Pacific Alloy Casting Company is celebrating its 137th year as a family-owned and operated foundry. Company President James Leach is the fourth generation at the helm of the company, and the fifth generation is being primed to carry the foundry’s legacy forward.
The family foundry was begun in 1880 in Portland, Oregon by Patrick Leach under the name Excelsior Iron Works. It was then changed to Leach Brothers before its move to Los Angeles. George and Winfield Leach named the new foundry in California Pacific Ball Manufacturing Company, where they produced grinding balls and mill liners for the mining industry.
The company became a licensee of International Nickel Company in 1952, making it the first licensed producer of wear-resistant Ni-Hard castings in the Western United States. They introduced Ni-Hard to the Arizona copper mills. James Leach officially changed the name to Pacific Alloy Casting Company in 1973, to better reflect the product mix of a wide variety of abrasion resistant castings.
“In 1976, we converted to electric melting, which was cleaner and more efficient. It gave us a wider range of abrasion resistant alloys to better serve our customers,” Leach said.
There has been a push to integrate sustainability in the foundry, insofar as a foundry can be ‘green.’ Pacific Alloy Casting Company has taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint by joining with Power It Solutions and Southern California Edison to upgrade its equipment and systems to improve efficiency.
Pacific Alloy Casting Company has also incorporated 1,190 solar panels to supplement power to its foundry. Not only has the move reduced its reliance on energy, but it has also lowered operating costs and has enabled prices to remain competitive.
“I felt an obligation to reduce our carbon footprint. We use a tremendous amount of energy, which means we’re not helping the environment,” said Leach. “California has an aggressive program for the use of renewable energy and it looks like, in the next thirty years, California could be one hundred percent renewable.”
Pacific Alloy Casting Company’s customers span industries from aggregates, agriculture, and asphalt to cement, co-generation, construction, mining, energy, oil and gas. “We supply castings to the Continental United States and make some shipments internationally. Our abrasion resistant castings are used in process industries, anyone that’s moving material and reducing or refining it,” noted Leach.
Thanks to its relationships with distributors nationwide, Pacific Alloy Casting Company’s made-in-USA quality can be accessed by customers across the country. It is this commitment to domestic production that has allowed the foundry to grow over the decades.
Pacific Alloy Casting Company’s reputation for castings and service of the highest quality and its exceptional safety program have been components of its longevity.
“We follow a very rigid quality program with our ISO 9001: 2008 program and we are now working towards the ISO 9001: 2015 program,” Leach said.
“Our long history in these alloys means we have name recognition. The customers tooling with us, as long as we continue to provide competitive pricing and good delivery, good quality, the customer will stay with us. We’ve had customers that have been with us for over sixty years. Some have moved from Los Angeles to Texas, Arkansas, but they stayed with us,” said Leach.
Pacific Alloy Casting Company’s success is fueled by its team of ninety employees who are well-trained and highly motivated to deliver results. There is a strong supervisory presence in the foundry to ensure that employees maintain quality and safety processes in their day-to-day operations.
“It’s not easy being in a foundry. It can be hot, and a lot of safety equipment is required to be worn, with lots of procedures to follow. We’re lucky we have these employees, and fortunate to be in California,” acknowledged Leach.
To be an employer of choice in the area, Pacific Alloy Casting Company has developed a work culture in which employees are respected, treated well, and are involved in the process of nonstop improvement. “I think we’re responsive to what their needs are, and in turn, they help us, so we work as a team and work well.”
A challenge that Pacific Alloy Casting Company is facing going forward is the grinding and finishing of castings. “It is difficult and labor intensive work, that not many people are willing to do,” Leach said. “There will be hardship in the coming years, to find people wanting to do this kind of work. One solution we are exploring is high speed automated grinding.”
“When I came to work here, it was a pretty run-down facility. My grandfather had gone through the depression, so he didn’t believe in investing anything, so I invested the money I earned back into the foundry, which has made it what it is today. I’ve spent over fifty years building the facility to modern standards,” he said.
Leach is getting ready to pass the family business on to the next generation. Each department has been modernized using the state of the art equipment. The new generation is getting ready for their own challenges. He was joined by his daughters, Shelby and Shaland Leach, after they graduated college. They are gathering the knowledge and experience necessary to keep the business growing for the coming years.
“They still have a lot to learn with customer knowledge and production processes, product applications. There’s a whole realm of things that they need to learn, and that’s going to take years, but they’re doing quite well, making good changes, adding youthful energy to the facility, and I’m happy with what’s happening,” concluded Leach. He has good cause to celebrate: 137 years and counting, of foundry and family success.