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RAW MATERIAL QUALITY CONCEPTS

Giurco, F.

A number of raw materials to the aluminium industry are often treated as commodity products. Provided the material, on average, meets the specifications then it is freely swapped between producers for the convenience of delivery or timing schedules. However, conformance to specifications is only the minimum quality requirement. The customer, be it a smelter or a refinery, is keenly interested in predictable consistency in the material received. This consistency is not only with respect to the average shipment quality but also with respect to variability within the shipment. Basically, the customer does not want any surprises during the use of a batch of material. Unfortunately the process shifts that are due to varying material quality are often difficult to quantify amidst the noise of the rest of the process unless the impact is very severe. As a result, it can at times be difficult for a smelter or a refinery to argue for the need for a more consistent raw material.

What is needed is an understanding by both the material supplier and the customer that quality is about the reduction of variability around target. Both parties need to commit to this philosophy and work cooperatively towards its achievement.