By Rich Rovito, Industry Reporter, WMEP

KirshAs many foundries struggle to survive or have disappeared altogether, Kirsh Foundry in Beaver Dam is going strong and continues to invest in its operations.

Kirsh is a manufacturer of high quality, engineered iron castings ranging in size from mere ounces to 60 pounds and in runs from short to production volume.  Kirsh serves many of the country’s world-class manufacturers, including Caterpillar, Ingersoll-Rand, John Deere and CNH Global.

Founded in 1937, Kirsh is an iron jobbing foundry. Jim Kirsh Jr. and Steve Kirsh, grandsons of the founder, run the business. The company has about 100 employees, including 85 hourly production workers, and the capacity to pour 2,400 tons per month in grey, ductile or malleable iron.

Kirsh offers Statistical Process Control, just-in-time production, solidification modeling, 3-D dimensioning software, complete production traceability and a full service pattern shop.

Committed to constantly upgrading its capabilities, Kirsh continues to invest in innovative ways to serve the ever-increasing and changing demands of its customers.

The deep recession had a particularly damaging effect on foundries. Many disappeared or reduced operations, and Kevin Paul, vice president of operations at Kirsh said: “There are still foundries that are going out of business.”  Contrary to this market performance, Kirsh is making some aggressive moves and continues to thrive.

The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Kirsh have forged a decade-long relationship. Through the partnership, the WMEP has worked with Kirsh on ISO certification, Value Stream Mapping, the Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI) and employee training.

About the impact of these initiatives, Paul said: “We’ve made some really good savings in the plant.”

“We have witnessed Kirsh’s transformation from one of many foundries in Wisconsin to one of the few left in the state because of its desire to be better,” said Joe Brown, senior manufacturing specialist at the WMEP. “The assistance provided by the WMEP has helped Kirsh to position its business to be more competitive in the marketplace.”

Kirsh has invested about $240,000 in a core-making machine, which creates an internal passage in the casting, as part of its involvement in PSI. The new high-tech machine reduces set-up time and gas usage while improving cycle time. The investment has made the plant more environmentally friendly while also improving the company’s bottom line, Paul said.

Kirsh is spending upwards of $1 million to move its core room closer to where castings are produced. This will allow the company to streamline the department and make room for another department to move from a separate building. The move is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Another ongoing initiative has been the consolidation of Kirsh’s operations into a single building in Beaver Dam. The company plans to cut off heating and cooling of buildings that no longer will be used for production. Those buildings will be transformed into storage space or be demolished.

“The goal is to reduce our footprint,” Paul said. “We will be more efficient and in a smaller space.”

As a result of the consolidation, Kirsh expects to reduce heat loss and product travel between departments.

“The flow will be better,” Paul added.

Kirsh also plans to invest in its molding area and will add a cooling conveyor, giving it a continuous flow of castings between departments. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015.

The projects and ongoing investments at Kirsh prove that a foundry not only can survive but thrive in today’s challenging economy.

Photo: Kevin Paul, Vice President of Operations at Kirsh.