The C.A. Lawton Co. reported it broke ground recently for a 15,000-sq.ft. building described as the first phase of a multi-year, modernization and capacity expansion program. C.A. Lawton, or Calco, is a gray and ductile iron foundry in De Pere, WI, that produces large-dimension castings and machined components for domestic OEMs in the HVAC, municipal pump and valve, mining, and power generation industries.

In all, Calco said it would add 25,000-sq.ft. to its current operation. The building now under construction will be completed by the start of 2013, adding space for casting cooling, more cleaning capacity with a new table blast machine, and a new processing area for removing gates and risers.

The foundry said its new building represents progress in its multi-year plan to increase capacity and capabilities, and to address constraints to the current casting process.

The plan began in 2011 when Calco initiated efforts to improve the cleanliness, productivity, and capacity of its sand-handling system, including a new sand-transport technology and silos for storage.  Calco also achieved ISO 9001:2008 certification (2010) and other technical advancements.

According to president and CEO Alex Lawton, “Anytime you can demonstrate to your stakeholders, from employees to customers to owners to suppliers to your community, that you’re doing well enough to invest and that you’re optimistic enough to expand, it’s a great thing.

“More security of things like employment and supply are good, as are improvements in things like technology and work conditions,” he continued.

The second phase of the expansion will incorporate plant air-quality improvements; systems that improve the ergonomics of the operation; and greater productivity in the cleaning processes. That much of the program is based on ongoing R&D efforts, Calco indicated.

Calco stated that its multi-year project also will increase melting capacity and efficiency with new furnaces and updated molding systems in new manufacturing space.

In September, Calco was awarded a grant by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s State Energy Office invest in air compressors and new, more efficient lighting.

“We have worked very hard to create a unique value proposition consisting of the right mix of capital assets, technical proficiency, operational effectiveness, skilled people, good processes, and a strong culture,” commented Lawton. “A lot more hard work and investment lie ahead in order to bring our vision to the next level and accomplish our goals, but we’ve got a great group of people working on the strategies and plans to get there, including the team running point on the master plan for capital investment.”