By Eric Peterson | Feb 06, 2015
Spanish Fork, Utah / Sapa Group HQ: Oslo, Norway
Founded: Sapa Group was established in 1963; the Spanish Fork facility opened in 1991 and was acquired in 2007
Owned by Orkla Group and Norsk Hydro
Employees: 23,000 / 210 in Utah
Plant Manager Seth Davis is finding innovative ways to boost efficiency at a facility that's operating at maximum capacity for five years running.
Sapa Group is the largest manufacturer of aluminum extrusions in North America and one of the largest manufacturers of aluminum products on the planet.
One of more than 20 company factories in the country, the Spanish Fork facility makes a wide range of aluminum extrusions for distribution and the commercial transportation market with a pair of hydraulic extrusion presses -- a 3,000-ton unit and a 4,250-ton unit -- and an in-house casting operation.
"We extrude and ship 9.5 million pounds per month," says Davis, who's been at the plant for more than 20 years. "Our model is based on simple products with very high output."
The end users are notably diverse, he adds. "Sapa as a whole is in every aluminum market out there, from building and construction to railcars to solar to aerospace -- you name it."
The approach is paying off. "We're doing well from a market standpoint," Davis says. "Very few of our plants are struggling for work."
Spanish Fork is a perfect example. "We're a 24/7 operation," he adds. "We're at full capacity and have been since 2010. We've sold out every shift, day and night."
To refine manufacturing processes, Davis assigned an engineer to each machine at the plant. The approach has improved production without hiring or otherwise expanding.
The Sapa North American Technical Center in Portland, Oregon, offers design and technical support, and works to further innovate all things aluminum.
The supply chain is largely recycled. "We are a 50 percent recycled aluminum company," says Davis.
Safety is woven into Sapa's corporate culture. "Every single conversation has safety involved," says Davis. "It always starts with safety."
Philanthropy is another company-wide focal point. ”We look at ourselves as a very good contributor to society," says Davis, citing involvement in everything from donations to schools to trail crews.
As a member of the Utah Manufacturing Association's board, Davis notes that the karma from community involvement in STEM programs at local schools serves the company and local industry well. "We're always looking at school systems," he says. "Those are important things for Utah and its manufacturing economy."
Challenges: "For us the challenge is always turnover," says Davis. For 2014, 28 percent turnover was a notable dip from 38 percent in 2013, but still too high. "It's expensive," says Davis, attributing last year's decline to moving away from a temp-to-hire program for entry-level employees.
Part of the problem is low unemployment in Utah, he adds. "If they aren't happy today, they can go and find a new job tomorrow."
Opportunities: When you're operating at full capacity, productivity becomes critical. "It's really about improving our processes and increasing our throughput," says Davis.
He sees the automotive market as especially ripe, citing Ford 's use of aluminum in new F-150s. To hit federal mileage mandates, automakers "have to use aluminum."
Needs: "We've just got to execute -- daily execution," says Davis. "We need high output, high quality, and performance delivery. We do that and we keep market share."
A UMA Member Company