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Kokomo Casting Plant continues to innovate

Plant nearing Silver score on WCM metrics

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Since the Kokomo Casting Plant (KCP) was constructed in 1965, leaders at the plant have continually put a focus on innovating and looking to the future while maintaining high-quality standards, and the plant remains one-of-a-kind.

According to KCP Plant Manager Jerry Skomp, the casting plant is unique in that it’s not only the sole casting plant in Kokomo but also that the plant’s 1,278 employees are truly like a family. And that family has pursued new innovations, he said, to improve quality and efficiency, such as using a CT scanner to perform MRI-like scans on engine blocks, using different cooling technology, and manning robot arms for quality control.

Before managing KCP, Skomp worked at both the Kokomo Transmission Plant and Indiana Transmission Plant II. The casting plant, he said, is a unique environment unlike any of the others.

“Even though I’ve worked right next to the casting plant for several years, I found the casting plant to be a unique plant, obviously the only casting plant in town, so it’s a very close-knit group,” Skomp said. “It’s really like a family environment. So that’s been a lot of fun, and of course, just the thermal dye casting in itself has been something I’ve enjoyed learning over the last year and continue to enjoy.”

Skomp said when a familial, close-knit culture is cultivated like at KCP, innovation follows.

The plant has been working with more additive manufacturing, such as printing and tooling and using more laser scanning that has overhauled the way the plant does quality checks. Employees also are working on a new project using a collaborative robot that has a scanner attached to the end of its arm, which also will be used to improve quality.

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Part of those innovations is due to KCP’s partnership with Purdue Polytechnic and Ohio State University, which Skomp said brought in some of the youngest and brightest minds from the area to the engineering group at the plant.

According to Skomp, the plant is due to produce significantly more engine blocks in 2021, as it’s also charged with the discontinuation of the four- and six-speed transmissions.

On the quality front, KCP is doing well. The plant is holding a World Class Manufacturing (WCM) metric score of 58, nearing the “silver” accolade, which Skomp hopes to hit this year.

The plant also did well in its recent audit, scoring 99 percent, an improvement of 98 percent in the last two years.

Despite both shining accolades, it’s the audit scores that stick in Skomp’s mind, as the plant manager said auditors repeatedly have commended the plant for its safety protocols. Maintaining them in a casting plant, he said, is something to be proud of.

“The thing that sticks in my mind is the auditor’s comments are always about the real difference in the Kokomo plant is the behavior of the people,” Skomp said. “Really, we’ve had little problem with our people adjusting and accepting our protocols. The casting plant is hot. It’s loud. And it’s not an easy environment to abide by the protocols that we’ve put in place. So I think we’ve done a great job as a company. I really am proud of what the casting plant’s done from a COVID response and really all the time in improving our metrics of course. It makes the company successful.”