Aluminium is inevitable for a resilient, efficient and sustainable global supply chain which strives to achieve an optimum level of movement of goods. While being cost-efficient, quick and flexible, it incorporates a management process that binds together a network of suppliers, manufacturers and warehouses, and means of transportation. And if there is one metal that is inevitable to have a robust, effective, and sustainable supply chain spanned across the world, it is aluminium.
It goes without saying that if the world is to meet the ever-growing demand of its increasing population, aluminium the ‘green metal,’ has a competitive advantage today & will be imperative tomorrow in the global supply chain.
Endless possibilities with aluminium
From construction to planes, from household appliances to the packaging of foods and beverages, the fundamental properties of aluminium such as its design, strength-to-weight ratio, infinite recyclability, sustainability, high corrosion resistance, and supreme formability provide endless possibilities. They make this green metal, the metal of the future for a more sustainable world.
Aluminium in road transportation
Transportation accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s energy demand. Aluminium components in an articulated truck can reduce the weight of the vehicle by up to 2,000 kg. Owing to the property of its strength-to-weight ratio, an aluminium-intense truck can carry a heavier load with exceeding statutory weight limits. Decreasing the weight of vehicles leads to improved fuel efficiency, reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission. Compared to steel, aluminium can reduce the weight of a vehicle by 40%, without compromising strength. The benefits of aluminium in transport go beyond this to cover an enhanced performance, easier handling and reduced wear on roads.
Increasing commerce with aluminium: freight containers
Freight containers in the global supply chain connect the global economy. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of global goods are transported across the sea. The strength, lightweight and durability of aluminium make it a beneficial and economical material for the construction of freight containers. In the case of shipping containers too, the use of aluminium over traditional materials such as steel has the potential to increase payloads, while reducing the weight and in turn the overall transportation costs, making business a profitable affair. In addition to this, aluminium has also proven to be an effective material for the construction of cargo holds, including insulated holds as it is non-reactive and non-abrasive.
Aluminium in a sea vessel
Since the first all-aluminium seagoing vessel built in 1892 in France, aluminium, over 120 years, is still the most preferred material in the maritime supply chain due it its lightweight and ease of fabrication along with corrosion and fatigue resistance. Aluminium’s superlative properties allow vessel volume and height to be increased without loss of stability. Further, the aluminium claddings of the interiors are attractive and easy to clean. Along with low maintenance cost, there have been reports that over 30-years-old aluminium crafts show no signs of metal fatigue. In comparison with their steel counterparts, the use of aluminium in the global supply chain can increase the speed, and size of the vessels while improving their fuel economy, safety, reliability and costs.
Aircraft: bringing world economies closer
From the Wright brothers’ first aeroplane with a 30-pound aluminium block to reduce weight to building the first all-aluminium plane in the early 1920s, the world has relied on aluminium to achieve efficiency and take off. The International Air Transport Association estimates that air cargo has been used to transport a whopping $6 trillion worth of goods annually, representing 35% of all global trade by value. As the primary aircraft material, aluminium comprises about 80 percent of an aircraft’s unladen weight. Aluminium’s combination of lightness, workability and strength makes it the ideal metal for making commercial aircraft. Strong aluminium alloys take extraordinary pressure and stress related to high altitude flying, reduce the weight and therefore save fuel and increase the aircraft’s payload.
As a result of its properties, aluminium makes it the most popular raw material to create modern and reliable solutions. The metal can take almost any shape. Thus in warehouses, that play a pivotal role in the overall supply chain, aluminium can be easily moulded to produce complex elements like an individually designed grid system, modules, shelves and platforms. In addition to this, as aluminium is ideally suited to anodizing, it becomes even more resistant to wear and scratching. In the case of aluminium roofing, it is non-flammable, aesthetically pleasing, easily installable and environment friendly. These properties make the metal an excellent choice for upgrading and constructing modern warehouses.
Aluminium is a malleable metal. It can take any form and shape, and its protective qualities have made it the most versatile packaging material in the world. It is also by far the lightest packaging material. Aluminium packaging offers a high level of corrosion resistance, an impermeable metal barrier to light, ultra-violet rays, water vapour, oils and fats, oxygen and micro-organisms. In the case of packaging sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals or food, the metal is hygienic, non-toxic and non-tainting. The aluminium packaging also plays an essential role of keeping the contents fresh, guaranteeing a long shelf-life.
The world needs to continue its quest to bring innovation and cutting-edge technology to improve aluminium applications and processes, use less energy, cut climate emissions and uplift the global supply chain to meet its commercial and sustainability goals.
(The writer is President – Operations at Jindal Aluminium)