There are many reasons why the
process is long, involved and expensive.
The main stumbling block, sources say,
is the difficulties most Chinese foundries
experience when working to Western
standards. “This is a country that’s been
casting materials for hundreds of years,
and in the last 15 years foundries have
been asked to cast according to standards they never had to meet before,”
says Greg Johnson, President and CEO
of United Valve, a valve service company in Houston, TX.
The desire for new business and profitability also affects quality. Many Chinese foundries that specialize in wax or
sand castings now try and do both to
increase business. Perfecting a new
process may take more time than the
vendor lets on. “The techniques for each
are very difficult, and doing one well
doesn’t mean the other can be done
equally well,” notes Bob Smith, Director of Safety and Quality Management
for McJunkin RedMan Corporation,
Despite China’s reputation for low-cost production, manufacturing costs
are on the rise. Employees are demanding—and getting—more money; prices
for raw materials are high; and casting
operations are energy intensive, requir-
PHOTO COURTESY BOB SMI TH, MCJUNKIN RED MAN
Chinese foundry works dip the valve body and bonnet wax molds in slurry prior to covering them
with sand. This slurry/sand process is repeated 5 to 12 times (depending on the size of the
casting) to add thickness and strength to the mold.
ing major expenditures for heat and
Adding to these concerns is an industrial infrastructure that in many parts of
the country remains a work in progress,
a factor that affects foundry operations,
manufacturing costs and profit margins.
There is also the government’s policy
of seizing land when it wants to redevel-
op an area for attractive businesses such
as high-tech, even if this means shutting
down foundries and other heavy industries with viable export businesses. A
buyer could find a foundry that meets
the requirements of its AML and soon
discover it has been put out of business
by local authorities.
Wax molds are baked prior to pouring. Molds must be hot when the metal is poured to prevent
"cold shuts" (metal freezing off narrow passages in the mold).
PHOTO COURTESY BOB SMITH, MCJUNKIN RED MAN
Companies seeking to firm up manufacturing deals with foundries in China
must proceed with extreme caution.
“A buyer needs to inspect a plant’s
capacity and power supply,” says Kenneth Felder, Material Master Manager
and Manager of the Pipe, Valve and Fitting AML for Valero Energy Corp., San
Antonio, TX. He adds that electricity
restrictions mean “a lot of metal is
poured at night,” which can reduce the
amount of time foundries devote to casting valves, and tempt some to cut back
on heat treatments and other necessary
It’s also critical to determine where a
foundry sources raw materials. Felder
notes that buyers must be certain a
plant isn’t trying to cut corners by using
off-spec metals or inferior scrap from its
own operations or from another
foundry’s, much less stolen material.