent Foundry Sand applications as stated above, and the available environmental and economic benefits, the EPA and USDA support the beneficial use of silica-based Spent Foundry Sand specifically from iron, steel and aluminum foundry operations when used in manufactured soils and soil-less potting media and roadway construction as subbase.”

“I never get tired of reading that quote,” Oman said.

Unbalanced Force 3, Bad Results 0

AFS research is a potent unbalanced force advocating for the industry. A strong industry means a strong casting supply base for OEMs.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the July/August issue of Metal Casting Design & Purchasing