Automotive Casting
This automotive casting won the “Best in Category” award for Aristo-Cast Inc. in the 2007 Investment Casting Institute’s Casting Contest.

Foundry managers can derive a great deal of value by participating in casting competitions. Since our first entry in the Investment Casting Institute Casting Contest in 2003, we’ve discovered the opportunities offered by winning performances. These efforts support our business plan in a variety of ways, and the process teaches a lot, too. For example,

1. Contests can be a vital “management tool” — Casting plant managers need to ensure a stable, profitable future and to make sure the people and resources within the enterprise are on a par with—or better than—the best in the business. We believe entering contests signals to our entire organization that we want all of our efforts to result in a product that is “best in class.” So we enter every casting contest we can, and strive to win all of them.

2. Entering contests builds confidence — Competing publicly can be intimidating for a foundry. However, we’ve institutionalized our participation in contests as a part of our business. There are many positive outcomes, but the greatest benefit is the tremendous confidence we have about confronting difficult designs and daunting technical challenges. We don’t shy away from them; we have come to welcome them.

3. Competing in contests drives casting excellence — Setting a goal of doing award-winning work is unifying. It creates an environment in which everyone is aware of his or her contribution, and this strengthens our esprit de corps. We expect to push one another, and so collectively we keep extending the limits of our capabilities. It’s a challenge shared by all and when success comes, everyone shares it.

4. Contests sustain a “winning shop” environment — We have built a “winning shop” attitude at Aristo- Cast: winning can happen anywhere from time to time, and managers need to sustain that environment at all times. It’s not enough merely to win an order; the casting produced must be a winner and that winning status must be periodically validated. Winning casting contests provides that validation, and cultivates a winning environment.

5. Entering contests motivates teams — Once you learn to integrate contest participation into an overall business approach, confidence, excellence, and a winning attitude materialize. These are the key components for building an awesome casting team. Our company attitude is: “Don’t assume we can’t do something. Assume we can.” Customers like this attitude.

6. Contests help you find the best customers — Winning contests gets us publicity, drives new business. We want to identify the best prospects – and gain opportunities with the right kinds of customers so we don’t fall into “a rut” of specialization. Being known for a variety of good work enlarges our pool of prospects and allows us to be selective.

7. Contests offer a two-way bridge — To pick the types of customers and kinds of projects that will keep our foundry on the cutting edge in the future, we need continuous traffic between our shop and the most demanding segments of the marketplace. Contest participation virtually guarantees this traffic. We go out into the world to compete publicly for casting honors. Consequently, casting buyers and designers learn about our work and capabilities and contact us. Sound simple? It is.

8. Contest participation strengthens your reputation — Once your organization has competed consistently for a number of years, you will have developed a reputation as a problem solver. It’s a desirable situation to be in, and it’s not something you can achieve in any other way. Competing year after year is an effective way to earn a reputation for casting excellence.

9. Contest winners become your “sales reps” — One of the ways this contest-entering effort has paid off for Aristo-Cast is that we have relatively low sales and marketing costs as a percentage of annual revenue. In our case, it’s a small fraction of 1%. And yet, we have sufficient visibility in the marketplace to provide the steady stream of opportunities coming to our organization, which keeps us busy, challenged, and feeling secure about the future.

10. “Non-winners” are winners too — It’s true that we don’t always earn a top award. While winning is one goal, a more important goal is to aim high, always. The process of entering contests helps us to keep aiming high, ensuring long-term success. Even if we don’t win, we’re often contacted by buyers who have noticed something about our capabilities. So, even if we “lose,” we can still “win.”

If more benefits are needed to make a decision to enter, consider this: the contest sponsors promote their contest and its entrants, spreading the word about our accomplishments. Entries are professionally photographed, researched, and publicized to the industry. This publicity results in numerous valuable placements, which rewards the contestants with business-building visibility. Competing with casting designs should be on the agenda of every metalcaster.

Jack Ziemba is the president of Aristo-Cast Inc., a ferrous and nonferrous investment casting operation in Almont, MI. Among Aristo-Cast’s recent awards has been a “Best in Category” award for an automotive casting in the 2007 Investment Casting Institute Casting Contest.