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Copper & Brass
Wednesday | 19 December, 2012 | 3:59 pm

A new approach

By Gretchen Salois

Restructuring and new leadership provide a copper company with new opportunities

December 2012 - When revitalizing a troubled business, capital coincides with confidence. The recession has resulted in companies filing for bankruptcy or completely shutting down operations. There are, however, companies making a comeback as investor confidence boosts both business and customer conviction.

After Hussey Copper Ltd., Leetsdale, Pa., filed for bankruptcy in September 2011, Lynn Tilton purchased the company in December 2011. It was then that Tilton, founder and CEO of Patriarch Partners LLC, injected the company with capital and a new direction, including rebuilding the company and looking into other markets for new, profitable endeavors. 

According to Joe Mallak, president and CEO of Hussey Copper, with the first year coming to an end, customers are returning. “During the first year, we focused on the voice of the customers, rebuilding a neglected infrastructure and changing the culture from a lifestyle company to a growth company,” Mallak says. “It’s our belief that investing in our people, equipment and culture and focusing on our customers’ needs will develop a sustainable company with excellent growth potential.”

Hussey Copper has cast and rolled products for 164 years. Today, Hussey’s main casting furnace can melt more than 500,000 pounds of copper in a single cast. The company manufactures a number of alloys, including C-11000 electrolytic tough pitch, silver bearing copper alloys C-11400, C-11500 and C-11600, phosphorus deoxidized (both low residual phosphorus and high residual phosphorus) C-12000, C-12200, oxygen-free C-10100, C-10200, oxygen-free with silver C-10400, C-10500 and C-10700, super silver copper alloy C-15500 and copper nickel alloys C-70600 and C-71500.

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Antimicrobial copper

In addition to its traditional uses, new technology promises to create additional markets for copper companies. The development of antimicrobial copper alloy touch surfaces will boost the commodity as manufacturers produce the multipurpose alloy for surfaces such as railings and door knobs. 

Hussey Copper recently acquired certification to produce the touch surfaces from copper, MD-Cu29, and continues to develop products that kill bacteria like E. coli and MRSA, reducing the chance of transmitting diseases through touch. “It’s such an important development, especially where families and the safety of children are concerned,” Mallak says. “It’s a golden opportunity to have touch surfaces made from copper instead of plastics or steel because of this additional benefit.”

Currently, Hussey Copper’s fabrication facility in Eminence, Ky., manufactures products for multinational corporations. “Using the skills and abilities we have in manufactured, fabricated copper products, we are able to create products that look like popular stainless steel surfaces by simply adding nickel or other alloys to the copper,” Mallak says. “Consumers need to know just because the surfaces are made from copper, they do not have to be that color. We can make it work with your favorite hardware and finishes so you get the desired aesthetic effect and the benefits of the antimicrobial alloy.”

Achieving the balance of function and finish is possible as long as manufacturers maintain a certain ratio of copper in the mix. Hussey Copper follows a number of studies covering the comparison between antimicrobial copper and other materials such as plastics and stainless steel. “Bacteria can live for days and weeks on plastic or stainless, but on copper, most of the bacteria are dead within two hours,” he says. 

Along with antimicrobial copper, Hussey Copper is taking advantage of opportunities in other industries. With the architectural industry rebounding, Mallak expects demand for copper products to increase, coinciding with the industry’s recovery. “It affects many aspects of our business,” Mallak explains. “We make roofing copper, copper for electrical applications and other products used in the construction industry. Growth in the architectural sector is a plus to our business in the long term.”

Invest and reinvest

As the company’s recovery continues, Hussey Copper is planning to expand. Its investment in antimicrobial copper is just the beginning to build its commodity value-added side of the business.

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In addition to increased capital
investment and research into other  opportunities, Hussey Copper is refreshing the company’s overall approach to its customers. “We took a senior sales manager out of his job to lead our Voice of the Customer initiative,” Mallak says. “He is the interface between the three plant managers and all of our customers’ needs.” 

Every week, the team of plant managers and customer representatives meet with Mallak to address any issues with customers, “and we address all issues immediately,” he adds.

The Voice of the Customer is a customer-focused methodology that includes Hussey Copper’s entire business-to-market process and deals with products and services, focusing on customer satisfaction. The company measures quality measures, on-time delivery and response to customer questions. “We are meeting customer expectations in responding to a quote or a problem,” says Dan Borkowski, director of marketing. “A happy customer is a returning customer.”

“We want to get to a point where customers are buying product from us not just because of the quality and price but because the interaction with Hussey Copper is such a positive experience,” Mallak says.

To back up this plan, Hussey Copper encourages feedback from customers regarding service. “Two of our largest customers have both said the attention to detail is different from anything they’ve had before,” he says. As a part of Hussey Copper’s ongoing positive changes, the company has signed several long-term supply agreements with major consumers and has additional deals to be finalized over the next few months.

“It’s not just about ‘how do we make money,’” Mallak says. “It’s about making the customer experience positive and developing a long-term competitive business model.” MM

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