Meet the team behind the closed-loop recycling program for America’s best-selling truck.
Keeping this $48 million recycling investment for the Ford F-150 running on time and as planned takes a team of experts to get the job done right.
The technical and operations teams for recycling and remelt work hand-in-hand to make sure every coil of aluminum made for Ford is the right alloy, for the right order, every time.
Here is how it works…
Each day, the technical team checks to see what’s coming down the pipeline from Ford and which alloys need to be developed and shipped out depending on Ford’s production timeline. Vehicle hoods, doors, beds, tailgates and more are made according to different specifications and may require different aluminum alloys. The technical team determines what is on the docket and the ingredients needed to create each alloy.
Then, the technical teams passes off the recipes to the operations team who calls in the trucks…
One of the main ingredients for each alloy is scrap which has been recycled in a closed-loop from Ford’s manufacturing plant. Novelis Oswego receives anywhere from 120,000-500,000 pounds of automotive scrap from Ford each day, and each truck is filled with particular aluminum alloys. By keeping the alloys separate, Novelis is able to recycle the scrap in a clean closed-loop, back into new coils.
For example, say a truck is filled with a group of scrap from the Novelis Advanz s615 alloy – designed by Novelis specifically to meet Ford’s specs – and Ford has ordered more s615. The operations team calls a truck filled with s615 from the holding lot, it arrives at the Recycling area and dumps the s615 scrap onto the conveyor. Now, the recycling process begins.
The scrap moves through a magnetic drum to remove any pieces of steel and other debris that might be stuck in the mix. From there, it goes through a cylindrical dryer that removes any remaining moisture before the scrap enters the furnaces.
From the dryer, the scrap travels through a suction-like tube that stretches nearly half-a-mile across the roof of the plant – very similar to the tubes you might use at a drive-through bank teller, but much, much larger. Half-a-mile may seem far, but when the scrap is traveling at nearly 180 miles per hour (MPH) via suction, it doesn’t take long to reach its final destination.
Once the scrap reaches the furnace area, the operations team determines when and how much scrap to release into the furnace for melting. It’s a steady, systematic process to fill the furnace and melt all the scrap.
The opening to the furnace operates like a blender, stirring the scrap into a bath of molten metal, melting at a temperature of 1,346O F (730 O C).
Once the furnace is full, the operations team releases the molten metal from the furnace and it flows down a trough into a crucible, or melter pot. Each melter pot can hold up to 20,000 pounds of molten aluminum.
This pot is assigned to a melter where the other ingredients in the alloy recipe are added. Ingredients might include silicon, magnesium, copper, titanium – whatever the recipe calls for to make that alloy just right. Only after the computer system verifies the mixture’s accuracy and deems it “certified,” then the melter pot can be released for casting.
The pot moves to the holder furnace where any byproducts from the melting process are skimmed off the top and recycled. Finally, the molten metal arrives at the casting trough where it is slowly poured into the cast to harden and form a massive block of solid aluminum, called an ingot.
The ingot is later converted into a coil through a series of rolling and finishing steps before it is shipped off to the customer.
Once the coil reaches Dearborn, Michigan, Ford stamps out hoods, doors and other parts from the coils and sends the leftover scrap back to Novelis for recycling back into new sheet, again and again, in a continuous closed-loop.
Why do we do it? Recycling aluminum requires 95 percent less energy and produces 95 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than primary aluminum production. The more we recycle, the better it is for our operations, our customers and our planet. And thanks to the Oswego team, we’re able to achieve this, one coil at a time.