A view of the pouring and molding operation, from the melt deck at Watts Water Technologies’ new lead-free foundry. “We wanted to have good integration,” general manager Tyler Stone explained, describing the link between the pouring and molding controls.
Designers and machine builders like to claim they provide “solutions,” which is true in a sense. But, every solution starts as a problem to be solved, and the process of getting from the problem to the solution involves research and evaluations, and decisions. That’s why the new, 30,000-sq.ft. foundry started by Watts Water Technologies in April this year has been remarkable: it’s the result of numerous decisions involving various stakeholders, aiming to address multiple objectives.
All this was accomplished in less than two years, with “solutions” provided by multiple suppliers and equipment builders.
“A foundry is a building that works like a big, complex machine with many subsystems, all integrated together,” according to Watts Water Technologies’ general manager Tyler Stone, “and getting that machine to work together takes some shakedown time. I’m sure we’ll have some more of it, because now we are starting to work into our first planned maintenance cycles, and we’re evaluating how worn are things, how are things behaving, whether things are achieving the appropriate frequencies, performing vibration analysis, etc., things like that.
“But, overall, I think we are poised to do a pretty good job with our ‘speed to market’.”
The speed to the market might have been a full stop if WWT had not made the decision to build the new foundry adjacent to its Franklin, NH, brass foundry. That sand foundry, in operation since 1970, produces a full range of castings used to produce a long list of products for residential and commercial water flow; water reuse and drainage; water quality products; and HVAC and connectors. These products are distributed worldwide under multiple brands.
The problem that set WWT on the course to a solution is the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, enacted in 2011 and taking full effect in January 2014, by which time all products used in handling or processing water that may be used for human consumption must be certifiably lead-free.
“We started thinking about what we should do with the implementation of the new legislation probably two or three years ago,” Stone said. While various alternatives were considered, the first critical decision was the one to build a new foundry at the Franklin site.
Note, however, that the operation needed to be entirely separate from the current production process, due to the lead-free standards established by the law. Because the Franklin campus also includes an extensive range of finishing, inspection, and assembly operations – the task of designing, building, and installing a coherent production process added another dimension of complexity.