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Red Metals Report

Around the Copper World

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MCN Editor Beth Gainer Names are changing throughout the copper, brass and bronze industry. 

The Copper and Brass Servicenter Association held its 71st annual convention April 12-14 in Clearwater Beach, Fla. This convention was the first to occur since 2019 because of the pandemic. The gathering of red metals professionals witnessed many highlights, with perhaps the biggest headliner being the association’s name change to the Copper and Brass Supply Chain Association.

The association’s newly appointed President Dave Goad noted that “service center” is an antiquated term for distributors and that market trends have included many distributors taking on more fabrication work to better serve their customers. Thus, CBSCA will be a more accurate reflection of the industry’s supply chain, according to the association.

CBSCA has launched with two membership categories: Providers and Affiliated members. The Providers consist of the traditional CBSA members – distributors, fabricators, mills and platers. The Affiliated membership category includes companies that serve the Providers by providing the products and/or services that help the Providers serve their customers. These Affiliated companies could include transportation/logistics, scrap, machinery, etc. In the coming months, the board will define these categories and determine the membership dues structure.

Goad says the association’s name change is necessary. “We are no longer the association we once were.  Over the years, many of the smaller distributors have been acquired, many of the service centers are offering value-added products, and the seamless cooperation between providers and consumers of copper products is an absolute requirement,” he says. “We are also a more global association than we were in years past, so I believe the name change is a more accurate representation of who we are now.

“But it is not only a change in name.  It is a recognition of the importance of all aspects of the supply chain.  The past couple of years have taught us that we must take a more robust look at all of the inputs included in delivering our products.  By inviting other affiliated companies into the organization, we will ultimately serve our customers better, and that is our primary focus,” says Goad, who also serves as a vice president for Cambridge-Lee Industries. 

Another convention highlight was the Supply Chain Roundtable, where industry professionals, such as service center and mill representatives discussed their experiences. “The supply chain has been on everyone’s mind,” says Susan Avery, the association’s executive director. “We addressed that somewhat at our Red Metals Summit [in fall 2021], but as everyone knows, the supply chain issues have not remedied themselves, and we don’t anticipate that they will anytime soon.” 

As always, networking opportunities were invaluable. “The engagement opportunities are always the highlight of the convention,” says Goad.  “This year, we hosted two roundtable events where we got to hear from each other.  This is how we learn. We learn about business conditions, we learn about challenges, we learn about best practices, and we discover opportunities to improve our businesses.”

Twenty-five people attended the convention for the first time, setting a record of first-time attendees. The association also welcomed a record-setting number of 19 nonmember companies to the convention. The association was pleased to host members of academia for the first time – a professor and student from the University of Kentucky, who networked with other attendees and learned more about the copper and brass supply chain.

Avery says the attendance numbers were exciting for the association. “It told us we were moving in the right direction and that there was really a pent-up demand for this industry to get together,” she says, adding that new attendees found out about the convention through word of mouth. “I’m proud of the energy that was in that room during the convention; the members and non-members are excited.”

Goad was also impressed by first-time attendees.  “The turnout was fantastic,” he says, “and their enthusiasm for what we are doing and willingness to participate is exactly what keeps this organization going from generation to generation, from company to company.”

CDA Adds New Directors
The Copper Development Association has announced two new directors who will be leading the way for its members and others to help the red metals industry at large.

Adam Kotrba is the director of flat products, and Marcus Elmer is the director of tube and fittings. Kotrba is responsible for identifying and influencing market trends and growth opportunities for member companies and the copper industry within end uses such as data centers, electric vehicles, architectural applications, green buildings and antimicrobial copper. Elmer is responsible for identifying and influencing market trends, opportunities, and threats for copper tube and fittings products through the development and execution of strategic programs involving technical research, codes and standards, advocacy and education.

According to Adam Estelle, the association’s vice president, it was an easy decision to place these individuals in their new positions thanks to their depth of knowledge. “Adam and Marcus are technical powerhouses. We really appreciate all that technical wealth of applications-based experience that they bring to the table,” he says. “They bring new experience, expertise, energy and fresh ideas that are totally appropriate for the changing times.” 

In their new roles, Kotrba and Elmer will apply their experience and knowledge to address red metals’ many applications that adapt to the changing times and benefit society at large. 

With sustainability being even more of a focus today, Kotrba notes that now is an exciting time for copper and its alloys to make their mark. “Globally, we’re seeing ambitious and timely sustainability goals, paired with clean energy transition plans and the introduction of the virtual universe,” he says. “Climate action, decarbonization and circular economy initiatives are gaining momentum across many sectors as well. Copper and copper alloy flat products play a critical role in enabling many of the product, system and technology solutions that can address these urgent societal goals.” 

Because copper and its alloys have antimicrobial properties, the EPA has registered them to continuously kill infectious bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

Elmer’s goal in his new role as director of tube and fittings for the CDA includes also helping to keep others healthy. Noting that much of copper tube and fittings use is in construction and HVACR applications, he says that copper is crucial to a healthy indoor environment. “What is gaining more traction is the momentum around indoor air quality, indoor environmental quality, and sustainability; those are really big areas copper tube and fittings will continue to play a pivotal role in,” he says. 

Society is seeing the success in lead service line replacements, thanks to the Biden administration’s dedicated budget for aging infrastructure and lead line replacements, according to Elmer. He adds that copper has an excellent legacy for many applications, such as resilient, non-permeable underground burial applications that do not leach and allow toxicity into the lines. “So tube and fittings sends a message – that role being a key player of built environments and delivering clean and safe water,” he says.

Another common trend is value engineering, according to Kotrba, who states that red metals’ upfront costs are a worthwhile investment, given the metals’ long-term performance and sustainability benefits. “Copper and copper alloy products have long service lives with reliable performance that contributes to lower total cost of ownership, lower failure rates, reduced maintenance requirements and superior energy efficiency in many applications,” he says. 

Elmer agrees, emphasizing that while people might substitute less expensive materials such as plastics and aluminums for a copper product, in the end, the latter is still superior. “We see the threat coming from cheaper alternatives and that’s luring impulse decisions for a lower upfront cost,” he says, “but when you look at the lifecycle, the return on investment, the application in the field and even workability, that needle starts to swing back to copper being the right choice.”

In their positions with the CDA, Kotrba and Elmer will help the association’s members, which offer a wide variety of products and services. Kotrba emphasizes that CDA members have many growth opportunities. “Our members manufacture and supply a diverse mix of products used in a variety of applications and markets,” he says. “These markets include copper and copper-based alloys for EVs, solar and wind energy technologies including the electrical grounding system for wind turbine farms, data centers for both electrical applications such as busbars and thermal management applications such as heat exchangers.” 

Elmer will be doing advocacy work in his new role with the CDA team, which includes addressing the consumer requirements around sustainability, safety and leaving less of a carbon footprint. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for copper tube and fittings to positively impact and influence these areas, and that’s why the Copper Development Association and the International Copper Association have really focused on material stewardship through the value chain organized on health, environmental safety and sustainability,” he says. Elmer’s plan is to educate and support CDA members, as well as to encourage them to share their voices in these areas. 

And the CDA as a whole will also support its members in the tubes and fittings arena, including being a valuable resource and disseminating research, as well as providing classroom hands-on training. The CDA offers training-the-trainer sessions for educational institutions such as technical colleges, “where we promote best practices and applications for copper tube and copper fittings and those applications,” says Elmer.

Estelle concurs the CDA offers vast support for its diverse members. “A lot of the time, CDA builds bridges from the upstream, where the raw material comes from to our member companies that take those raw materials and process them into semi-fabricated forms and to the end user,” he says, “so we’ve got to be all those interfaces between all these different stakeholders in the value chain to make sure that we’re delivering on our mission to bring the value of these materials to society.”

And the CDA is embracing and leading the change by making a significant, meaningful impact on society through advocacy and education. “We’re really out there in the markets trying to influence codes and standards, public awareness, technical end-user support, regulatory work and so forth,” says Estelle, adding that it’s an exciting but challenging time for the industry.

“We’re ready to rise to the occasion. I recognize the critical nature of this material and achieving the goals that we want to achieve as a society, whether it’s addressing climate change, getting clean energy, renewables and data centers, so I think there are ample opportunities, and we’re just trying to stay focused and bring the value of these materials to society.”   

“The areas that Adam and Marcus are specializing in are very important in critical applications for all different aspects of society. We’ve got high hopes, and we’re really confident that they’re going to help lead us into the future, take our members in the right direction and move the industry forward.”

ABC Metals Gets New Owners
On Dec. 17, 2021, Accuity Capital Group, Indianapolis, purchased ABC Metals Inc., headquartered in Logansport, Ind., renaming the business ABC Metals Group LLC, making it one of the top four distributors in the United States for copper alloy coil and sheet, according to the company. The business also has locations in Indianapolis, as well as in Pharr and El Paso, Texas.

The company’s values have always revolved around excellence – in how the business treats its customers, keeps its promises and steers customers to the best solutions, and as a result, earns the clients’ trust. 

But what’s different since the purchase is ABC Metals Group’s business model.

“Distributors have always historically been a road to market, able to be a market channel for the mills, but we are actually a road-to-market partner, or collaborator, where the mills are counting on us to be their processing center. That is unique,” explains Tom McClenahan, vice president of sales, adding that this is why ABC Metals Group is at the center of meeting the needs of a huge U.S. red metals market.

“We’re standing in the gap between an expanding market with higher demand, not just of quantity but also of certain kinds of products that, up until now, the industry has not seen at the same rate or pace of growth,” says McClenahan, “and ABC Metals Group under the new ownership is expanding its capabilities and services.”
Jake Wallgren, director of supply chain, agrees. “That is an active strategy of ours – to partner with our mill suppliers and fill that gap,” he says.

ABC Metals Group is “well-positioned to support the bifurcated industry demands for both light gauge and heavy gauge coil and sheet in copper and aluminum alloys,” says McClenahan.  “Our heavy-gauge processing capabilities in copper and copper alloy has ABC uniquely positioned as a distributor – as well as partnering with our mills – to support automotive EV, power generation, oil and gas, electrical infrastructure and industrial market applications.”

ABC Metals Group is expanding its offerings to the market. The company will be able to offer light-gauge special electronics materials in thin sheets, coils and foils, as well as the heavy gauge copper up to a quarter-inch thick. The company is not only serving the end-user markets, but has partnered in collaboration with the mills to actually process, slit and fabricate coil for them, “so we are standing in the gap in the supply chain,” says McClenahan. 

Such offerings are possible because of the company’s willingness and ability to embrace change. In fact, McClenahan predicts that over the next five to 10 years a huge transformation will occur –  not just in terms of EVs, green technology and energy, but how the entire supply chain is going to support that change in our society. “Everyone’s talking politically and geopolitically about green energy and what we’re going to do with electric vehicles and carbon reduction, but you don’t accomplish these power generation initiatives without transforming the rest of what impacts our daily lives, and that’s the power delivery grid and power system management in our homes and neighborhoods. This is where a superior supply chain becomes so critical,” he says, “and why ABC has taken a unique approach through partnering with the mills and others to meet this fast-growing market demand.”

ABC Metals Group also invests in its employees, especially when it comes to advancement opportunities. “We’re giving our workforce an opportunity to advance. Many of our office personnel actually started out on the floor, operating some of these slitters and so forth, and they have opportunities for advancement as well,” says Director of Operations Shelly Langler. She says ABC Metals is not only putting the time and money into upgrading the equipment, the company is also “supporting the human capital aspect as well.” 

McClenahan agrees that employees are an important aspect to the ABC Metals Group team. “I think our company is unique in our workforce,” he says. “At the center of every good company, the people – the workforce – have the dedication to meet the service requirements of our customers.” 

The newly renamed Copper and Brass Supply Chain Association held the group’s first annual meeting in three years in April.