Like the aluminum industry itself, American Metal Market will be rolling out something valuable this month when we announce our first-ever Awards for Aluminum Excellence to recognize the best in the industry. Here, we profile the finalists: 15 companies and four individuals. We will announce the winners at a June 12 ceremony during our second annual Aluminum Summit June 11-13 in New York.
Long Beach, Calif.-based Almex USA Inc. has developed the Minicast, a modular, scalable, environmentally friendly in-line scrap recycling facility. Aluminum extruders and forgers, as well as machine shops, generate up to 50 percent of their metal buy as turn-around scrap. While larger plants have in-house remelt facilities, smaller mills sell into the secondary market. The Minicast allows those mills to recycle the turn-around scrap quickly and on site, lowering conversion costs, saving transportation expenses, reducing carbon footprints and lowering inventory carrying costs. Almex estimates those savings at 25 to 35 percent, depending on volumes involved. The Minicast, which is scalable to match the growth trajectory of mills, can be applied to capacities as low as 200 tons per month or to more than 3,000 tons per month.
Aoki Science Institute
Aoki Science Institute Co. Ltd., Tokyo, sought to develop a highly efficient aluminum die-casting lubricant whose consumption would be far less than that of conventional emulsion lubricants. The result was oil-type lubricant WFR. After developing WFR, Aoki offered the innovative lubricant to aluminum die casters to improve production efficiency, saving production costs and reducing carbon dioxide generation. Aokis lubricant sales volume is increasing about 15 percent every year and has a 12-percent share of the Japanese market, and research and development costs have already been recovered. Aoki has been able to establish business relationships with large companies such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Peugeot SA, Ryobi Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp., reducing operational costs and improving the environmental impact at many of the companies.
BEST INNOVATION, PRODUCT:
Moving to ensure the fleet of new airplanes to be built over the next several decades continue to use aluminum rather than plastics or composites, Alcoa Inc. has launched an effort to develop a set of materials that would beat composites in terms of performance. The Pittsburgh-based companys research and development team also is working to develop an entirely new set of aluminum-lithium alloys that exceed anything else in the market and do so at a lower cost. Alcoa developed a new generation of aluminum-lithium alloys that provide up to 10-percent weight savings over composite-intensive planes; lower the cost to manufacture, operate and repair planes by up to 30 percent compared with composites; allow for a 12-percent increase in fuel efficiency, on top of a 15-percent improvement in efficiency from new engines; and deliver passenger comfort features, such as higher cabin pressure, larger windows and higher humidity.
Amcor Flexibles Inc.s Canny product is the first wrinkle-free, thin-wall aluminum bowl. Primarily aimed at premium or indulgence food markets, it is designed to meet the needs of customer convenience for products and meet the requirement of being easy to open. Canny is the result of more than two years of development by Amcor Flexibles to make a product that would combine practical and attractive features amid growing demand for more convenient and safe packaging. The Canny aluminum bowl is smooth, with no sharp edges and an easily peelable membrane that reduces spillage. Canny also is 30 percent lighter than traditional ring-pull aluminum bowls.
Jaguar Land Rover, a customer of Atlanta-based Novelis Inc. for more than 20 years, needed a solution to reduce the weight of its new Range Rover Evoque to help make it the most fuel-efficient Range Rover model ever. Novelis was selected as the sole supplier of aluminum sheet for the all-new Evoque, providing the automotive aluminum sheet for the vehicles hood, roof and structural parts. Novelis greatest challenge was in developing a high-strength, lightweight roof that is joined to a steel structure. Since aluminum and steel have different thermal expansion coefficients, the roof stiffness had to be increased to avoid deformations with temperature changes. To meet this challenge, Novelis created a new high-strength aluminum alloy, Anticorodal-600 PX.
BEST BROWNFIELD/GREENFIELD TECHNOLOGY PROJECT:
Dubai Aluminium Co. Ltd. (Dubal) in the United Arab Emirates owns and operates one of the worlds largest single-site aluminum smelters, capable of producing more than 960,000 tons of aluminum per year. It supplies all of its own electric power, with an on-site generating capacity of 2,350 megawatts. The electricity needed to power the operations is a big expensefully one-third of the cost of aluminum productionand to continue growing while becoming more competitive globally, Dubal had to find a way to cut that power cost. Over the course of three years starting in June 2007, Dubal worked with General Electric Co. to implement a complete overhaul to update its power management and generation operations at the Jebel Ali site. The system monitors, controls and optimizes the generation, purchase, sale and consumption of electric power.
Atlanta-based Novelis Inc. is investing more than $200 million to expand its Oswego, N.Y., facility to support the automotive industrys growing production of aluminum-intensive vehicles. Specifically, the expansion will supply more material for both outer and inner automotive body panels. The demand for these products is being driven by Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements that vehicles meet stiffer fuel economy requirements by 2015 and 2025. The project comprises an 180,000-square-foot expansion that includes two continuous anneal and solution heat-treatment lines and an automated storage retrieval system. The expansion started in August 2011 and the new lines are expected to be operational by summer 2013, increasing the companys North American automotive sheet capacity more than fivefold.
In order to realize its objective of increasing used beverage can (UBC) melting capacity, Muscle Shoals, Ala.-based Wise Alloys LLC decided to embark on a $25-million expansion of its Alabama Reclamation Operations division. The project has since been renamed Element 13. Current and future volumes necessitated contracting several third parties to melt UBCs and transport the molten material to Wise Alloys northern Alabama facility. Wise constructed a 42,000-square-foot building, a 250,000-pound-capacity melting furnace, a delacquering kiln, a 1,500-horsepower aluminum can shredder, baghouses and all associated utilities, environmental systems and sundry support equipment. The greenfield project, which was dedicated earlier this year, included engineering, procurement and construction, as well as associated testing and practice development.
Delair, N.J.-based Aluminum Shapes LLC says its goal is to become the most sustainable green aluminum extrusion company in the world while lowering its operating expenses. Aluminum Shapes uses significant power for its eight extrusion lines, heat-treat systems, casthouse, anodizing system, paint system and fabrication equipment. A cooperative partnership with the state of New Jersey and Allentown, Pa.-based power company PPL Energy Services LLC aims to leverage all available alternative energy sources. A major solar farm and methane gas conversion plant has been installed at a cost of $12 million to exclusively supply the company.
In May 2011, Atlanta-based Novelis Inc. unveiled its companywide sustainability commitment to significantly improve the life-cycle impact of its aluminum products. Novelis has committed itself to increasing the amount of recycled aluminum input material in its manufacturing process to 80 percent by 2020 from 33 percent in 2010. Novelis is elevating sustainability as a critical element in its business model, one that it says will deliver greater economic, environmental and social rewards to the company, its customers and the world at large. Novelis is a global leader in rolled aluminum production, providing 17 percent of the worlds rolled aluminum for use in manufacturing a wide range of products. Novelis is also the worlds leading recycler of aluminum beverage cans, keeping 1.2 billion pounds of aluminum out of landfills each year.
Due to a concentrated effort to improve environmental practices, the environmental incident rate at Atlanta-based Novelis Inc.s plant in Ulsan, South Korea, has been reduced to zero, with its last minor incident occurring in May 2001. Novelis has spent 5.6 billion won ($4.9 million) over the past five years on capital investments related to environmental performance. Critical items include a molten metal and dual tilting project; greenhouse gas reduction by reduced consumption of energy and an increase in recycling rates; improvement of recycle shop bag filters and side well hoods; reduction of air emissions and improvement of working conditions; installation of odor-control facilities at its coil degreasing line and tension leveler; and installation of a cold-mill Schneider filter dust-control facility and fume-control facility.
LOGISTICS/TRANSPORTATION PROVIDER OF THE YEAR:
American Electric Power/AEP River Operations
American Electric Power Co. Inc.s AEP River Operations LLC, St. Louis, offers the largest covered hopper fleet of any carrier, and the company is still growing. Whether shipping raw materials, anode coke or primary metals, AEP has barges to meet the needs of the aluminum industry. Complementing the barge operations is a fleet of more than 70 towing vessels ranging from 1,550 to 11,000 horsepower, moving more than 80 million tons of cargo for customers last year. Professional staff, along with highly trained crews on vessels, ensure customers objectives are met every step of the way. AEP is a Responsible Carrier Program (RCP)-certified company, and its mission is to be the leading supplier of safe, competitively priced marine transportation to its customers.
Dearborn Distribution Services
Dearborn, Mich.-based Dearborn Distribution Services has been successful in adapting its just in time service model for the automotive industry to the aluminum distribution market after 26 years of delivering automotive-grade steel products. Dearborn Distribution has registered its entire facility with the U.S. Commerce Department as a foreign trade zone operator. The 34-acre operation, which includes 490,000 square feet of inside storage space, moves 20,000 to 30,000 tons of metal weekly via truck and rail. The companys proprietary warehouse management system has been adapted to manage inventories for its customers based on a broad spectrum of data elements.
CHARLES-MARTIN HALL ALUMINUM ADVOCACY
Kevin J. Anton
Kevin J. Anton is chief sustainability officer at Alcoa Inc., Pittsburgh, and a member of the Aluminum Associations executive committee. Through his work and guidance, he helped the U.S. aluminum industry publish its first-ever sustainability report, showing the positive effects the industry has had over the years and forming the base point to improve further. Anton has gathered leaders from the industry, the world of recycling, can makers, fillers, and plastics and glass companies, along with others who play a part in the recycling supply chain, and encouraged them to explore ways to collaborate to increase the recycling rate of any and all materials through an initiative called Actions to Accelerate Recycling. So far under his leadership, the used beverage can recycling ratenow at 58 percenthas reversed course to show significant growth after previously declining at a steady rate.
Stephen Gardner and Steve Williamson
As the economic crisis fell on North America in 2008, Stephen Gardner, vice president of communications at the Aluminum Association, and Steve Williamson, chief commercial officer at Louisville, Ky.-based Tri-Arrows Aluminum Inc., launched the associations sustainability work group. First on sweat equity and then on a meager start-up budget, the work group ramped up a campaign on two fronts: communications and an industry-wide data-gathering initiative. With solid messages and good supporting data, the work group has risen to full committee status in the Aluminum Association. The work group, previously funded by voluntary contributions from member companies, now is a core-funded program, making the programs benefits accessible to all aluminum companies, their customers and suppliers. The most significant accomplishment was the publication of Aluminum: The Element of Sustainability in September 2011. Jinlong Marshall Wang, sustainability specialist at the Aluminum Association, led an industry-wide effort to collect and sort key manufacturing data sets from producers that chronicled the success in reshaping the aluminum industrys environmental footprint.
Novelis Inc.s role in driving meaningful change in the direction, focus and transparency of the London Metal Exchange is re-legitimizing the role of the LME as a viable component of the aluminum supply chain. Novelis senior vice president and chief procurement officer Nick Madden took a leadership position in the warehousing debate in May last year by directly addressing the LME in a letter in which the Atlanta-based company expressed concerns about load-out rates. In the letter, Novelis recommended a significant increase in required load-out rates by LME-approved warehouses, particularly in Detroit. The letter pointed out that all-time high aluminum premiums in North America and other regions were the direct result of bottlenecking that had arisen in warehouses due to limited out-flow under the LME load-out rules, and cited the pain caused by the bottleneck issue in terms of higher prices to aluminum consumers.
SCRAP SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR: