The Current Aluminum Supply Chain
Unless you’ve been living off the grid on a remote desert island, you’re well aware that the last couple of years have seen some unprecedented disruptions to global supply chains, affecting products of all kinds. From breakfast cereal and consumer goods to computer chips and, unfortunately, aluminum and other building materials, the availability of numerous products and commodities have suffered from production and logistical issues.
Where Does Aluminum Come From?
What we think of as aluminum doesn’t occur that way in nature. Obtaining familiar aluminum in an energy-intensive process that starts with bauxite ore which is mined primarily in Australia, Guinea, China, and Brazil. Bauxite ore is processed into aluminum oxide, also called alumina. Alumina is then smelted to produce aluminum. To end up with a ton of aluminum, about 4.5 tons of bauxite ore are needed. China has, by far, the largest smelting capacity.
What Problems Has the Global Aluminum Supply Chain Seen Recently?
As with many supply chain issues since the pandemic began, a combination of lockdowns, worker quarantines, weather disruptions, changes in other commodity prices, and transit delays have made the availability and quantity of goods very unpredictable. In the case of aluminum, an added disruption occurred in November 2021 when one of the world’s largest aluminum smelters, in China, suffered an explosion that halted production. A rise in coal prices has also increased smelting costs, which has had a corresponding effect on aluminum prices. In addition, adjustments to the tariffs applicable to aluminum imports have affected the American aluminum supply, and, by extension, work and jobs in construction and other industries.
How Have Supply Chain Issues Affected Aluminum Prices?
By nearly a year into the pandemic, disruptions had caused the price of aluminum to rise over 60% from before it started, and current projections are for prices to continue to increase through 2022 an additional 5 to 8%. Existing supply had allowed manufacturers to keep prices lower for a short time, but as those supplies needed to be replenished, prices have risen across the board.
Usage of Aluminum
The United States imports more aluminum than any other country, and countless industries take advantage of this desirable material. While the construction and transportation industries use the largest percentage of aluminum, the electric and electronics industries, as well as the packaging industry which needs aluminum for cans and foil, are also large consumers.
Why is Aluminum in Such High Demand?
With usage eclipsed only by steel, aluminum is popular and suitable for numerous industries, particularly construction. Strong, easy to work with, corrosion-resistant, and easy to recycle, aluminum is extremely versatile. Increasing consumer demand for readily recyclable materials and light weight that belies its strength, make aluminum incredibly popular.
Effects of Supply Chain Disruptions on the Construction Industry
Aluminum is a go-to material for many critical components in construction, particularly windows, curtain wall framing, and related parts. In general, existing contracts have maintained pre-pandemic pricing, while new contracts will often reflect the steep rise in the price of aluminum and other building supplies.
How FreMarq Innovations Accommodates Fluctuations in Aluminum Prices
At FreMarq Innovations, our goal is to provide superior energy efficiency for your building in the most cost-effective way. Even when base materials, including aluminum, increase in cost, our Zero•Net™ systems can provide substantial savings by integrating our patented FortMax™ thermal barrier.
Whether you’re incorporating a curtain wall as part of a new building design, or retrofitting an existing structure, FreMarq Innovations has the expertise to provide highly-effective, attractive, cost-effective results. Contact us today to learn more about our pressure and unitized curtain wall systems, fixed windows, zero sightline vents, and retrofit solutions with industry-leading thermal barrier performance.