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ARCHIVED  June 30, 2011

Golden Aluminum’s green, Lean and on a roll

FORT LUPTON — There’s a lot that’s unique to Golden Aluminum, starting with the fact that it’s the state’s only aluminum alloy manufacturing company.

But the 28-year-old plant is also unique in many other ways, including its focus on niche markets, colored aluminum products and its rapid order turnaround, which is among the fastest in the industry.

“Our competition is eight weeks, and we’re under two weeks after we receive an order,” said Jeffrey Frim, Golden Aluminum president.

But Frim also notes that Golden is one of the most sustainable companies operating today, using far less energy to make its products because of its unique manufacturing processes.

“We’re a Lean manufacturing organization,” Frim says. “Our process is more energy-efficient. We use less energy per pound of product.”

That energy efficiency is focused around Golden’s mini-mill continuous block caster, which converts shredded, melted-down used beverage cans (UBCs, Frim calls them) into rolls of aluminum of virtually any thickness to meet the specific requirements of its clients.

The Golden block caster, developed by Swiss company Lauener Engineering, can roll out a sheet of aluminum production stock that’s three-quarters-of-an-inch thick, requiring substantially less energy to create a roll of aluminum than the industry standard, which starts with a 30-inch aluminum ingot on its way to a sheet of aluminum.

 

A little history

Golden Aluminum traces its roots back to 1983, when Coors Brewing Co. in Golden built Golden Recycling to recycle aluminum beverage cans.

Frim says it was Bill Coors who became interested in recycling in the 1970s and pushed for the move from a steel can to a much-easier-to-recycle aluminum can.

“He was really the father of the modern-day beverage can,” Frim said. “He was about 40 years ahead of his time. Recycling, substantially, was what his whole concept was about.”

Golden had a series of different owners in the 1990s and early 2000s before a group of private investors purchased it in 2004.

Today, the company uses its patented 5017 alloy — made from about 95 percent recycled aluminum — to make food containers such as sardine cans; the opening tabs that go on the tops of beverage and food containers; wine and beverage caps and closures; circuit boards; and architectural products, including window blinds.

The company can also coat its aluminum products in virtually any color imaginable.

Golden bases its production on the recycling of aluminum cans. In 2009 the company consumed 6.7 million pounds of UBCs, or the equivalent of about 141 million shredded aluminum cans, accounting for about 50 percent of its raw production material.

Narrow-width niche

Frim said Golden focuses on the narrow-width niche market with its 30-inch-wide aluminum casting process.

“Our markets are the food and beverage-packaging markets,” he said. “Our customers are can makers like Ball Corp., Crown Cork and Seal, and Rexam on the beverage side. On the food side, a company called Sonoco in South Carolina is our largest customer.”

Frim said Golden provides Sonoco with the metal ends needed to make composite cans of metal and cardboard — like those used for Pringles chips — for Sonoco’s powdered infant formula customers.

Golden’s second-largest food client is an Irish company called Ardaugh that packs Canadian sardines into Golden-made containers.

The company also makes the screw caps for California-based Gallo wines.

Frim said Golden’s manufacturing is based on recycled aluminum cans — cans that are used over and over again.

“That’s the beauty of aluminum,” he said. “It’s indefinitely recyclable.”

Sustainability and energy savings are taken very seriously at Golden, Frim noted. “Our natural resources are going away, so our mission is how do we do this smarter and better?”

The company is constantly looking for better ways to make its products and maintains a six-person sustainability team of workers from across the manufacturing process that offers its ideas on how to do that better.

Bright future

Recently, the company installed motion-detector lights in areas that are only sporadically used to save on electricity. The company also recently began baling up and recycling all of its scrap cardboard. And it recycles its wooden pallets, turning them into mulch for landscaping.

“Another project we’re looking at is waste-heat recovery,” Frim said. “We’re working on a system to recapture the heat from our ovens to heat our water cleaning tanks. Again, it’s how do you reuse, how do you recapture. We look at that day in and day out.”

Each of the facility’s three 2,000-degree melting ovens can hold up to about 100,000 pounds of aluminum at a time. Golden’s products are shipped mostly throughout the United States and to Canada and Mexico, but about 2 percent are shipped internationally to Thailand, South Korea and China.

Frim said Golden is currently about a $100 million company employing about 165 people. The facility runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Frim said the company is doing well and is considering a possible expansion at some point in the future, although he said he could not elaborate on those plans.

“The future looks bright for us,” he said with a smile.

FORT LUPTON — There’s a lot that’s unique to Golden Aluminum, starting with the fact that it’s the state’s only aluminum alloy manufacturing company.

But the 28-year-old plant is also unique in many other ways, including its focus on niche markets, colored aluminum products and its rapid order turnaround, which is among the fastest in the industry.

“Our competition is eight weeks, and we’re under two weeks after we receive an order,” said Jeffrey Frim, Golden Aluminum president.

But Frim also notes that Golden is one of the most sustainable companies operating today, using far less energy to make its…

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