Not just aluminum, Novelis Aluminum.TM

The Innovation Challenge

What do companies like Apple, BMW, Airbus, Starbucks, Samsung, Bayer, Tesla and Facebook have in common?  What sets them apart from their competition?  Each of them is recognized as an innovation leader. They do not accept the status quo, they are constantly thinking disruptively and they always are looking for ways to improve. These companies have changed our lives. They have innovation in their DNA.

Notice that I did not include the names of any aluminum companies in this list. What shift within the industry would be necessary to make that happen?  Beyond the business value of innovation, think about what a recognition like this would mean to your company and its stakeholders.  It’s priceless.

Ultimately, successful innovation will determine the winners in our industry.

What does innovation really mean?

There’s no doubt that innovation has become a much used, and perhaps overused phrase, in business. But, what does innovation really mean?

The term dates back to the mid-16th century and from Latin innovat, meaning renewed, altered.  And a dictionary definition tells us it means to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products.  Innovation began taking root as a term associated with science and industry in the nineteenth century, matching the forward march of the Industrial Revolution.

Regardless, innovation means different things to different people.  We recently asked researchers at Novelis to think about what innovation means to them. We heard words like revolutionary, amazing and inspiring.  One employee said it meant delivering superior solutions to customers while another said it was creating something that has never been done before. A third employees said that at its core, innovation is creativity and practicality rolled into the same coil. From my perspective, innovation is a focus on differentiated products and services that deliver higher profits.

What can we learn from others?

The modern aluminum industry started in 1886 with the invention of the Hall–Héroult process, independently and almost simultaneously, by Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult. There have been a number of noteworthy innovations since then, including heat treatable alloys, direct chill casting, the two-piece beverage can and the aluminum-intensive vehicle.  There are certainly other significant developments, as well. These innovations propelled growth for our industry over more than 100 years.

The Jaguar F Type is one of an increasing number of aluminum intensive vehicles hitting the market, thanks to automotive aluminum innovation

The Jaguar F Type is one of an increasing number of aluminum intensive vehicles hitting the market, thanks to automotive aluminum innovation

However, we need to look outside our industry for some important perspective.  In 28 years, Apple revolutionized not just an industry, but how we live our lives. It changed the way music is distributed through its iPod, how media is consumed through its iPad and placed the power of computing in our pockets. Apple has gone from a start-up computer company to the largest publicly traded corporation in the world by market capitalization and the most valuable brand in the world as ranked by Interbrand.

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More lightweight aluminium makes heavy impact

Global trends toward CO2 reduction and resource efficiency have significantly increased the importance of the automotive lightweight issue of  over the last few years. Lightweight materials and design have always been an important topic in the automotive industry, as weight has a direct impact on driving dynamics, agility and fuel consumption since the origin of the automobile. Yet, due to its light weight, strength and formability, aluminium has gained significant attention in recent years and is now penetrating the auto market at an unprecedented rate.

Ford Model T assembly line in Minneapolis, MN, USA, 1912 (Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company)

Ford Model T assembly line in Minneapolis, MN, USA, 1912 (Photo credit: Ford Motor Company)

Henry Ford’s Model T was the 20th century’s boldest automotive vehicle. Ford himself acknowledged that weight is an enemy, with only  20 horsepower beneath the hood, the Model T needed its weight to be reduced beneath 2000 kg to  accomplish the task of pulling. Ford recognized the value of aluminium early and produced the Model T hoods with this material. Now, a century later, the Ford F-150 has been able to reduce  its  weight by more than 300 kg with the help of aluminium . This 10 percent reduction means a 7 percent  improvement in fuel economy. The redesigned Ford F-150 pickup has also earned the U.S. government’s highest possible crash safety rating, which should dispel customers’ worries that the truck’s all-new aluminium body would compromise crashworthiness. Novelis, as a lead aluminium supplier for this bestselling car in the U.S., has worked very closely with Ford during the whole vehicle development process.

Another company which has developed into a leading user of aluminium is Jaguar Land Rover. It manufactures the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport from aluminium. The Jaguar XE has reduced its bodyweight by 251 kg and the Range Rover  by 400 kg. Furthermore Novelis helps to reduce the Jaguar XE’s carbon footprint by recycling scrap aluminium from Jaguar’s stamping plants. This means that  50

2016 Jaguar XE made with an all-aluminium body with a minimum 50 percent recycled aluminum content from Novelis

2016 Jaguar XE made with recycled content aluminium from Novelis (Photo credit: Jaguar Land Rover)

percent of the automobile’s aluminium is recycled, leading to a CO2 saving of 3 tons per vehicle. To go a step further in the closed-loop recycling model, Novelis and Jaguar Land Rover engineers are working on processes to increase  the percentage of recycled aluminium up to 75 percent in their products.

As regulators call for even higher emissions standards in the coming years, the importance of lightweight materials will increase. Novelis contributes by  transforming the traditional supply system and engaging with our customers to develop innovative and customized solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In sustainability, we win or lose together.

Brazil drought 2015: Conserving water, one month at a time

As part of our sustainability strategy, Novelis is committed to reducing water use intensity by 20 percent by 2020. This focus could not come at a more important time for our South America operations in Brazil.

Brazil is currently experiencing its worst water crisis in over 80 years, which has already left millions of residents with no water for days at a time. Water is a critical challenge for both Novelis and wider society, as we work towards efficient and conservative use that enables long-term water security.

Recently, Novelis South America made some important steps in these efforts and, in March 2015, we were recognized by the Federation of Industries for the State of São Paulo (FIESP) for the work we have done in reducing our Brazilian operations’ water consumption.

Novelis South America receives FIESP Award for Conservation and Water Reuse for conserving nearly a month's worth of water during Brazil drought

Novelis South America receives FIESP Award for Conservation and Water Reuse for conserving nearly a month’s worth of water at the Novelis Pindamonhangaba plant in response to the drought in Brazil

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Aluminium in automotive: This is just the beginning

This article originally ran in the Jan/Feb issue of Aluminium International Today.

Aluminium has been used in automotive applications for nearly half a century, but only recently has it gained popularity as a material of choice for automakers.

Weight-reduction efforts in automotive design and construction have increased significantly in recent years. This is in large part due to long term economic, political and social pressures to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions around the globe. As a result, manufacturers are turning to aluminium based material solutions to help reduce vehicle weight, provide for better fuel economy and improve overall sustainability credentials.

Strong, durable, lightweight and 100 percent recyclable, aluminium meets the demands of automakers and the governments and consumers they aim to satisfy. Aluminium vehicle structures, body panels and closures enable more fuel-efficient cars that produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions without compromising safety, comfort or performance. It is the only material that can provide such dramatic weight reduction across the entire vehicle cost effectively, while providing the same level of quality and durability. For driving dynamics and car agility, automotive designers see aluminium as an opportunity for greater flexibility in optimizing weight distribution and balancing the weight of the car.

As a result, the automotive market is now the aluminium industry’s fastest growing sector. In fact, Novelis projects the use of aluminium in the automotive market will grow by approximately 30 percent each year through the end of the decade.

Impact on suppliers

This is no small shift. And with nearly 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and more than 180 current vehicle models using our aluminium, Novelis is feeling the impact of this market shift in a very real way.

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