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Located in Schofield, Gordon Aluminum Industries, Inc. is one of the leading employers in Marathon County with 140 employees.  The company is a full service aluminum extruder offering anodizing, powder coating, and fabrication services. Industries served by Gordon Aluminum include truck body, curtain wall and architectural window, and transportation control equipment manufacturers, signage companies, medical supply companies, and fabricators of all types.  Gordon has built a reputation of quality leadership for all products and services offered.Gordon Aluminum Industries, Inc.

The Issue

anotherviewWMEP has been working with Gordon Aluminum since 2006 on a range of projects related to continuous improvement.  Upon hearing that grant dollars were available to offset the cost of energy efficiency improvements and procurement of new equipment, Bill McIntyre, the company’s process engineering manager, approached WMEP for more information on ways his company could access the assistance and funds needed to move forward with implementing energy savings.

The Wisconsin Profitable Sustainability Initiative’s (PSI) Pilot Program began in 2010 and has been expanded through funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.  Gordon Aluminum, a union-represented manufacturer, was chosen to participate in the program due to its commitment to sustainability and history of making significant process improvements.

aluminumThe PSI model features three phases: diagnostic, assessment and implementation. The diagnostic process uses a qualitative tool to determine the area of greatest potential impact with respect to energy, environmental, logistics and process improvements. This unique approach provides a 360-degree view of the entire operation. At Gordon, the diagnostic tool identified energy utilization and scrap reduction as the areas with the greatest potential ROI.  The assessment then drilled down into these two aspects and provided a detailed analysis as well as an estimate of the up-front costs and paybacks associated with several possible approaches to scrap and energy reduction.

Results

lookingatmachineGordon Aluminum chose to replace its die ovens as part of the project. The aluminum extrusion process requires dies to be pre-heated to 850 degrees by electric heating elements in die ovens. The PSI assessment found that replacing the old die ovens with energy-saving models would save $76,000 per year in energy costs, with a payback on the ovens of 1.15 years.

The second project focused on scrap reduction. Gaurav Gandhi, manufacturing specialist at WMEP, leveraged his extensive background with Six Sigma and continuous improvement to identify ways to reduce the scrap generated during the aluminum extrusion process.  Initially, the scrap reduction project set a goal of reducing scrap cost by $300,000 annually, but after further analysis and implementation of the changes recommended by Gandhi, scrap reductions will render at least $600,000 in savings per year. Over 5 years, Gordon Aluminum will save $3M on scrap reductions alone. “One of the intangible benefits Gordon Aluminum got from the project is learning some of the problem-solving techniques that other industries have used in the past for similar continuous improvement projects,” said Gandhi.

aluminuminmachineIn addition to savings, a host of other benefits were gained by Gordon through the PSI process – including access to funding and capital. Through Focus on Energy, Gordon received a $30,000 grant for the purchase of the die ovens, and was able to secure bank financing for the rest of the investment. “Gordon Aluminum, like most businesses, is debt-financed. You need someone there that’s going to back your play, especially when you’re going to make a major investment,” said  AJ Gordon, president of Gordon Aluminum. “. . . it certainly helps to have that independent view in your back pocket. . . we’re not alone in this fight. WMEP is well-known, the bankers know who it is, and frankly, our customers know who it is.”

 Results

  • Annual scrap reduction savings of at least $600,000
  • Over 5 years, Gordon Aluminum will save $3M on scrap reductions alone
  • $76,000 annually in energy savings by replacing the die ovens with a payback on the oven investment in 1.15 years

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