Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kohler factory/foundary tour

At the tail end of my week long vacation my husband and I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Kohler factory in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. This was something I had been looking forward to all week and I wasn't dissapointed. If you like the popular series How It's Made or Made In America (which did a segment on the Kohler factory) then this (free!) tour would be right up your alley. We began the tour in the ceramic production area and I loved seeing the ceramics on such a large scale production. The size of the building is truly unbelievable! Although we didn't get to see any of the molds being poured, we did see toilets and sinks in various stages of greenware, from just taken out of the molds to the ones going through the drying room. The kiln for such large production is open ended and has a conveyor belt that automatically moves the greenware through for firing. Post firing every piece is inspected and reglazed if necessary. The most impressive aspects of the tour were the obvious high standards the company sets for the quality of product leaving their factory and I have to say it was the cleanest ceramics production I've ever seen! After the ceramics building we toured the foundary where they do all the iron casting and metal work. This area was equally fascinating. My father has a pattern shop and I spent two summers working there, milling and using machinery so the processes were already familiar to me on a small level. To cast iron you need a metal (or sometimes plastic) pattern (these are what my dad works on). Then a sand mold is cast from the pattern. The sand mold is what the molten metal is cast in and it only lasts for one cast. So for every cast iron tub or sink they produce they also have to make a sand mold. For me the best part of the foundary was seeing all the robots because let's face it, robots are pretty cool. My husband gave me all sorts of extra information on the automation as that is what his degree is in. Overall the tour was a great experience and I hope others will take advatage of the opportunity to see in person how it's made.
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