Just like a ton of briquettes, chip-handling idea hits home.

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Though there are no alchemists on the payroll, AACOA Inc. of Niles, MI, has an exceptional ability to turn aluminum into gold.

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Well, not literally. But since 1972, the firm has been a successful, growing supplier of aluminum-associated products and services. AACOA was first (and is still) a leading provider of anodizing services for a variety of industries throughout the Midwest. Then, from 1998 on, it has been one of the country's premier manufacturers of aluminum extrusions offering an extensive range of fabrication and machining processes for aluminum-based products.

Now, thanks to a new chip handling system that includes the FastPac Briquetter compacting unit from Mayfran International of Cleveland, OH, AACOA is even turning its aluminum chips and scrap into gold--with a threefold increase in the scraps' value thanks to the heavier density of aluminum chip scrap.

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According to Dave Sheaks, plant manager at the AACOA extrusion facility, the briquette machine has contributed more than just monetary gains. "It's easy to review the numbers, the dollar figures," Sheaks says, "and feel good about the increased rate of payback. But, in addition to higher price-per-pound scrap values, we've found that the entire handling system has contributed to a cleaner chip processing operation, and cleaner production areas. It's also virtually labor-free since it requires no additional personnel to operate beyond those who would normally be collecting and transporting chip materials, and so far, has also been maintenance-free."

Chips are fine

All are key elements critical to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement for AACOA,. Sheaks explains. Niles production facility houses two automated 2,500-ton extrusion press lines producing standard profiles such as "L" angle, T- and I-bar, round and hexagon bars, round, square and rectangular tube, plus H- and U-channel pieces along with custom profiles from a variety of aluminum alloys. Each press line can produce profiles of up to 10" diameter in size from billet sections of up to 8" diameter. Each line is hungry, requiring the continuous operation of five billet saws and two finish saws. These saws produce mounds of fine chips.

The facility also provides fabrication of aluminum components and offers CNC machining, production sawing and miter cutting, milling, piercing and punching, as well as assembly, welding, bending operations, in-house die and fixture...

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