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Aluminum | What needs to be strengthened to continue to stand out?

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In order for the aluminum industry to continue to be competitive here and elsewhere, action must be taken on various fronts that have been targeted in recent years by analytical work by AluQuébec, the aluminum cluster. It has just created the Aluminerie de l’avenir worksite to monitor and ensure the implementation of these actions. Here are four of his priorities.

Automating

The aluminum industry does not live in a parallel world: it must deal with the current labor shortage in Quebec. Automation is part of the solution. “It reduces labor on the floor and increases productivity,” says François Racine, President and CEO of AluQuébec. One of the site’s major projects is that of the casting center of the future, which transforms and shapes liquid aluminium. “Two equipment manufacturers and Rio Tinto are developing automation and autonomous operation technology to enable the development of a hyperconnected casting center that will work with artificial intelligence,” he adds. This project is used to demonstrate technologies that can then be marketed by equipment manufacturers.

Cybersecurity

With equipment that collects a lot of data and communicates with each other, the question of cybersecurity comes up quickly. “We need to raise awareness and train people in companies in relation to cybersecurity issues to protect the industry,” says François Racine. On this hot topic, AluQuébec has decided to work in collaboration with Aéro Montréal, the aerospace cluster, which is experiencing similar issues.

Recycling

Reducing the environmental footprint is also a priority. The issue of waste management and recovery as well as post-consumer recycling are important. “In Quebec, the aluminum recovery rate is around 60-65%, which is good compared to other materials, but we want to increase it to 100%,” says François Racine. To achieve this, action must be taken on several fronts, such as primary producers and processors, in addition to increasing collection points and developing new technologies. We are already seeing progress. Rio Tinto recently announced the construction of a post-consumer aluminum recycling center in Arvida. “This is a very important project for the industry and we hope there will be more announcements like this to reduce the landfilling of aluminum residues and the carbon footprint of the industry,” says the CEO. of AluQuebec.

Traceability

While the aluminum produced here with hydroelectricity is much greener than that produced from coal, we must ensure that we can put this competitive advantage to the fore. For this to be possible, a traceability system must be put in place. To achieve this, AluQuébec works with OPTEL, a Quebec company specializing in the development of traceability projects on a global scale. “We need to be able to mark local aluminum at all processing stages,” says François Racine. Thus, the companies that will buy these products will be able to say that they use the aluminum with the lowest carbon footprint. This project is in its first phase, with the producers. It will then be necessary to involve the processors.



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