Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Train parts are definitely something we get asked about regularly here at MOTOA Group sourcing, and the parts are all over the map, but in this case we were asked to source a long, thin ductile iron step piece. Imagine how many train steps are out there in the world - and we work and source in LCC markets that are very train-heavy, so this was a no brainer for us.
In fact, while we source rail parts from India, this particular part was bid very competitively from Thailand, which not only has its own extensive rail system, but is also Japan’s #1 FDI partner for manufacturing, meaning that there are heaps of Japanese rail parts made in Thailand. You know if the Japanese are involved there’s not going to be a question on quality, so we knew it was a good fit for one of our foundry partners that specializes in iron castings.
The challenges on this project started with the design and tooling concerns. The nodular iron train part itself was long and skinny, meaning that it couldn’t fit in many standard sized mold boxes, so it had to be moved to a larger box. However, in the larger box it was shaped just oddly enough that it ate up space which resulted in low bunch weight, meaning that a number of foundries (especially those in India in this case) declined the part.
Two foundries in Thailand came through, which brought us to the next sticky wicket, which was that the buyer wanted to piece as cast, not machined, while the foundry was concerned about straightness and wanted to be able to machine any inconsistencies (which is common), but also preferred the chance to machine because it allows for “free” sectioning.
This all came about because the ductile iron train part itself was oblong and thin - and as cast - and had very strict rules about tolerances, meaning that there was little to no room for variance in shrinkage and no way to fix any variations with machining.
As we worked through things with our two partners, we got to a competitive bid with both (one a bit better than the other), submitted it, everything went well and then it came back that the foundry needed ISO. Now, we have no issues with certs, and most of our foundries carry ISO certs, if not other specialized certs like 16949, but, with that said, a cert is a piece of paper and there are plenty of people out there capable of making plenty of things who do it for companies who don’t require that cert, so they just don’t have one.
The problem here was that the buyer didn’t disclose this until they got the price - which, by the way, was so competitive that they were shocked. Now we had to go back to the other foundry, which did have ISO (and 16949, among other certs), and work with them on pricing and concerns.
There’s more to the story, but essentially we exceeded the cost expectations, met all the engineering and certification requirements and everyone was happy with the deal as put together.
You might notice that this is written in the first person and it doesn’t sound like a bunch of copypasta from an algorithm of someone writing Fiverr articles. That’s because our sourcing team contributes to, and writes all of these articles. That’s why they’re not polished and eloquent, just straight to the point and sound like the story of someone who does the actual job of sourcing, because that’s all we do.
Oh and one more thing, that photo up there is not from this project. We work under NDA in almost all cases and this was no exception. That’s a stock model from elsewhere of a broadly similar part, completely unrelated to our client and buyer. We take confidentiality seriously and we’re Americans. Our Asia sourcing teams are lead by long-term American expats in Asia and our US teams are the same. We have people around the clock working on client sourcing, so if you are looking for a ductile train part maybe we can help. We’ll certainly try, if the deal makes sense.
Sometimes we just can't help, but even in those cases we all learn something from the experience. So, if you've got a sourcing need, tell us what it is and we'll get right on seeing what we can do about it!