A happy customer always returns - Case Study
- Recycling areas: Cable
- Company name: Metallurgica Vigevanese S.R.L.
- Located: Vigevano, Italy
- Founded: 1971
- Employees: 12
Although officially founded in 1971, the company was originally founded by the current owners’ grandfather in 1948. Just after the war, there were many buildings that had been demolished, and which were now being rebuilt. It was hard to get a hold of metals and other raw materials, and so recycling became a popular new branch. Mauro Azzini explains: “There are many industrial companies in Italy and the rest of Europe with similar backgrounds, now being run by the third generation of the family. Many of these companies have closed over the years, but a few have survived and grown. A new generation of owners has emerged almost simultaneously in these companies, since the current owners are at approximately the same age. You can see a similar pattern in the smaller steel and iron workshops.”At the start of the 1990’s, the cable recycling industry was only a marginal activity - “just something fun to be involved in” according to Paolo Azzini. Today, about 70% of Metallurgica Vigevanese’s business is in cable recycling. Producing recycled copper involves more risks, as even small changes in value can cause major losses. Influencing the price of copper is difficult, as it is related to what’s happening worldwide. However, along with the potentially major risks, there is also a lot of money to be made if you play your cards right. Metallurgica Vigevanese acquire most of their cable scrap from Italy, but also sources minor amounts from other European countries, e.g. France and Germany. Owners: Paolo, Mauro, Claudia and Fabrizio Azzini.
The family-owned company Metallurgica Vigevanese S.R.L. is one of the largest and most important recyclers of cable in Italy. In 2003, the Azzini family acquired their first Eldan Recycling plant. Since then business has been very good, and they found themselves facing a pleasant problem; they needed to upgrade their plant – in both quality and capacity. At the end of 2010 they took the decision to purchase new Eldan recycling equipment. Today, Metallurgica Vigevanese is owned by twin brothers Paolo and Mauro Azzini, and cousins Claudia and Fabrizio Azzini.Getting into cable recycling
Metallurgica Vigevanese first got into cable recycling in 1990, when they acquired a cable recycling plant from an Italian manufacturer. This, their first cable recycling plant had a decent capacity and at a good price - a good way of getting into the industry. Processing however, did not go as smoothly as they had hoped. “We had a lot of problems with this equipment. The shredder had double shafts, and these broke many times. It was also very complicated to maintain and run”, says Paolo Azzini, one of the owners of Metallurgica Vigevanese. This equipment was capable of processing about 100 kg waste cable per production hour.
Even though their equipment was not what they had hoped for, business was booming. Within a few years they were getting more enquiries than they could handle, and so decided to increase production capacity. “We would have preferred to go with an Italian brand, but we were recommended a French manufacturer that we’d heard good things about. From that manufacturer we purchased some second-hand equipment that could process about 1,2 ton scrap cable per production hour,” comments Mauro Azzini, one of the owners of Metallurgica Vigevanese.Finding your feet
A few years later, the same positive problem occurred again - customer demand and the supply of input was greater than the plant’s production capacity. In 2003, they decided again to expand the production facility. “We were satisfied with the equipment supplied by the French manufacturer, and we did consider expanding by buying another complete system from the same company. However, as their equipment was too bulky and complicated, as well as expensive, we started to look for other alternatives” says Mauro. “Our crane supplier, who we have a lot of faith in, introduced us to Alessandro Silvestri (Sandro) at NME s.r.l. Sandro was, and still is, Eldan’s Italian agent for cable recycling.”
Sandro introduced them to Eldan’s cable recycling systems, and took them to visit a reference plant in Italy, to see the equipment in action. “During the visit to the reference plant, I was surprised and highly impressed by the equipment” says Paolo. “As we’d been in this field for a while, I knew straight away that this was very good quality equipment.”
In 2003, Metallurgica Vigevanese ordered a custom-made Eldan cable plant (E2500C) and an additional Silo (BFS). Together with the existing equipment it guaranteed an average capacity of about 20 tons a day, in a single 8-hour shift. The Eldan plant and the existing French plant were sited next to each other, and would work together as a double-up cable recycling plant. “We were looking for the best professional equipment available, and I knew I could trust Sandro’s opinion” says Mauro. “When he recommends a solution, then I believe it to be the best one; there’s no reason to hesitate in making the purchase.”
The cable plant (E2500C) included a Fine Granulator (FG952), a Silo (V4), a Separation Table (C22), and a Classifier (PC12), as well as various conveyors. The Fine Granulator (FG1504) is a high-speed, single-shaft Fine Granulator for the granulation stage and opening of the cables. Fraction sizes are typically 4-7 mm granulate. The Fine Granulator has hydraulic opening of the upper part and the screen cradle, for easy access to knives and rotors, and easy access for changing/cleaning the screen. To ensure the best possible quality and optimum flow through the plant, the material is then run through a Silo (V4). The Separation Table is designed to separate the metal from the insulation, and in the final separation gives a 98% (or better) clean metal fraction. The total output from the Separation Table is divided into 4 fractions; dust, metal, plastic and the middling. The Classifier (PC12) - two layers of screens and a bottom tray - effectively removes copper and aluminium fine fractions from the plastic fraction, thus minimising metal loss.
Being able to trust their business partners is very important to Paolo and Mauro. The equipment was installed in a mere four days in the autumn of 2003, and once it had been installed, their impressions of Eldan were reinforced;
Practice makes perfect
“We knew that we’d purchased a turnkey plant, but were still surprised by the quick installation. After just one day we were running the plant ourselves.” says Paolo.
The cable recycling industry has two kinds of player; the industrial companies who refine or change the material before selling it, and who earn their money from the processing; and the commercial companies that simply buy and sell the same material, earning their money depending from their business connections and on the market price at the time of selling. Metallurgica Vigevanese is a mix of the two, as they basically attempt to buy cables when the price is low, and then sell the copper granulate when the copper price has risen. It is important for them to be able to process large amounts of cables at the same time, and then to store the product while waiting to sell it. “As we’re spending about €1.000.000 a month on cables, even slight increases or decreases in market prices can make a huge difference” says Mauro. “We want to be able to increase our processing when cables are cheap, as we need to get it all into storage as quickly as possible. Once we have it processed and in storage, we know we can sell it at any time. When we don’t have as much cable to process, then we lower the processing capacity. Many years ago it was easier to get real bargains, as some people were not aware of the market prices in real time.” The margin on just processing the cable is small, but the financial risk is small as well. Speculating on the market on the other hand has a larger potential for earnings, but also involves greater risks.Once again a positive “problem”
At the end of 2010, Metallurgica Vigevanese once again decided to upgrade their production facility. Even though the market had stagnated at this point, the company did not hesitate to invest again. “We have good experience of the Eldan equipment. The systems are compact and don’t take up much space, yet they are very good quality. The knives of the mill have a long life span. Quite simply, Eldan manufactures high quality equipment, which produces a highly desirable output material. The loss of metal in the plastic fraction is very low” says Paolo. “Space is important to us, as we already have a building full of equipment, and the new system needs to fit into the available space.”
There is a great advantage in having greater processing capacity – not only can we process more, but we can also handle the peaks in supply. “We don’t want to have to say no to scrap material! We’d rather put our valuable copper into storage and wait for better times” says Mauro.
Sandro has being doing business with the Azzini family for a long time, and comments: “The opinion of true professionals is extremely important. I know that I represent the best brands on the market, but it’s still a great feeling when you know your customers trust the equipment in the same way you do yourself.”
After thorough discussions with Sandro and the product manager for cable recycling at Eldan, Flemming Hansen, it was decided that the new plant would replace the French line, and would run in parallel with the one supplied by Eldan in 2003.
An order was placed for a standard Eldan cable granulation and separation plant, for processing mixed dry cables (diameter max. 50 mm, and length max. 450mm) at 4 tons input per production hour. This would allow them to process approximately 28 tons per day. This meant an increase in production capacity of approximately 35%. Production capacity is based on an average copper content of approximately 45%, and depends on the screen size, the feeding method, etc.
The cable granulation and separation plant includes one Multi-Purpose Rasper (MPR160), two Overband Magnets (DM1850), one Tumble Back Feeder, one Heavy Granulator (HG169), one Fine Granulator (FG1504), one Silo (SMV), one Separation Table (C22) and one Classifier (PC12).
The Multi-Purpose Rasper (MPR160) is an effective, medium-speed, dual-drive Rasper designed for cable recycling. It ensures individual size reduction down to approximately 15-25mm fraction sizes. The main housing is equipped with replaceable wear plates, wear rings and other components. The Overband Magnet (DM1850) efficiently removes the liberated iron from the granulate. The Tumble Back Feeder ensures a continuous flow into the Heavy Granulator, thus ensuring its optimum load/utilization. The Heavy Granulator (HG169) is a high-speed, single-shaft Granulator for the first granulation stage. The main housing is equipped with replaceable wear plates, wear rings and other components. The purpose of the Silo (SMV) is to balance the output from the Fine Granulator against the maximum input rate of the Separation Table, thus ensuring that the quality of separation is maintained. The Separation Table (C22) does the final material separation, into a 98% (or better) clean metal fraction.
The new plant was installed during the summer of 2011, and has improved production in both quality and quantity.A long warm relationship
In many ways it is easier to add to an existing recycling plant, as you already know the customer and their requirements, and they know you and your products,. There are however, many things that make it more demanding to extend an existing plant. In the case of Metallurgica Vigevanese, an entire plant needed to be removed, to allow the building to be renovated. Since production has to be stopped during this phase, it is very important that the plant doesn’t stand still needlessly. “Time wasted is money wasted, so it’s important to plan the arrival of the new equipment to fit the rebuilding of the existing plant. It’s more important to have a well designed project plan and new facility layout when production has to be stopped completely for a period” says Flemming. “For new customers who don’t yet have any production, a week’s delay is not the end of the world, but for a company already in production, delays can mean great financial losses.”
When a project needs to run like clockwork, communication is everything. “We were invited to visit the Eldan production facility in Denmark during the project. The Eldan staff, including project and production management, were very competent and professional. We got to see some of our own machines being manufactured, and we went through the entire project to make sure that nothing would go wrong. Our overall impression was very favourable” says Mauro.
Metallurgica Vigevanese stopped production completely from the beginning of March until the end of May. “It was difficult telling our loyal customers that we couldn’t buy their scrap during this period” says Paolo. “We explained that we were upgrading our processing facilities and asked them to wait until we were back at full capacity again. Of course they sold their scrap to other processors during our stoppage, but we enticed them back to us again by offering them special conditions when we reopened the factory. Today we’re back at full capacity again. Our customers have realized that the rebuilding of the factory was not only for our own good, but for theirs too. We can now process more scrap, with better quality output.”
Equipment quality is important to the Azzini brothers, the most important factor being that machinery does not break down and stand still for any length of time. “Eldan makes better quality equipment, which can be seen in the output granulate. When processing the same cable type in our old plant and in the new Eldan plant, we see a big difference in the output from the two lines. It almost looks like the Eldan copper granulate output has been cut piece-by-piece” says Mauro. “This cutting makes a big difference on the separation table. It’s going to be easier for us to control production when we’re using equipment from the same manufacturer.”