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Tubelite highlights 'green' aspect of aluminium

Tubelite’s one-word tagline says it all: Dependable. The Walker, Michigan-based company is one of the premier manufacturers of aluminium storefront and entrance systems in the U.S.  They serve glazing contractors and distributors across the country – with aluminium from Hydro.

“Recognizing the importance of construction project schedules, we’ve built our business around the goal of being the most dependable supplier in our industry. This means quality products; fast, reliable delivery; and easy fabrication and installation,” says Ken Werbowy, Tubelite’s president.

Reducing carbon footprint

“Green is a top issue for us,” says Charles Monroe, a Tubelite buyer and materials analyst. The company has joined the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Tubelite helps glazing contractors qualify for LEED certification by supplying storefront systems with an industry leading recycled content. Their products are designed for energy performance, thermal comfort, and quality views to the outside.

Tubelite also helps the majority of its customers qualify for the use of materials sourced within the local region. While not specifically required by LEED, Tubelite uses Ecofriendly finishes including anodizing and paint.

It’s evident throughout their operation from sourcing of high recycled content extrusion billets to recycling everything used in the plant that Tubelite is committed to maintaining a green environment.

They’ve reduced packaging to a minimum and measure consumption with the idea of reducing their own carbon footprint.

Tubelite has staked out a prominent position as a supplier of aluminium extruded products specially formulated to contain 80 percent recycled content, including a combination of post-consumer and manufacturing scrap. They deliver on this promise thanks to the Hydro remelt facilities in Henderson, Kentucky, and Monet, Missouri, which combine to supply more than two million pounds of aluminium per month.

The company uses 6063 extrusion alloy which has been specially formulated to meet their recycled content requirement while providing the consistent high quality Tubelite demands. Because of Hydro’s stringent quality control measures, Tubelite has found no difference in the metal coming from the two plants.

“Of all our suppliers, Hydro is topnotch,” says Monroe. “We’ve come to rely on them to deliver in a timely manner. But they go beyond the expected by exposing issues and reporting them to us before problems can occur. This has proven to be extremely important to us,” Monroe continues.

Monroe noted that their good working relationship with Hydro includes scrap handling. “They pick it up when they deliver our billet, reducing transportation costs,” he says.

With two million pounds per month of aluminium billet coming into Tubelite’s extrusion plant in Reed City, Michigan, Hydro makes deliveries almost daily. “We typically keep about 700,000 pounds of billet in the plant at all times to act as a buffer on deliveries,” says Monroe.

“We need suppliers to stand up and do what they’re supposed to everyday, and Hydro does that,” says Tubelite’s vice president of finance Gary A. Potter.

“Tubelite is a perfect match for Hydro because they challenge our remelt facilities to meet extremely high recycled content, something not easily accomplished in our industry, especially at the volumes of billet they need,” says Greg Lea, Regional Sales and Technical Manager.

Extruding profiles for storefronts and related products

Tubelite operates an eight-inch extrusion press that runs three shifts per day to handle the workload. The company is upgrading their second eight-inch press and bringing it on line to help accommodate the increased workload.

From Reed City, the extrusions are shipped to the Walker fabrication plant to be used in manufacturing store fronts, doors, blast doors, light shelving, sun shades, slope walls and vent windows for commercial buildings.

Tubelite chose aluminium for its durability. It doesn’t rust, and it can be anodized. “We anodize bout 80 percent of our extruded components. The remainder receives a Kynar® painting,” says Monroe.

“We ship 60,000 pounds of extruded components everyday so you can see how important it is for our suppliers, like Hydro, to meet our needs,” says Paul Marzolf, operations manager for Tubelite’s Reed City extrusion plant.

Glazing industry changes benefit Tubelite

With the recent recession in the American economy, commercial construction is still down. However, Tubelite has experienced growth since it decided to focus on serving the green building sector. “We are looking to double our size in three or four years,” Monroe says.

Demand is higher than anticipated for this year, according to Monroe. The expansion opportunities are reflected in multiple positions currently open in the company, including sales representatives, press operators and administrative staff.

CNC, other upgrades reduce production time

Tubelite operates three CNC machines at its Walker fabrication plant, including a new one brought online in the past two years to accommodate the custom door line. The CNC machines increased quality and sped up production. The results have been dramatic as the company has reduced its backlog of orders from as long as five or six weeks to five days.

“In addition to the CNC machines, we achieved this reduction in part because we moved to lean practices and brought custom orders in-house. As a result, we’ve reduced lead times to seven weeks, down from the industry norm of 15,” says Monroe.

Tubelite ships their products on damage-free delivery trucks with the orders loaded in sequence to minimize handling. Monroe reports the company maintains an on-time delivery rate in excess of 90 percent.

On-time delivery, quality manufacturing, short lead times and 80 percent recycled aluminium content – it’s what Tubelite calls “dependable” in the U.S. market.