Tim Bungarden spend his childhood in a family-run foundry owned by his parents.
He remembers the facility to be dusty and dirty. That’s why, when he added a foundry to his existing business in 2014, he installed south-facing windows and tall, light-colored ceilings and walls.
Water-based processes, as opposed to chemical-based ones, make the foundry environmentally conscious. It’s efficient in labor, running with 12 employees in two shifts – 10 on day shift and two on second shift.
“It’s a very lean and efficient operation,” Bungarden said about his newest addition to his business.
Cast Corporation was launched during 1994 in Buhl, making tooling for foundries. Machining was added to the line of services four years later.
Following six expansions at the Buhl site, the company finally outgrew the entire location and moved to Hibbing, where it acquired the former Reptron Manufacturing Servicesfacility in 2005.
Even after relocating, the expansions continued. Following the construction of a loading dock, the machine shop was doubled in 2010. In 2014, the foundry was expanded to serve mining industry needs.
Today, Cast Corporation has three sides to its business: pattern and mold manufacturing, machining and casting. Sometimes, all three capabilities get engaged in a job, other times just two or one.
For more than 50 percent of contracts, all three areas of the business get involved, providing a value-added full-service package.
Said Bungarden: “We like to grow in the markets where we can use all of our business’ various aspects.”
Cast Corporation has numerous product lines ranging from pole-line hardware to patterns for automotive foundries. Some bread and butter items include castings for recreational vehicles – parts that eventually are installed in four wheelers, side-by-sides and golf carts.
The idea to add a foundry was rooted in the proximity to the mines.
“They [mining executives] can come and see us. We can buy their scrap back from them.”
Mines notoriously wear-out castings in short order. The scrap parts get re-melted at the Cast Corporation facility and are poured into a new casting. With hardly any delivery logistics either way, the product cycle time for the castings is extremely short. That’s an important advantage since the launch of the foundry was challenging.
“We entered the market three years ago when it was depressed. Now, we’re seeing the mining industry recover and we’ve had nothing but optimism and great reception from the mines. Top management, purchasing, planners and maintenance folks were all here for tours.”
Even though the reception has been favorable Bungarden admits that market penetration has been a slow process. “We are the new guy on the block,” he said.
It is a time-intensive process to build a pattern, test it and ultimately secure repeat orders. Bungarden uses a well-known mediator, B & R Engineering-Sales, Inc., to facilitate sales to the mines.
Bungarden can look back at numerous expansions and has worked with the Arrowhead region’s economic development agencies on each project. The Northland Foundation and IRRRB as non-traditional lenders have provided low interest loans in partnership with Security State Bank.
“All of them have been of fantastic help,” Bungarden noted.
Last year, Cast Corporation received $82,000 from the Northland Foundation to finish off the foundry with some remaining equipment. Such investments strengthen Cast Corporation, which in turn impacts the area’s economy by providing 32 employees with stable, impactful jobs.
“We have quality employees with a work ethic. I’ve been to foundries all over the country and I see that this has been a real positive for us,” he said.
Two months ago, Cast Corporation launched a newly developed cope and drag line for horizontal molding, which enables the company to make a wide variety of size castings accommodating the production of smaller parts.
Diversification into other markets is a focus for the machining side of business as well. More recently, the company has changed its directions to facilitate mining needs. It also acquired more business in the power industry, manufacturing large motor components for bigger plants around the country.
Adding the mining industry to the client base has increased sales by approximately 40 percent, estimated Bungarden.
Future expansions are already on the horizon. Another addition will potentially connect the machine shop with the foundry. The 20 acres of land on which Cast Corporation is located provide ample space for any future developments.
Going forward, automation will play a key-role in any growth, stated Bungarden. Other long-term goals include the continuation of growth in a local markets on the machining side and the potential of exporting to mines in Canada and Mexico.