Quality specialist Nicromet is one of the biggest producers of aluminium casting alloys in Poland. An entirely private enterprise, the company was founded in 1990 by current owner Edward Wycislok, when it initially was engaged in trading activities with non-ferrous metal scraps. In 1994 the production of aluminium alloys was first initiated at a production site in Bestwinka, in south Poland. Today Nicromet consists of three modern production sites across the south of Poland – Oswiecim, Skawina, and Bestwinka, with a total combined capacity of approximately 11,000 tonnes of aluminium alloys per month. This is in the form of ingots and cones, as well as liquid metal. With two supporting commercial offices in the Czech Republic, Nicromet s.r.o and in Switzerland, Nicromet GmbH, Nicromet’s key markets span Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.
Nicromet’s clients are split between two main sectors – automotive industry and electrotechnical industry, encompassing widely recognised names such as Volkswagen Group, Nemak Group, BMW, Uniwheels, Neapco Europe, ArcelorMittal, Georg FischerAG, KSM Castings GmbH, and Ferroli. By way of an introduction to the business, Kristoff Jablonski, managing director, describes Nicromet’s key strengths: “We believe that our ability to provide just-in-time deliveries, exceptional customer service, flexibility, and quick decision making processes are all contributing factors in our overall market-leading service. The superior quality of our alloys is also widely recognised across our major markets.”
The majority of raw materials used by Nicromet in its production processes are aluminium scrap and primary aluminium. Aluminium scrap is purchased from specialist companies that acquire, separate, sort and compact the material. The obtained raw materials are then thoroughly analysed for their quality, chemical composition, and level of unwanted impurities. In terms of this supply chain, Kristoff highlights Nicromet’s procurement processes: “We purchase our raw materials through both long term contracts based on London Metal Exchange (LME) quotations, and on spot deliveries, focusing on reliable and predictable business partners. We primarily base our procurements on direct production-based customers, including our own clients.”
In order to guarantee the high quality of its aluminium alloys, Nicromet carries out a detailed inspection of all raw materials upon their delivery from its suppliers. Each of Nicromet’s three facilities has a laboratory, which is equipped with spectrometers for checking the chemical composition of purchased materials, and small induction furnaces for test melting. “Our strict quality control procedure begins with incoming material, which before it enters the facility passes through radioactive detector gates. This enables us to verify each delivery and eliminates the risk of processing potentially harmful radioactive materials. The material is then also sorted on modern sorting lines and subject to manual controls. Quality of the final products is crucial to the business, so this quality control policy is implemented throughout the whole manufacturing process, right up to post-production checks,” elaborates Kristoff. The conformity of manufactured alloys with customers’ requirements is confirmed with the appropriate certificate issued by Nicromet’s in-house laboratories. Each ingot is marked with the specific heat number, alloy type and branded with the Nicromet name.
One of Nicromet’s latest investments is in a new installation for the processing of recycled copper cable. Manufactured by ELDAN, this device enables Nicromet to acquire copper granulate in a clean and ecological manner. The granulate is then later used to refine aluminium alloys. This process is also waste free as the rubber or PVC granulate, a by-product from the separation of the cable insulation from the core, is sold onto plastic manufacturers. Reducing the production non-manageable waste is a primary focus of Nicromet’s environmental policy, alongside measures to reduce the emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere and surface water. To support this aim Nicromet has implemented ISO 14001 alongside other quality management systems ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, and System 5S.
Alongside its core production business, Nicromet also operates an in-house logistics division. Since the company was first established, Nicromet has been building its logistics department, with a focus on modern transportation, and storage resources simultaneously. “In order to ensure our own uninterrupted production by means of constant deliveries of aluminium scrap and other raw materials we utilise our own, as well as outsourced, logistics transport,” says Kristoff. “We have a fleet of 11 walking-floor, two tilts, three tippers, and eight lift trucks, as well as three specialist vehicles with crucibles for liquid metal transportation. JIT deliveries to customers is one of our strengths, and it is these logistics capabilities that make even the most complicated deliveries possible.”
Although the financial crisis brought with it difficult conditions for many businesses, Nicromet utilised this time to undertake a full modernisation programme at its Oswiecim site, which was reopened in May 2009 complete with modern technologies and increased production capacity. From October 2010, Nicromet turned its attention to its Bestwinka plant, which is currently in the process of its own complete modernisation programme. All production lines have been dismantled, with brand new installations now being constructed. The programme is due to be completed and start up production in April 2011.
Given the increasingly demanding nature of the market in terms of competition and long-term contract obligations due to volatile raw material prices, this investment into modern production enables Nicromet to continue to push the industry’s quality standards. Although Nicromet’s motto of ‘perfect alloys’ is an ambitious target, the company’s complete life-cycle approach to quality suggests that it is more than capable of achieving this ambition. Kristoff concludes with how Nicromet is taking a sustainable approach to the future by tailoring its development policy in line with market demand: “We are positively looking into the future of the company’s development in terms of employees, and the application of cost saving and efficient technologies. We have a strong team of experienced, motivated and dedicated staff and subsequently are confident about the long-term business prospects of Nicromet. Currently we are planning to purchase a fourth production facility, located in the Czech Republic, to better serve the surrounding markets. Our ambition is to see the company as a market leader, and perceived as a reliable partner to our suppliers and customers, with a recognised ability to offer tailor-made speciality alloy products in line with client demands.”
Products Aluminium casting alloys