We spoke with Enrique Ramirez from AB&I Foundry in Oakland, California to learn more about his experience using THORS. Ramirez was recently appointed Cupola Furnace Supervisor at this foundry that manufactures pipe fittings and custom castings. Read on to learn how he got the manufacturing knowledge he needed to excel at his new position.
In 1993, right after high school, Ramirez started working at AB&I with no prior foundry experience. He had no knowledge about the working of a foundry when he started: "I just came in here, started from the bottom and learned my way around the foundry. I started [working] in the cleaning room. After everybody went home, I used to clean the muller and the sand cooler for the molding machines. After two years, I moved into the core room."
The learning process
Excellence in any field starts with a passion to learn. Ramirez was keen on brushing up on the basics of a cupola and gray iron before his transition into the cupola furnace supervisor role. He studied Cupola Furnace Operations and Gray Iron Fundamentals for two weeks. His learning method was simple: take the course and then go back and review areas that were not clear the first time around. When asked about his experience after taking the THORS courses, he was happy to report "I'm not going in blindfolded now". He is now better equipped to ask those good questions when he is on the floor with the furnace operators.
Talking about his earlier methods of learning on the job, he said, "My immediate supervisor in the core room was overlooking all the production and molding. He started cross-training me as well. Since core and mold go together, he would transition me back and forth [between the two areas]. Now, I am transitioning into [the] cupola [area] slowly but surely."
Prior to his move to the cupola furnace area, Ramirez learned from his supervisors and other operators. It took him one to two years to fully learn the functions of the cupola back then.
Ramirez said the THORS course taught him how the cupola furnace works, how to troubleshoot issues, and how to ask the right questions. "The class helped me implement what I am learning right now so I am not so lost. I understand cupolas much faster. I went in with nothing and it was a big help to me. I got the knowledge of how it works, what makes it work, what to expect, and how to troubleshoot it."
Efficiency through knowledge
Equipped with the fundamentals and background of cupola operations, Ramirez said his efficiency at work picked up. "I'm 35% more efficient and knowledgeable having taken the THORS course," he said. Since AB&I is the only foundry in the Bay Area producing cast iron, there is a scarcity of people with knowledge of foundries. "I would recommend this [course] to any new hire in the department." Ramirez compared his current cupola supervisor transition period to the one he made going into the molding department: "I was blind for a year and a half until I started asking the right questions. If you don't know 'why', then you are just following instructions. I would recommend for anyone in the cupola department to take this course."