three green bullets

Astro Shapes: ‘Consistency is everything’

Aluminium from Hydro's supply network stretching from Qatalum in Qatar to a remelt plant in Henderson, Kentucky, helps customers like family-run Astro Shapes Inc. keep the wheels turning.

September 28, 2011

Astro Shapes management team
ALL IN THE FAMILY: Astro Shapes was founded in 1971 by Bob Cene, Sr. Today, ownership is in the hands of Bob’s sons, Paul (center) and Bob, Jr. (right) and Jim DiBacco (left). Paul serves as President with Bob, Jr. and Jim serving as Executive Vice Presidents. The company has grown from 20 employees in 1971 to nearly 500 today, with sales approaching $150 million per year.

With seven acres under one roof, Struthers, Ohio-based Astro Shapes, Inc. is a leading aluminum extruder serving commercial and residential construction, recreational vehicle, transportation and other industries.

The company’s ability to deliver on their fast turnaround promise has led this Midwest American business to an average daily output in excess of 260,000 pounds of aluminium lineals.

Making this high volume possible are the continual shipments of billet from the new Qatalum smelter, owned 50/50 by Qatar Petroleum and Hydro, and backed up by Hydro’s remelt plant in Henderson, Kentucky.

24/7 operation

“We’re at 90 percent capacity,” says Paul Cene. “For us, consistency is everything, because it enables us to deliver on our promise of quick response with high-quality extruded components.”

facotry building
COMPLEX: Astro Shapes is based in a huge complex near Youngstown, Ohio, in the U.S. Midwest.

Bob Smith, Vice President Materials Management and Purchasing, says, “We run three shifts a day, six days a week. We often run on Sunday, though we try to minimize it as much as we can.”

Astro Shapes keeps four presses busy, including a six-inch (15.2 cm) , two seven-inch (17.8 cm) and an eight-inch (20.3 cm) circle size. Each press has its own billet saw and aging oven.

Smith says, “Our decision to bring log saws in-house reduced the number of items we order from Hydro from 76 down to 12. It’s much easier to manage inventory given that we can cut the log at the press.”

According to Smith, the saws also allow them to cut the log to the precise length needed so they can better utilize the log – thus reducing scrap.

10,000 active shapes and growing

Astro Shapes maintains 10,000 active shapes for its current customers and expects to extrude 70 million pounds (32 million kilograms) of aluminium lineals this year. Nearly all the billet is supplied by Hydro.

aluminium ingots for extrusion
EXTRUSION INGOT: Aluminium from the new Qatalum aluminium plant in Qatar (above) and Hydro’s remelt plant in Henderson, Kentucky, helps keep high-volume Astro Shapes humming.

Astro Shapes has developed a sophisticated forecasting program that allows them to project log requirements four months in advance. “It’s necessary because it takes four months from the time we order log from Hydro’s Qatalum smelter until it arrives at Astro Shapes,” says Smith.

The company’s system projects four months ahead, on a “rough” estimate basis, using forecasting and actual usage patterns from customers.

To alleviate the inherent weakness of a long-term forecast model (customer forecasts and orders change over time), Astro Shapes purchases about 30 million pounds of billet per year from Hydro’s Henderson, Kentucky, remelt facilities.

They time the purchase to assure the proper inventory mix is available at all times. With Henderson only a few hundred miles distant, Smith can place orders with 30 days notice. “We rely on Henderson for the current month’s mix of alloy and diameter changes,” says Smith.

stacks of aluminium profiles
PROFILES: Aluminium profiles from Astro Shape.

Henderson also acts as a toll processor for Astro Shapes to facilitate the recycling of their scrap.

“We produce about 23 million pounds of aluminium scrap per year, so Henderson is essential to us, especially in producing the alloys we use in the construction industry, where recycled content is important for LEEDS certification for our customers,” says Smith.

Astro Shapes uses proprietary bar-coded racks to track all orders as they work their way through the plant.  The company’s tracking system is web-based to make it easy to know where material is located at all times.

Unique racking system minimizes damage during shipping

Astro Shapes has designed and engineered its own special racking system that minimizes damage during shipment.  Bill Cene, Plant Manager, says, “We have 17,000 racks in use here and throughout our customers base.”

The special rack design allows for faster loading while eliminating strap dents and other damage common to traditional shipping methods. The racks eliminate bundle-to-bundle contact during shipment. They are stackable and nest within each other when empty for easy transportation and storage.

Thermal barrier options for the building and construction industry

For the building and construction industry, Astro Shapes offers three thermal break systems. The Azon two-component polyurethane system involves pouring the polyurethane into a thermal break channel where it is set in line and then debridged.

The Polyamide Strip System allows for the mechanical locking of polyamide and two extrusions. With this system, Astro Shapes can join two different extrusions, including extrusions that are finished differently. This creates the potential for two-color extruded components. The system also allows Astro Shapes to effectively expand circle size by joining two extruded components together to form a large shape. Astro Shapes is the first U.S. extruder to offer this technology.

Astro Shapes also offers the Azo-Brader technique to create a mechanical bond between the polyurethane and the metal.

Astro Shapes is expanding its market in the eastern U.S., Midwest and South. Paul Cene says, “Hydro is a partner we’ve been growing with. Their philosophy is the same as ours.”

Author: Craig Johnson
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Updated: September 28, 2011
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