Industrial giant in the south of Neuss

There is an interesting game that children play in the car to while away the time on longer journeys. One says the first part of a phrase and the other has to complete it in a meaningful way. Examples: Apple? Pie. Cake? Slice. Cat? Food. If the participants in this game are from Hamburg or Munich, the stimulus "aluminium" would almost certainly elicit such answers as "foil" or "wheel". Someone from Neuss, near Düsseldorf, is more likely to respond: "Norf". It may sound a little exaggerated, but it is, in fact, quite realistic to refer to the Managing Directors of Aluminium Norf GmbH as the sovereign rulers over one of the most impressively large industrial landscapes in the country. The two Managing Directors, one with responsibility for commercial matters, Thomas Geupel, who has been in that position for over 20 years, and his colleague responsible for technical issues, Stefan Erdmann, are accountable for ensuring things run smoothly at Alunorf. This smelting and rolling mill is by far the largest facility of its kind – worldwide. The enormous industrial site to the south of Neuss (pronounced "noise" but with a soft "s") employs 2300 staff.

Production runs around the clock on 360 days a year. Annual output is around 1.5 m tonnes. To put that in perspective, the entire European market for aluminium amounts to 5 m tonnes. Enormous coils of rolled aluminium strip leave the site every day. They are used as the raw material for a wide variety of products. "We dispatch coils of strip to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia"' explains Thomas Geupel, where they are made into drinks cans. Anyone, whether in Rio, New York or Tokyo, that opens up a newspaper is probably holding a printed product that was made with the aid of Norf technology – printing plates are made of aluminium. Cars are another well-known example of the indispensable use of this light-weight material. The same applies to the massive market for packaging materials. "One used to refer to railway engines as 'iron horses'" comments the Managing Director, "'Aluminium horses' would be more appropriate today".

In the industry (and in Neuss), Alunorf is well-known. The suburb of Neuss called Norf, an independent borough until the mid-70s, is, as a result of its industry, well-known to technical experts in China, Brazil and the USA. And yet, explains Thomas Geupel, many of the locals are not really aware of what the neighbouring factory does. "We are a kind of secretive giant." Part of the reason for this is the fact that the products made of this material bear names like Mercedes, Fuji, Coca-Cola or Iglo but not Alunorf. The company on the banks of the Rhine is involved only in manufacturing the material. Sales & distribution are organised by the two shareholders, who are in fact the only two customers: Hydro Aluminium Rolled Products and its competitor Novelis. "Our orders always come from Grevenbroich, where Hydro is based, and from Göttingen, which is where Novelis is," explains the commercial Managing Director. Since Hydro also operates a manufacturing facility directly adjacent to Alunorf in addition to its factory in Grevenbroich, those in the industry often refer to the "magic aluminium triangle". This combination of factories is accountable for no less than 5000 jobs in Neuss. Estimates have calculated that as many as 25,000 people in the region depend on the aluminium business.

Thomas Geupel is particularly proud of the high safety standards in "his" enterprise, where hot, heavy materials are handled almost every second of every day. "In the last year, there has been only one single accident that necessitated a short time off work." explains the Managing Director, "That makes us the top company in the statistics held by the workers' insurance association". Alunorf's business is energy-intensive but all the workflows are subject to continuous improvement efforts to increase efficiency and productivity and thus save energy. Thomas Geupel repeatedly emphasises the sustainability of aluminium. "On the one hand, the fact that it is so light means it saves large amounts of fuel." And, on the other hand, recycling aluminium only uses five per cent of the energy originally required to make the metal.

Aluminium Norf GmbH
Koblenzer Strasse 120
41468 Neuss
Phone: +49 2131 937-0
Fax: +49 2131 937-8599
As of 2016