Hot Tops Become Profitable

During the last 18 months of the period, WG began making real progress toward controlling the yield and size of the clay hot top. The laboratory was an invaluable tool in testing the clay before using it. Crowe developed methods to drill and test the deposits foot by foot before mining the clay. We started to learn what clay would work and what clay would not, as far as making the product without breakage and the correct size. Luck was also with us when, after drilling hundreds of potential clay mines in the area, we discovered large deposits of clay west of North Industry which, when tested, met our standards very well.
Another big leap forward in size control came when we started making draw trails from pieces of the extruded materials each day the hot tops were produced. These draw trials followed the hot tops through the dryer and into the kiln. When the kiln temperature was 100 degrees below the normal finishing temperature, on of the draw trials was removed and measured. We set the extrusion dies for process shrinkage of 5.3 percent. The temperature was gradually increased until the drawn trial measured 5.2 percent shrinkage. The kiln firing was stopped when the shrinkage was correct rather than the past practice of stopping at a certain temperature. Some training time was required. Typically, Jim Crowe or I would be present as the kiln reached the finish temperature. When the gauge fit the draw trial, we would say, “It’s done. Start cooling.” The fireman would say, “No, not done.” We would say, “Oh yes, all done.” The fireman would shake his head, but three days later when the kiln was emptied, he would be present to dee the product and usually pleasantly surprised that most of the ware went into A grade rather than the dump. The hot top product was well on its way to being a real ‘money machine.’
Ed Stedman paid me a visit at the Waynesburg plant. He reported that we had been consistent in making on-time deliveries of hot tops to the customers. In addition to quality improvements, daily inventories and production planning had be in effect for some time. Ed confided that he could produce new customers at will, but had never revealed this as in the past, we had not been able to take care of the ones we had. I indicated we were ready for more business and he offed to provide prints of products for potential new customers, so we could pick the shapes where we felt we could do the best job. Sales and profits increased at an impressive rate.