Sometimes these things write themselves

You will see here two photos taken this week in Kansas within five minutes of each other.  A recently built hotel has a row of five (yes five) Tesla charging stations. They were all empty last night and they were all empty this morning. 

The price of gas is $1.65 today. 

I acknowledge that if you are buying a Tesla (Nikola Tesla was surely a distant cousin of mine) then I doubt you pay attention to the price of gas.  

But there it is. 

Busy! January 19 2015

This just seems appropriate

Many thanks to Adam from Pennsylvania who sent us this attractive photo and in so doing will receive a free lunch from AP.  Here we have some Austempered Ductile Iron opening a bottle of Iron.  I worked as a bartender for many years and pouring Iron City Beer enabled me to attend the University of Pittsburgh ... where i studied metallurgy.  Somehow I think there is some closure here, but I am not smart enough to pinpoint it.

Thanks again to Adam.  You, too, can get a free lunch by sending in a photo with a piece of AP paraphernalia (notebook, coffee mug, bottle opener, etc.).

Some scuttlebutt

Heard on the street … looks like 85000 railcar builds in 2015.  Holy cow, that’s a lot of railcars.  If you supply the rail industry you need to be ready.

AFS Metalcasting events for supply chain

The AFS Metalcasting Supply Chain Summit and the AFS Metalcasting Design Summit will be held in February in Chicago.  If you buy or design parts you should attend.  Call AFS at +1-800/537-4237 for more details.

Watch this movie

Let’s try something everyone can connect with.  I watched a movie this weekend, The Grand Budapest Hotel.  This is a well-reviewed movie and for good reason. Imagine “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” had a child with “The Great Gatsby”.  The offspring would be this movie.  Good stuff.

Positive Vibes, January 6, 2015

AFS Marketing and Selling of Castings Conference

The AFS Marketing and Selling of Castings Conference was last month in Chicago and the response was, I think, very good.  Metalcasting salespeople were in good spirits and enjoyed a quality program put on by AFS.  The speakers were first-rate.  Attendees traveled from some considerable distances.

A challenge I see for future events is a more casting-specific flavor.  Specifically, while the speakers were excellent, they could only be so casting-centric.   That is not a criticism, just an observation.

Austempering Enjoyment for the Technical Reader

If you haven’t yet read the paper from AP’s Dr. Kathy Hayrynen and Justin Lefevre on Austempered Materials for Powertrain Applications, you should.  You can download it here.

A Uniquely American Thing

I suggest you take in this opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal on the current US energy boom.  Bret Stephens writes that this phenomenon of “fracking happened in the U.S. because Americans, almost uniquely in the world, have property rights to the minerals under their yards. And because the federal government wasn’t really paying attention.”  He is so right.  This innovation and the actual production would be impossible in other countries with more entrenched bureaucracies.  Please read the whole thing.

More WSJ

The media are awash in predictions for 2015.  The Journal takes a stab in this piece on “What to Watch in Business in 2015”.  Short answers for metalcasters: Ag will be down 15% overall and Light Vehicles could finally match a 12-year high of 17 million.  When coupled with a record year in railcar builds, it looks to be a busy year for metalcasters.  



AP in the news! Dec. 5, 2014

AP supports training of foundry salespeople

We just wrapped up the first-ever AP University ADI Sales Seminar.   Fourteen professional salespeople representing eight ductile iron foundries convened in Oshkosh, WI, yesterday.  The goal of the seminar was to present new sales materials generated by AP for use in selling austempered ductile iron (ADI) as part of the casting conversion process.  Initial results look promising and a good time was had by all.  Look for the next AP University ADI Sales Seminar some time in 2015.

AP’s Henry Frear in modern casting magazine

Be sure to check out page 78 of the November 2014 modern casting magazine.  You can see it here.  We are very proud of Henry and his team’s efforts.  You can be sure that we will try hard to get some ADI on next year’s car!

Casting conversions... Sometimes you are too late

I am at the hospital.   There is no truth to rumors that I am trying to reverse my lobotomy.  Anyway, I was looking at one of those machines that goes "beep".  I saw a weldment that begged to be a casting... And then I saw the same part as a casting.   I was too late. I guess the good news is that someone must have read this blog!   Here are the photos. 

Collaboration, November 12, 2014

From Automotive News …

This blogger believes strongly in listening to the voice of the customer.  Bob Hegbloom of Chrysler says he has listened:

The buzz in Detroit is that the lightweight aluminum body of the upcoming 2015 F-150 pickup will give Ford a significant advantage.  Bob Hegbloom, chief of the Ram brand, isn’t buying it.  After a lot of customer research, he said, “I don’t see anyone asking for an aluminum truck today.”

Later, in the same article:

Hegbloom acknowledged, though, that the Ram must shed pounds as the industry strives to meet rising federal fuel economy standards and customers’ desire for good mileage.  “Do we have to lightweight our truck?” he said. “Absolutely.”

This is interesting.  The press for lightweighting continues, and it will take several forms.  Ductile iron and ADI should be included on that menu of solutions.

Working with Suppliers

In the same issue there is an article where GM CEO Mary Barra discusses having a more collaborative relationship with suppliers. The article mostly focuses on long term planning, but there was this tidbit:

Barra hopes that GM’s recent playbook of bringing larger suppliers into the vehicle-development process earlier and giving them more long-term certainty will begin to erase the skepticism. Already, it has given a few suppliers enough peace of mind to build facilities near GM assembly plants in Spring Hill, Tenn.; Kansas City, Kan.; and Arlington, Texas.

When AP gives training seminars to engineers (like AP University) we often state that designers and buyers should bring metalcasters into the design process earlier for technical reasons.   There is a LOT of money to be saved by solving metalcasting problems before they happen.  

That said, there is a small problem … this is an illustration of the “seen and unseen”, as described by BastiatIf you do it right then the cost of the extra core or the added machining operation or the unwanted alloy never happens.  It’s another reason why buyers and designers should build meaningful relationships with metalcasting suppliers. Also, being collaborative instead of being a bully is just the right thing to do.

Holy cow, in this single post we have now have discussed supply chain, Austrian economics, the Golden Rule, and metalcasting training.  The mind reels (at least mine does).

Last week’s AP University

Last week AP held the sixth session of the AP University casting design seminar.  We hosted 29 people from a variety of industries like heavy truck, mining equipment, light vehicle, and others.  We spent 2.50 days learning about casting design and casting conversions and metallurgy.  A good time was had by all.  We want to extend our thanks to our excellent friends who made guest presentations.  Vadim Pikhovich from Magmasoft and Scott Case of Farrar Corporation both did a super job in supporting these training efforts.

The seminar includes a tour of Joyworks Studio in Ann Arbor, MI, where we did a demonstration of ductile iron production.  Check out this video of the ductile iron treatment process:

Later on Justin poured a nobake mold of ductile iron:

And here is a photo of AP's John Keough explaining a casting tree to some designers:

The next session of AP University is in May 2015.  It is already filling fast.

Sales! Nov. 4, 2014

Hear it from the Marines

I attended a football game recently where the Marine Corps had a recruiting booth set up outside the stadium.  I asked them about their Sales Cycle.  They told me:

·         A recruiting sales cycle usually lasted from one to five visits.

·         Ten visits means they are wasting your time but they might come back later

·         Recruiting officers is different than recruiting enlisted.  Seniors and grad students are better candidates because they need a job.  Underclassmen take more effort as they still feeling their way around.

Very interesting!  Ten visits usually DOES mean they are wasting your me!  Some people just like having guests and getting a free lunch.  This is a good transition to the next topic:

What Vasko is reading

Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling is a neat book.  Rackham discusses the idea that Sales Managers often feel a constant pressure to CLOSE.  Of course that is important stuff, but Rackham’s research makes a differentiation.  On small sales this emphasis is well-founded.  On large sales this emphasis can be deadly as savvy buyers are simply not ready to close on a big purchase on the first or second visit.  It is a good read! 

AFS and Marketing

Be sure to attend the 2014 Marketing & Selling of Castings Conference on December 10-11, 2014, at The Westin O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.  Check it out here.


Back with more! October 22, 2014


Applied Process conducted the first-ever AP University Purchasing of Ferrous Heat Treatment Seminar at our purpose-built classroom in at AP in Livonia. There were 21 attendees who came from far and wide to learn about how to purchase various kinds of heat treatments, not just austempering. 

Multiple attendees told us they are being asked to make large-scale purchases on heat treat services with no prior training in the field.  Nobody expects to create metallurgists in one day, but the attendees still learned the difference between various cycles.  These professionals become better at their work when they know the difference between bainite and martensite, even at the same hardness.

We at AP were thankful they took the time to visit with us.  AP people go to great lengths to make these things high-quality and non-commercial, which is how it should be.  In the final analysis, the post-class survey found that 100% of respondents would recommend the class to colleagues.   

Watch out for another session in 2015! 

A Macroeconomic class in a one-minute read …

… about moral hazards, from the Economist, discussing government bailouts in China:

"… a sudden (economic) collapse is most unlikely. The same thing that got China so deep into debt is what keeps it from blowing up: state control of the financial system and the perception, often substantiated, of government backing for debts. Instead the biggest danger is “zombification’, a hollowing-out of China’s financial system along the lines of Japan’s slow decay over the past two decades.  Can China avoid this fate? Much rests on whether the government can uproot moral hazard from the financial system. By removing the perception of state guarantees and allowing failing companies to fail, the authorities could force banks and investors to allocate their capital much more carefully, slowing the rise in debt.  There are reasons for concern. Officials tend to go weak at the knees when even relatively inconsequential companies fall into distress."  

There are all kinds of temptations when you are spending someone else’s money.  This will be interesting.


Big Harvest

From Farm Equipment Magazine:

" ... 74% of corn (is) rated either “good” (50%) or “excellent” (24%), it is well above last year’s 60% … On a year-over-year basis, corn prices are down 21.6%, soybeans are down 27.6% and wheat is down 26.6%." 

If you make agricultural castings, what should you make of that?   Well, someone still has to harvest it all, so some consumable components will still be flying off shelves, even in a down year for ag work.  Even so, anecdotal evidence tells me that many shortliners are doing just fine as they provide a more nimble purchase option for credit-strapped farmers and dealers.  Stay tuned for more as this situation develops.


I read the Automotive News today, oh boy! - Sep. 27, 2014

Lightweighting continues

There is an article on lightweighting efforts at Toyota.  It states:

Toyota Motor Corp. is set to become the next global automaker to begin making the expensive shift from steel to aluminum for a high-volume vehicle.  … The U.S.-built Camry, the country's best-selling car, is slated to get an aluminum hood in 2018, according to a source familiar with the plans. … Toyota declined to comment on specific plans for the Camry but said it plans to use more aluminum across its lineup. … "Toyota has plans to use aluminum on future vehicles for hood, closures and parts for lightweighting," said spokeswoman Jana Hartline. "Also, we will increase usage of mix metals and resin materials to enhance lightweighting efforts."

As an engineer I have no trouble with whatever material does the best job at the lowest cost and weight.  That said, I am sure that iron castings, especially Austempered Ductile Iron, can contribute to smaller vehicles the same way they are applied in heavy trucks.  Any executive who approves aluminum these days achieves a rare two-for-one: they look like a visionary and get to jump on the bandwagon at the same time. I will try harder … and the iron casting industry needs to try harder, too. 

Suppliers becoming more important?

In the latest Automotive News I saw this tidbit in an editorial about consolidation in the automotive supply base:

Today, fewer and larger suppliers control many key technologies and can choose which automakers get their latest products first. And as automakers expand their international markets, they need suppliers that have global footprints.  It's another reason why automakers must build more collaborative relationships with their supply-chain partners. Even the largest carmakers cannot push around suppliers such as Bosch, Denso, Magna International and Continental.

True enough!  I would amend it only this way: None of us should push any of us around, anyway.  Suppliers will bend over backward for those customers who treat them with respect.  The best customers know this and they benefit from it.

Austempered Ductile Iron in the field

This ADI bottle opener is being put to the test in Athens, Ohio, among some thirsty individuals.  It will be an excellent experiment in the wear-resistance of this material.  This man will get a lunch on AP for sending us the photo.

Possibilities! Sept. 22, 2014

Sorry it has been a while since the last post.  I will try harder.

AFS Metalcasting Congress program taking shape

I am honored to chair the AFS Division 14 Management and Marketing Committee.  We are putting together a very good program for the AFS Metalcasting Congress in April, 2015, in Columbus, OH.  Once we get some things finalized I will post the program here (or at least link to it).

Applied Process continues training outreach

Most technical salespeople will agree that in their chosen profession you will win some and you will lose some.  If you cannot win some then you need a new profession, and if you cannot handle losing to a capable opponent then you also need a new profession.  What nobody wants on any side is misinformed decision making.  That is one reason why we are holding the first-ever AP University Purchasing of Ferrous Heat Treatment Seminar at AP this week.  It is just for buyers!  Stay tuned and I will report on how it turned out.

 Freight continues to rise

The slow-moving recovery continues.  From Heavy Duty Trucking:

“Spot market freight volume continued to achieve record-setting levels in August, increasing 32% compared to the same month in 2013, while freight availability remained constant, with just a 0.4% uptick from July to August, according to the DAT North American Freight Index released Tuesday.”

 What Vasko is Reading

I am reading Abundance by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.  This is a book that seeks to refute the doomsayers who foresee starvation and perpetual suffering for mankind.  These authors have hope for the betterment of humanity’s condition based on certain megatrends, primarily technological.

It is an easy read and very accessible.  Too often people try to make themselves look intelligent by playing the role of wise soothsayer.  Only the soothsayer can see the coming catastrophes while regular people mindlessly stumble about in a Polyanna-like trance.  These authors do the opposite – they foresee possibilities for us all, especially those in poverty.

I am not done yet, but I have an initial take.  I have faith that many of these technical leaps will happen, but I do not have faith that human greed will allow for their intended implementation.

You will all have a written report when I am done with the book.