Higher metal prices have forced plumbing products manufacturer
Kohler Co. to substitute out copper in order to stay
successful, company executive Jim Westdorp said.
substituting cheaper materials for copper when prices began
rising about a decade ago, he told delegates at the Metals
Service Center Institutes (MSCI) Copper and Brass
Products Division Conference June 25.
"When copper tripled,
our products were designed to use different material," said
Westdorp, Kohlers group president for kitchen and bath
July copper prices on
Comex, the most actively traded contract, settled at $3.0725
per pound June 25, down from highs above $4 per pound in 2011
but well above prices below $1 per pound in 2003.
Despite the recent
dip, analysts like Raymond Goldie from Salman Peters Inc.
expect prices to continue to rise over the next decade as the
volume of copper available from mines decreases year after year
amm.com, June 7).
The Kohler, Wis.-based
plumbing parts manufacturer now typically uses brass in its
products and design items to include fewer parts, Westdorp
"Copper is not
something that is easy to substitute away from, but now very
few homes get copper supply pipes," Westdorp said. "Im
substituting away from high-cost materials to provide value to
He also cited new
regulations on lead restrictions and no-trace radiation rules
as factors impacting product choice, as well as market pressure
to be more environmentally friendly in manufacturing.
"Greening" has proven
to be a lucrative way for Kohler to save money and satiate the
desire for green products, he added.
"There are easy, cost-effective, financially justified ways
to run manufacturing in better ways and be environmentally
responsible," Westdorp added.