Ball Corporation is the world's largest drinks can manufacturer, and Hydro has been supplying them with aluminium for many years. Ball requires top quality metal to ensure its own products are top-notch, and Hydro supplies both the aluminium and the technical expertise to help them get the most out of it
Established in 1880, Ball Corporation has grown over the years to become a Fortune 500 company, one of six based in Colorado. This makes the Rocky Mountain State the home of the largest beverage can manufacturer in the world. Ball has been doing business with Hydro for many years. In fact, Hydro supplies Ball production facilities or licensees in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America with rolled aluminum body stock, end stock and tab stock for beverage cans.
Ball's beverage can technology is used in the production of more than 50 billion cans annually. This includes licensing agreements and joint ventures, as well as the company's own production facilities around the world. Although the figure includes steel-made cans, Ball uses aluminum for the majority of its production.
"They are very good at what they do. Hydro is an important supplier for us”
John Martin, VP purchasing, Ball Packaging
More than two-thirds of the company's pro forma sales are drawn from its beverage can business, which serves customers like Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Coors Brewing, Pepsi-Cola and SAB-Miller Brewing. Ball also makes steel food cans and PET plastic bottles, and is a supplier to the aerospace industry.
"But we are more interested in being the best than we are in being the biggest," says R. David Hoover, Ball's chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Ball Corporation puts life into beverage cans. In fact, the company puts more into its cans than one might expect. “We are a nuts-and-bolts type of company that is strong in technology. It might not sound exciting, but innovation is constantly changing our business, and that is exciting for Ball, our customers and our suppliers,” says John Martin, vice president in charge of purchasing for Ball's Packaging Operations.
The biggest area of change in the beverage can market is linked to size and shape: bigger cans, smaller cans, shaped cans. “We’re working very hard to develop these niche markets,” says Martin, who insists that while Ball is considered a leader with its production technology, it is people who will keep the company ahead of competitors in the beverage can business.
“While most of the world’s can manufacturers basically have the same equipment, the key is having the people who provide the best technical support. We invest in our people,” he says, adding:
“We look for the same type of support from our suppliers. We want suppliers who are both financially and technically strong, and who will work together with us on joint technical projects. We work very closely with our suppliers.”
Ball's production facilities, for instance, often have metal specifications that are unique from location to location. In other words, Ball suppliers must have the ability to "perfect the metal" along a wide range of specifications and tolerances and deliver plant to plant.
"The bottom line," says Martin, "is that you have got to have consistent quality every day. That's our business."
John Martin says that business with Hydro "has grown nicely together because they are very good at what they do. Hydro is an important supplier for us."
"Ball helps make us stronger as a supplier," says Hydro’s Manfred Mertens in Division Rolled Products. "We work together on projects that improve our competence, and they keep us focused on continuous improvement in our operations."
How is a beverage can produced? How does Ball Packaging Europe ensure a constant high quality in production and delivery? Ball Corporation's website explains the production process step by step. Find out how complex such a simple everyday item can be!