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Last Cast Iron Foundry in US: Still Thriving Through Innovation

Business - General

Iron Foundry in Tennessee VOA NewsA metal foundry in South Pittsburg, Tennessee has invested in advanced technology and acquired management techniques to insure its success as the last company in the nation still turning out cast iron skillets on a daily basis.

But Lodge Cast Iron is also benefiting from a cast iron renaissance.

This all adds up to a successful fourth-generation family-owned business that's been churning out cast iron cookware for more than a century. (To watch the video, jump to the bottom)

"We produce about 80,000 pounds [36,000 kilos] of cast iron cookware daily," says Bob Kellermann, chief executive officer of Lodge Cast Iron.

Lodge had several American competitors, but they each went out of business years ago.

"We re-invested our earnings every year to become more mechanized," Kellermann says. "Had we not mechanized, we would’ve been out of business many years ago. We have two high-production molding lines, each cranking out 400-plus molds per hour, running two 10-hour shifts a day."

Innovating into the future

Lodge has also turned out to be a canny innovator, changing the face of the heavy black cookware and stumbling upon a marketing bonanza. The company began seasoning the pans before they leave the factory, making their use much more friendly for wary cooks, who otherwise had to bake the coating of oil into the skillet themselves, which can be intimidating.

Their slogan for the improved product became, ‘We should have thought of this a hundred years ago.’

In a short five years they went from nothing seasoned to everything seasoned, said Kellermann.

cast iron dishes served VOA News

Riding the popularity of a new trend that favors traditional cooking, the company has put out dozens of new products from cast iron woks to Dutch ovens made for the campfire.

Kellermann gets emotional when he considers what his great, great grandfather would think of his small foundry today.

"And I think old Joe Lodge and the rest of the family that's gone on would be very proud of the company seeing it as it is now," he says.

Lodge Cast Iron is looking to the international market for continued growth. Its cookware is now sold in Japan, Russia, and the Philippines.

WATCH the video below -- Originally published in VOANews.com - Buy Lodge products here...

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