Aludium – The Star of Aluminium

Aludium is a specialist in aluminium – an infinitely recyclable material, but with permanent characteristics, suitable for many applications. A material for the present.

Aludium is a relatively new entity that comprises three mills in Spain and France, and a state-of-the-art aluminium research and development centre in Spain. The company was officially created in 2015 but draws on the long history and extensive experience of each of the businesses.

CEO Lionel Chapis says: “The name is new, the plants are not. The three plants were divested as a single entity from its former parent company, a large aluminium group, as they together form an integrated processing system. While we are, with our 900 people, a relatively small company compared to the multinational giants with their complex organisations, we are Nos 1 and 2 in the niche markets we serve – an admirable achievement for a company of our size.”

He further explains that Aludium focuses on several specialised products, supplied to a limited number of industries. One of Aludium’s core market sectors is distribution, with a long‑term vision to focus on the key distribution players in the European market. Other sectors that the company serves include construction, transportation, and packaging.

Improved performance

“Our core business is two-fold,” explains Mr Chapis. “The distribution and construction markets are supplied with standard bulk products such as sheets and coils, in other words, commodity products. Here our prime focus is customer service and flexibility. We have extremely high delivery performance standards and very short lead times in place. It is not so much about the product in these markets but about how they are delivered, to the required quality.”

“On the other side of our business are a certain number of niche, glossy surface products based on high-purity aluminium for specific applications in the cosmetics, solar and lighting applications, complemented by another product group, that of closure sheets. As these are used mostly in packaging applications such as bottle caps, the highest possible quality is again required.”

Mr Chapis, who took over his role in 2020 just as the pandemic took hold, has quite a unique perspective on the business. Having spent a big part of his career in the aluminium transformation industry, his mission was to re-focus the management priorities on operational and commercial performance, as opposed to just plain growth. The Covid-19 pandemic confirmed that this was the right way forward.

“The situation last year forced us to go even faster and more boldly in this direction. As the market was shrinking, we had to focus on our core strengths, on flexibility, while keeping the key skills and the unique set of capabilities.  Our team worked extremely hard and while the total volume decreased significantly, our overall performance has improved.”

Sustainability at its best

The company is well placed to meet evolving market requirements. With its R&D centre in Spain and three mills, 50% of Aludium’s business is converting aluminium scrap purchased in the market into new aluminium products. A huge amount of investment goes into automation as well as renewable energy sources at the plants, and overall, sustainability is a big topic.

Aludium also is a member of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) and in 2019, Aludium’s facilities in Alicante and Amorebieta (Spain) achieved certification against ASI’s Performance Standard, an outstanding achievement.

Mr Chapis explains that aluminium is infinitely recyclable. It remains essentially unchanged no matter how many times it is processed and used. Therefore, it can be considered as a material with permanent characteristics, one that is not consumed but used over and over again, without the loss of its essential properties. “Another key aspect is that re-melting aluminium scrap requires just 5% of the energy needed to produce new raw material, which therefore keeps its value very high,” says Mr Chapis.

During 2017 and 2018, Aludium invested more than 30 million euros to increase its aluminium recycling capacity in the Amorebieta and Alicante plants. Between 2017 and 2021, the percentage of recycled aluminium used by Aludium will grow by approximately 40%. Not only will Aludium increase the percentage of recycled aluminium used, but it will also increase the capacity to recycle lower-quality aluminium.

“At the moment, 70% of the volume sold externally is made from scrap. The target is to reach 85%.   This is a strategic change for the company and is aligned with the new Action Plan for the Circular Economy published by the European Commission. This increase in recycled material gives Aludium a unique opportunity to optimize costs, better control our supply chain and significantly reduce our CO2 footprint. Our goal is to build the most efficient recycling circuit for aluminium,” says Lionel Chapis.

The material of the present

 Speaking about business development in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Chapis points out that the industry’s recovery has been surprising. “The impact last year was significant, with considerable volume drop across the months. However, now, one year on, we are experiencing demand which is higher than at the same time last year, before the pandemic. The recovery has been such that we have had to extend our lead times for some niche products to accommodate our clients’ requirements.”

Internally, the company is set to continue its investment programme, both increasing the re-melting capacity and in the capability for better in-house aluminium sorting. “Aluminium is a valuable material and retains so much of its value. Although initial costs may be higher, the full cost of ownership is very different. Re-processing costs a fraction of raw material production.”

He points out that demand for aluminium products has been increasing over the last 20 years, with the packaging industry being a strong contributor to this growth. “Aluminium, with its strong execution potential and indefinite recyclability is not the material of the future but the present. It fits perfectly into the EU’s Circular Economy programme and can help make Europe almost independent from imports of the raw material. This is the perfect goal.”

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