Alcoa: A confident company in a nervous world

It is safe to say that the Euro-zone crisis will not help the US recover from the deepest recession since 1937. But, US company Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products is convinced that by adapting to new technology, it will resurge with a new competitive edge and lead the way.

Following the 2008 recession, the global economy is characterised by slow corporate growth, tight credit terms and modest profit expectations.
In such a hostile business environment, it has been vitally important to focus on  a brand’s unique selling proposition, especially in the contested manufacturing sector. The key question is simple – does a company make an essential product or not?

In the case of Alcoa, business analysts agree that the answer is ‘yes’. Despite slow global growth, rising energy prices and a weak domestic industry, subsidiary Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products (AWTP) has proven that on-going success in a bear market is possible.

Alcoa’s AWTP division has been serving the transportation market since they forged the first forged aluminium wheel was introduced in 1948 and has become an essential mainstay of the parent company’s post-GFC business plan, which is based on providing a product that can offer a real Return Of Investment (ROI).

“Alcoa forged aluminium wheels are light in weight yet strong and durable, offering improved productivity and lower lifetime cost” says Peter Williams, Managing Director of Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products Australia & Asia.

“Since the first commercial vehicle hit the road, wheel selection has been a crucial part of every transport business,” he adds. “By their very nature, wheels spend their entire lives in a hostile environment, making them one of the most critical components on every vehicle.”

Therefore, modern fleet management does not only look at pricing, appearance and application, but also considers lifecycle cost. “All around the world, transport companies demand more than a perfect fit,” says Williams. “Today’s market requires attention to detail. That’s why Alcoa wheels feature precision machining, improved heat dispersion and, most importantly, a significant weight advantage.”

Williams’ equation is simple – a lightweight Alcoa forged aluminium wheel set will improve overall payload, increase fuel economy, and reduce maintenance and downtime, hence add to the bottom line. “With increases in weight carrying regulations, it’s no secret that the lighter the truck and trailer, the more freight it can legally carry,” he says, following a tried and true business dictum. When times are tough, people respond with their wallets.

In that sense, Alcoa also invented the Dura-Bright® technology to waive the hassle of regular cosmetic maintenance and help reduce maintenance cost. “Dura-Bright wheels use a patented surface treatment that penetrates the aluminium and becomes an integral part of the wheel,” says Williams. “And, because Alcoa Dura-Bright Technology is a surface treatment and not a coating, it won’t chip, crack, peel or corrode.” In addition, Alcoa introduced the LvL One® finish, which is designed to be six times brighter than a classic machine finish and has now replaced the machined finished wheel in the Alcoa range.

But, what hides below the high-tech coating? “We only use aluminium of a premium grade 6061-T6, high strength, corrosion resistant material,” says Williams. “If you compromise on this, it’s not worth stamping the Alcoa brand on the wheel.”

While the one-piece construction itself promises forged-in strength, Alcoa’s unique selling proposition is lifetime value. “Historically, the resale value is considerably more on trucks that are fitted with regular Alcoa forged aluminium wheels,” Williams says. “And Dura-Bright wheels may result in even more.”

According to Alcoa’s research, a forged aluminium wheel fitted to a wide-base tyre can improve rolling resistance by up to three per cent over a comparable size steel wheel. “And, three per cent less rolling resistance equals one per cent fuel savings,” Williams says.

In addition, Alcoa wheels’ strength, durability and low weight deliver environmental advantages to complement their financial benefits, Williams says. “With larger payloads due to the weight savings, you’ll reduce your number of trips. And, since Alcoa wheels are infinitely recyclable, they’ll never see a landfill.”

As part of a Fortune 500 company, Alcoa Wheel Products can bank the stability of a 125+ year-old company along with the vast infrastructure and flexible supply chain of a global enterprise that virtually invented the aluminium industry, says Williams. “Today, wheel decision cannot be made in a vacuum. Selecting the right product can make a real difference to your fleet’s efficiency,” he adds, proving that Alcoa confides in the right product to capitalise on the global recovery and maintain a leading position in a contested market.

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