The industry is experiencing massive upheavals, and the sector must respond to them. What are the challenges facing the aluminum industry? What topics are currently on the minds of exhibitors? We asked them.
Rob van Gils, CEO, HAI Hammerer Aluminium Industries
Although we currently have to cope with a very volatile environment, we are very optimistic about the medium and long term. Aluminium is an enabler of the green deal, and the current high demand will continue to grow – whether in the area of renewable energy or in electromobility, which is gaining strong momentum and bringing high momentum to our business. Significantly more aluminium is used in an electric vehicle than in conventional vehicles with combustion engines. OEMs have reacted to the shortage of wire harnesses and microchips by reprioritizing supplies to electric projects.
In the short term, the Ukraine war is depressing sentiment. We are all feeling the consequences of the war – the conflict is drastically fuelling raw material and energy prices, and the prospect of possible supply stops for gas is not exactly positive. The Corona crisis, which has still not been resolved, is not helping planning security either. The 0-covid policy in China will continue to cause us disrupted supply chains. All these issues are challenges that we have to tackle in the short, medium and long term.
At HAI, we are 100% behind the Green Deal, but in Europe we have failed to equip ourselves strategically. A sustainable damage of the aluminium industry has to be avoided urgently – the way and the safeguarding of a level playing field (!) are essential for competitiveness (CBAM, carbon leakage).
Despite everything, the European aluminium industry is developing in the right direction. The expansion of renewable energy is going well – but needs to be much faster for a real energy transition. Another essential part of the solution is the expansion of aluminium recycling – both recyclable alloys and recyclable designs – to simplify the return and recycling processes.
Tom Jansen, Segment Manager Metals, Tomra
One of the biggest challenges at present is to close the gap between current aluminium demand and available recycled material. In doing so, it is essential to be fast in order to satisfy the further increase in demand, while at the same time meeting the increasingly stringent quality requirements.
At TOMRA we are convinced: the solution lies in modern sorting systems. With them, we can maximize recovery rates, recycle larger quantities and supply the market with first-class aluminium recyclates. This in turn enables us to meet CO2 emission targets and make aluminium greener.
One of the best examples of how we are helping the industry do this is our new X-TRACT, which we just launched in May and is sure to be the hot topic at our booth. Thanks to a host of new and improved features, we have been able to further improve the sorting of complex mixed metal streams.
The result is more accurate material detection, higher throughput, and more: our enhanced software even carefully identifies and separates adjacent, overlapping, and composite materials.
And even at high throughput, high-purity aluminium fractions can be produced that can be fed directly to the smelter, helping our customers achieve an even better sorting experience.
Ralf Barten, Member of the Board, Gestamp ETEM Automotive/ETEM Gestamp Extrusions
The most important issue that concerns us is the carbon footprint. Everything that has to do with recycling, recyclability or green energy is the focus of our activities.
The aluminium industry in Europe takes its commitment to energy and resource efficient processing very seriously. Ecological and economic aspects are of great importance and are touchstones for the evaluation of products and processes.
The megatrend of electromobility has triggered a boom in extrusion plants. And this is probably only the beginning. If everything that the OEMs are planning is realized, aluminium as a material will definitely benefit.
Aluminium has various advantages due to the need for lightweight construction. Ultimately, depending on the application and technical concept, it will be a mixture of the various materials and materials used in electromobility.
Where the market goes remains to be seen. A lot is still disruptive, but we are confident for aluminium.
Moritz Hansen, Head of Communication & Marketing, Speira
The entire aluminium industry is currently facing short-term, but also long-term challenges, which offer opportunities in equal measure. Of course, this year’s show is also overshadowed by the war in Ukraine and the huge challenges it poses for the industry in terms of raw material supply.
At the same time, we at Speira are aware of the long-term challenge of decarbonizing the industry and are working every day to continuously reduce our carbon footprint.
As Speira, we no longer see ourselves exclusively as an aluminium rolling company. Rather, we define ourselves as an aluminium rolling and recycling company, with the purpose of building a world that runs smoothly.
Circular economy is elemental to the sustainable transformation of our business, and that’s what we’re banking on. Coupled with our innovative strength, we see ourselves well on the way to becoming the industry benchmark when it comes to sustainability.
Martin McVicar, CEO & Co-founder, Combilift
One focus of ALUMINIUM 2022 is sustainability, the circular economy and the properties of aluminium itself as a future-proof material that can be easily and cost-effectively recycled. Reducing emissions is also a topic that is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers of industrial trucks, for example, and has led to more and more electrically powered options being offered today. The handling solutions on display at the Combilift booth reflect this trend, as most of the exhibits will be equipped with electric drives.
When Combilift was founded in 1998, diesel was recognized as the most suitable power source for industrial vehicles and equipment. However, technology has evolved since then, and the improved battery performance of electric-powered forklifts is enabling ever-larger lift capacities, longer operating times and much longer intervals between recharges. More than 60% of the forklifts coming off the production line at our Monaghan facility are now electric-powered, and this growing demand reflects the wishes of our customers who, like us, are committed to sustainability and a circular economy.
Thomas Reuther, Member of the Board, Trimet Aluminium
The entire value chain in the aluminium industry is facing enormous changes. For example, the call for CO2-free products is becoming louder and louder. As a local producer, TRIMET is facing up to these challenges and began gearing its production to them years ago.
ALUMINIUM offers us an excellent platform to jointly address future requirements with our partners from different manufacturing levels – cleanly, safely and sustainably.
In addition to the production of primary aluminium, recycling is also playing an increasingly important role when we talk about CO2-free aluminum products. “Design for recycling” is the keyword here – in other words, product design that takes full recycling into account.
Only then can the circular economy really function economically and ecologically. For us at TRIMET, this is an important stage on the way to CO2-free production of aluminium by 2045.
Erwin Altendorfer, Head of Competence Centers Wood and Profiltechnology, Fill
Of course, the current times are difficult. Rising energy prices, energy-intensive manufacturing, supply chain difficulties, the Russia-Ukraine crisis, … All these issues pose very significant challenges for the industry.
As far as technical advancements in our competitive environment are concerned, we clearly feel that the push for automation is getting even stronger – now almost always in combination with control systems, camera modules, AI applications, etc.
So the focus is shifting further and further away from actual mechanical engineering to bits and bytes. I think our competitors will also meet these requirements. In any case, Fill is ideally positioned with its comprehensive range of digital products (FILL CYBERNETICS).
Göksal Güngör, General Manager, Assan Alüminyum
The aluminium industry pulled through the COVID-19 pandemic relatively strongly. We therefore foresee a positive outlook in the near future, with continuing strong demand.
The aluminium industry is also well positioned to play a key role in the coming decarbonization of the European economy, thanks to the 100% recyclability of aluminium products and has always been in the forefront of sustainability.
One of our core values of Assan Alüminyum is sustainability. We started to invest in sustainability years ago with our renewable energy production facility, through which we generate Renewable Energy Certificates (I-RECs) and offset our Scope 2 emissions. Assan Alüminyum follows the global sustainability framework set by Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), having achieved the ASI Performance Standard Certificate for its production and recycling facilities as of the beginning of this year.
Fit for 55 poses a challenge for our industry, as it sets the target of 55% reduction GHG emissions by 2030. Recycling is also important for sustainability but also poses a challenge, as it is not a good indicator of sustainability, due to very limited availability of scrap in markets and potentially higher carbon emissions being released by long haul transportation of scrap as a result. Assan Alüminyum purchases and processes as much scrap as it can obtain, in its integrated recycling facilities.
Finally, global political crises such as the one between Ukraine and Russia and macroeconomic issues such as increasing inflation worldwide also negatively impact our industry. While we have yet to see which challenges these issues will bring, we could easily foresee that resilient companies with effective risk management, such as Assan Alüminyum, will survive these challenging periods.
Jürgen Kreutzer, Managing Director, Reimann
The aluminium sector is under more pressure than ever – both in terms of rising raw material prices, the shortage of skilled labor and in particular energy costs. We do not expect any recovery here in the foreseeable future, especially against the background of the Ukraine-Russia war.
The focus of our presence at this year’s trade show will therefore be on solutions for energy-efficient industrial furnace refurbishment. Among other things, we offer our customers the installation of resistance heating systems or the conversion of furnaces from natural gas to electric heating. In this way, we provide the answer to the necessary conversions in the operation of industrial furnaces to environmentally friendly energy sources.
We can already see that companies are investing more in this area. And we will see even more groundbreaking developments in the next 1-2 years, I am convinced. These will involve fossil-free energy sources for heating the furnaces – in addition to electricity, possibly also hydrogen.
Like many other companies in the industry, we have invested in stronger warehousing to counter supply bottlenecks. Where possible, we also use alternative materials or steel grades. We also see that our customers are preparing for the foreseeable shortage of gas supplies, as we are seeing stronger demand for conversion of existing furnaces to electric heating.