German steel service centre Becker will soon start slitting aluminium, Kallanish hears from its managing director Thilo Theilen at a flat products’ conference hosted by steel stockholders federation BDS in Düsseldorf.
As reported earlier, Europe’s largest steel service centre, owned by Klöckner & Co, decided to enter the aluminium business two years ago. “We approached aluminium rollers to entice them with the idea of service centres as an intermediate between producer and consumer,” Theilen recalls. Initially, the producers did not see the advantage in such a combination, given that they deal directly with all end-user customers.
However, changes in the auto industry, such as using aluminium increasingly for structural parts, have changed the picture, the MD explains. Also, the trend of OEMs increasingly relocating their production to other countries with automotive suppliers following, has also had an effect. “The question was what we could do also to prevent further migration,” he says.
“We know that the OEMs have many plans ‘in their drawers’ concerning which [… car] parts can be exchanged for aluminium. So far, the supply chains have not matured to safeguard the production all the way. Currently, both producers and users are discussing anew if they should do business directly, or via an intermediary.”
“What used to be a contentious issue, steel versus aluminium, we see as being side-by-side, depending which material it makes more sense to use in which parts,” Theilen adds. If the future brings driverless cars, which need to be based on a system involving a high level of accident prevention, crash safety properties will play a lesser role than absolute weight reduction, he argued.
He underlines that this is an add-on business for Becker to secure smaller, tailored sections of the aluminium market. The company’s new unit at its location in Boenen, Westphalia, will start slitting in May with cutting-to-length projected to commence one year later.