Ingenuity in the Family

Ramsden Industries
Written by Paul Hutchings

Indications are, it’s a good time to be in the die casting industry right about now, and it appears Ramsden Industries is in a great position to capitalize on the current production increases happening across North America.

The London, Ontario-based company is a custom manufacturer of permanent mold aluminum castings servicing a variety of markets. Ramsden provides parts to a variety of industries, including power generation, lighting, medical and electrical transmission and distribution. Manufacturers of recreational and specialty vehicles also benefit from Ramsden’s efforts, as well as those building diesel engines and truck transmissions. The railway industry utilizes its products, as well as the water purification industry, transportation and the automotive aftermarket.

Ramsden has been in business since its formation in 1946 by mechanical engineer Jack Ramsden. He was described in local media four years ago as someone who could look at a part, figure out how it worked and how to make it better.

Jack formed the company just after World War II when he had been working for a compressor manufacturer in London, Ontario. The compressor manufacturer ordered some aluminum castings but had trouble getting them delivered. Jack stepped up, telling the company that he could make the castings himself, which he did, using equipment cobbled together from a residential furnace.

With that order, Ramsden Industries was started, right there in his garage. In 2016 the London Free Press wrote some of Jack’s history to show the local community just how mechanically inclined he was. As an engineering student, Jack wrote a thesis on coal-burning vehicles, which is still in possession of his grandson, Andrew. When gasoline was in short supply during the war, some vehicles were converted to run on liquefied gases generated by coal. Jack reportedly built himself a coal-burning car and drove it to Toronto to visit the woman who would later become his wife.

Jack applied that versatility to his business, creating several products from tile cutters to paint finishes for vehicles. He also created consumer products, like garage door owners and trailers for boats, tents and snowmobiles, which were sold to Bombardier. When a company called Massey-Harris (now Massey-Ferguson) needed parts, Jack was able to create farm implements for the Georgia-based farm equipment supplier.

For awhile there, the company was even manufacturing recreational go-carts.

There aren’t many around who can look at a situation and not only know what is needed to solve a problem, but also have the expertise to build parts to solve that problem. That’s a tradition Jack’s family members are continuing to this day.

The current plant was built in 1964. Five years after that, Ramsden Industries experienced a crisis when a major order was cancelled, resulting in the sale of the company’s trailer division. With all the stress, Jack suffered the first in a series of strokes at the age of 49, and putting the company back on track became the responsibility of Jack’s sones, Bob and Don – even though they were still in their early 20s.

It turned out to be a good fit. Bob graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a business degree and joined his father’s company in 1971. Don received a mechanical engineering degree from Waterloo University and started with Ramsden a year later.

The duo went back to the basics, according to local media. Bob said they didn’t have the entrepreneurial fervour of their father, so they went back to being a foundry business, and for years after that, the company’s main product was housing for numerous barbecue manufacturers. They then moved into manufacturing of components for high-voltage electrical transmission lines. They would eventually get into the lucrative automotive sector in the mid 1990s.

Today, about 60 per cent of the business is the manufacture of parts for delivery vehicles, school buses and trucks, with parts for industrial-commercial and automotive making up the rest.

Making it a truly family affair, Bob’s grandson, Andrew, joined the company in 2009 after being awarded his MBA from Western University. He is now part owner and serves as the company’s general manager. Interestingly, one of Andrew’s most prized possessions is his grandfather’s original thesis for that coal-burning vehicle.

Today, they continue with that tradition of resourcefulness. Ramsden offers clients the opportunities to turn their ideas into production castings using the most cost-effective permanent mold techniques available. Communication with the client is key. Early design and engineering consultation is the first step in a successful product launch, which why close communication with the client enables Ramsden to form an effective partnership from the start.

That relationship is secured well in advance of the pre-production stage as engineering, design, quality, production and sales personnel are involved with the customer.

Ramsden offers a variety and versatility in its foundry that allows it to operate in an efficient, delivery-focused fashion. With numerous and various sized tilt-pour casting machines, numerous station molding machines and a number of low-pressure equipment, Ramsden takes pride in ensuring that shipments are delivered on time, rather than being delayed, waiting for compatible molding equipment to become available.

Ramsden also offers a variety of processes to ensure the best results. For example, it can offer Permanent Mold Castings, which is a procedure that incorporates gravity-induced pressure with rapid solidification to produce aesthetically pleasing, fully functional castings that have the ability for large production volumes, or a Tilt Pour process, where the parting line of a mold is set in a horizontal position and tilted to a vertical position to allow for the easy removal of the casting that is produced. Heat Treatment is a method used to improve the mechanical and physical properties of an aluminum casting, controlling the heating and cooling of a casting in a controlled manner to improve the strength and electrical conductivity of an aluminum casting.

Ramsden also offers pressure testing, to check products for tight seals to ensure a leak-free product and Vibratory Finishing removes any bumps or sharp edges from any product. Engineering consultation, component creation, quality control – after 70 years in business, Ramsden has something for every need.

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