This article appeared in the September 2021 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
“Most importantly, Omega is a family business,” says Brett Cutshall, President of Omega Castings Inc. “And not just because we’re family-owned. It’s because everyone here feels like family to me.” And that, he says, has led to a very loyal group of employees for whom he is very grateful.
Omega is a stainless-steel foundry in Battle Creek that supports the heat treat industry. The company was founded in 1975 by Brett’s father, Robert, who had a vision to produce alloy castings and assemblies with superior metallurgical and dimensional integrity and promptly deliver those castings and assemblies. Sadly, Omega lost their founder last year due to COVID-19.
The foundry focuses on cast-link belts, drive drums, rollers and the occasional custom casting. They still occupy their original location, a 1930s-era decommissioned military swimming pool building, with tiled walls that are well-suited for the hot works of a foundry.
Best Part of My Job
The people, because I love my crew. When problems arise, they are there with solutions.
The Best Advice I Ever Got
I have two! First, no matter how long you live, life is short. So make your life a happy one by being charitable towards others. Second, one must push through failure to achieve success. It is the determined who succeed.
“Our foundry is essentially operating in the Industry 2.0 environment,” says Cutshall. “But our office has been moving into Industry 4.0 for a while now. We have 3D printers and our new Enterprise Resource Planning system will talk to the machinery on the floor. You could say we’re skipping Industry 3.0, going directly from 2.0 to 4.0,” he adds.
After the 2008 recession, Omega sprang back into improvements by adding CAD work stations and CAD operators. In 2017, they added casting simulation software to their technical lineup and, in 2019, they added further simulation ability with ANSYS finite element analysis.
“The simulation software has really moved the needle with some of our customers,” Cutshall says.
Cutshall dreams of adding a “robomolder,” which can go straight from a 3D solid model to a sand mold without using an intermediary pattern. He and his team are always looking at the latest technology to evaluate which investments make the most sense, and when they would be most practical.
One investment they knew they needed to make for their future was an internship program. Cutshall sees it as a necessary step in Omega’s evolution to Industry 4.0, as well as a natural fit with their “family business” philosophy.
How We’re Innovating
It starts by motivating people to drop fixed mindsets. Second, we listen closely to our customers, staff and suppliers on how to improve a customer’s product or an internal process. We finish by leveraging Industry 4.0 tools to create something intuitive.
If I Weren’t Doing This
I would like to learn how to fly. I have always wanted to be a pilot.
In the summer of 2018, Cutshall’s daughter was in high school, planning to become a surgeon. But she agreed to stand in as Omega’s test intern, even though it was outside her career goals. Pleased with how the test internship went, they brought on their first intern, Evan Stafford. After completing his internship, Stafford enrolled at Michigan Technological University. Cutshall hopes he will return to Omega when he graduates.
Omega’s next intern was Chelsea Sheets. During her internship, she was allowed to develop an entire chain project from design to finish, using Omega’s CAD and simulation software. She’s considering attending Western Michigan University so she can continue working at Omega.
Cutshall was especially impressed by an innovation Sheets came up with for Omega’s Project Phoenix which he describes as, “a program where we see a market out there and we are trying to design something to get into it. We will see if we can build a better mousetrap.”
The Omega team is really looking forward to continuing their internship program, and Cutshall credits Steve King, Omega’s designer and a former CAD instructor, with much of the success of the program.
While Omega specializes in a business that’s been around for more than a century, it’s clear they are moving into the future of Industry 4.0 not only with their technology and processes but with their talent as well.