How to Increase Foundry Worker Retention with Electromagnetic Pumps
Blistering heat. Bubbling, sparking vats of molten metal. The ever-present risk of dangerous spills or even explosions. For foundry line workers, it’s all just another day at the office.
The work performed by foundry workers – those who hand ladle, in particular – can be a dangerous and physically demanding grind. Employees work long days, mostly on their feet, lifting heavy ladles filled with scalding liquid metal in scorching heat.
As plant managers and process engineers know well, retaining employees in that punishing environment – and keeping them safe – can be a challenge.
There is, however, a way to neutralize many of those risks while also improving the quality and efficiency of the work: electromagnetic (EM) pumps.
EM pumps are fully enclosed systems installed inside furnaces that use magnetism (not moving parts) to move molten metal. The pumps, which have been around since the 70s, allow foundries to continuously improve processes, reduce costs and, critically, shrink their staffing challenges.
Here’s how EM pumps help solve the foundry industry’s three most common staffing problems.
Unsafe Working Conditions
In 2020, 6.4 of every 100 U.S. foundry employees suffered from a nonfatal injury at work, according to the BLS. The risk of heat exhaustion, muscle strain, and burns are among the most common hazards.
In the summer, foundries can reach three-digit temperatures. Hand-ladlers, who wear heavy PPE and handle liquid metal that can reach 1400° F, are at near-constant risk of overheating.
In that heat, workers lift ladles that can weigh in at over 25 pounds, plus the weight of the molten metal as well as castings that can weigh hundreds of pounds. The constant heavy lifting puts employees at risk of muscle strains and tears.
Those workers, who are often overheated and overexerted, run the risk of spilling the liquid metal they ladle. Any slip-up can be disastrous. Molten aluminum, for example, sticks to the skin when spilled and causes severe burns that are difficult to heal and result in an average of 73 days of missed work.
EM pumps eliminate many of those risks – and make foundries exponentially safer.
Pumps pull liquid metal from below a furnace’s surface and eliminate the need for hand-ladling. This greatly reduces the risk of spills and saves workers from overexerting themselves in the heat.
It’s unsurprising that dangerous conditions in foundries lead to high turnover.
This frequent turnover feeds into a vicious cycle. Employees who do remain must pick up the slack of those who quit. And foundries – who are expected to constantly increase throughput and decrease scrap rates – are forced to put more pressure on remaining employees to produce. Those employees are then at higher risk of burnout and may eventually quit, often with short notice or none at all.
EM pumps can stop this cycle. In addition to making working conditions safer for employees, they also make the work less burdensome that, in turn, increases retention and productivity.
Employees at factories using EM pumps are freed up to focus on more rewarding, less physically demanding, higher-level tasks – and have more incentive to stick around.
The pumps also increase the quality and efficiency of the work, itself. Overworked employees are primed to make mistakes, which often result in increased scrap and reduced throughput. Because EM pumps relieve the burdens placed on workers, the incidence of error drastically decreases.
Many foundries struggle to recruit new workers.
For the reasons described already described, the industry struggles to shake a reputation for being unsafe and challenging. Adding to the challenges is the fact that many foundries are in sparsely populated, rural areas with limited applicant pools.
EM pumps are the solution to sluggish recruitment. The pumps make foundries safer and less demanding, and a more appealing place to work.
Moreover, pumps automate the work of casting so fewer employees, overall, are needed. Pumps will never replace workers, but they help fill in gaps and eliminate the need to immediately replace retiring or resigning workers.
Get Started Today
Since its founding in 1981, CMI Novacast has supplied foundries with EM pumps and related systems (including heated launders, preheat ovens and control systems) that alleviate their most common pain points. For four decades, CMI Novacast has manufactured EM pumps that have helped foundries resolve their staffing challenges.
Speak with a CMI Novacast factory expert about your casting application and learn how electromagnetic pumps can improve your worker retention, production throughput and revenue generation.