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Novelis rolling mill still offline after blaze

Keywords: Tags  Novelis, Oswego, N.Y., rolling mill, fire, shipment delays, Phil Martens, ERP aluminum


CHICAGO — One of the rolling mills at Novelis Inc.’s Oswego, N.Y., aluminum complex remained down Feb. 14, five days after a basement fire broke out, a company spokesman told AMM.

The company’s internal Oswego Works Fire Department responded to and contained the fire, the spokesman said, noting that the area was immediately evacuated and there were no injuries.

Sources at local fire services confirmed that there had been a blaze at the aluminum works over the weekend but said that they had not been involved in the response, which they confirmed was handled by Novelis’ own fire brigade.

Novelis’ Oswego facility includes two cold-rolling mills as well as two rolling mills within its hot mill, in addition to remelting, casting and finishing capabilities, the spokesman said. The impacted rolling mill was located within the hot mill, he said, declining to comment on specific capacity figures of the impacted mill.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and the rest of the Oswego complex remains operational even as the affected rolling mill is temporarily offline, the spokesman said. It is too early to say what the extent of the damage to the rolling mill or the cost of any necessary repairs might be, he added.

The spokesman declined to comment on how customers may have been impacted as a result of the blaze. “We have been working very closely—our commercial operations and supply chain teams—to ensure that we minimize any potential impacts on our customers,” he said.

“The recovery process from the fire is progressing and we remain optimistic that we will return to full operations in the coming days,” he added.

At least one customer contacted by AMM said he did not expect the fire to impact his shipments, even as one market source suggested competitor mills were seeing an uptick in inquiries as a result.

The fire at Atlanta-based Novelis’ Oswego facility comes on the heels of earlier delays related to the enterprise planning system (ERP) system Novelis recently implemented (amm.com, Feb. 12).

Novelis president and chief executive officer Philip Martens said in a statement released Feb. 12 with third-quarter earnings that the ERP implementation caused more production disruption in North America than expected but that the issue was “largely behind us” and that “production has returned to near normal levels.” On the company’s third-quarter earnings call, Martens specified that the Oswego mill, in particular, had experienced issues related to the ERP system.

The Novelis spokesman reiterated to AMM Feb. 14 that the company has made “significant progress in stabilizing the new ERP system performance,” with production back to “near normal levels.”

He declined to say what, if any, specific delays Oswego customers had experienced as a result of the ERP issue.

“We have worked diligently to limit the impact on any customer. It would be difficult to provide an average for those customers who may have experienced any delays,” he said, noting that the majority of issues related to the new system were resolved as of December.

A second distributor source contacted Feb. 14 brushed off the impact of the fire, contending that the ERP implementation issue was a more significant complication than the blaze, at least in the distribution sector.

“They say (delivery times) are getting better (following the ERP issue). We have not seen that yet. I just consider (fire-related delays) to be more of the same,” he said.

A third service center source said it was his understanding that the fire would add about a week to lead times from the Oswego site, although he said he did not expect an extra week to have much impact on his company. “Most of our guys had already built in some cushion based on their delivery performances,” he said. The ERP implementation “at the end of the day has probably been a much bigger issue than what this (fire) represents.”

Novelis Oswego Works serves the automotive and transportation, consumer and industrial, building and construction, and beverage can markets, according to a company fact sheet. It employs 928 people, produces more than a billion pounds of aluminum sheet a year and is the company’s largest wholly-owned fabrication facility in North America, sporting scrap remelting, ingot casting, and hot- and cold-rolling capabilities.

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