Copper & Brass
Friday | 10 August, 2018 | 11:17 am

Aviva Metals charging ahead on several flight paths to growth

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Aviva Metals manufactures, machines and distributes copper alloys in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Assuring customers that ‘Everything is OK’ helps foundry/master distributor to win new business and retain it

August 2018 - Few companies can stand still while competitors leap forward and expect to survive unscathed. That is why Aviva Metals (formerly National Bronze & Metals Inc.) has been charging ahead on several flight paths to growth.

Tom Bobish, vice president of operations since early 2017, cites the company’s trajectories: the development of a new alloy; broader product range; additional machining capacity; a hiring spree for outside salespeople; and a pledge that Aviva’s service will be free of aggravation.

In 2011, Congress passed the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (RLDWA), which sought to lower the maximum lead content in plumbing equipment from 8 percent to 0.25 percent.

After years of trials and testing, senior vice president Norman Lazarus successfully developed the Aviva Model 3 Free Machining DZR (dezincification-resistant) grade—a lead-free brass that has patents pending for North America and several other countries, and has already won patents in several European nations.

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The company recently added CNC machines that were built for higher volume and capability.

According to Bobish, “The whole world wants to move away from lead,” and so Aviva is also trying to win approval for the Model 3 under ROHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive), European Union regulations that cover a wide array of materials.

The regulations for machined products containing lead have remained unchanged for four years because the “industry did not come forward with great solutions.” Lazarus, however, “formulated a new [lead-free] alloy tested by the Copper Development Association for machinability and it’s outstanding,” says Bobish. “So we are going to approach ROHS and other agencies that measure lead. We can say there is a solution.”

Alloys that are rated at 100 percent provide perfect machinability. Many lead-free alloys created by other producers machine at about 70 percent, so machine shops cannot run at full speed, says Bobish. “It becomes more difficult to make parts. Aviva’s new alloy will machine at 90 to 91 percent. We will push the world to adopt this as the new standard.”

Aviva Metals plans to sell this new alloy in 3⁄32-inch to 16-inch-diameter solid bars, and hexes and squares up to 4 inches. The product will be available in hollow bars within the same size ranges and in the form of ingots for remelting.

Machining skills

The Houston-based company continues to expand its machined parts division. “Not only do we manufacture continuous bar and rod, we machine and take care of customers who do their own machining. We are a reliable backup to support them,” says Bobish.

Aviva is one of the largest master distributors of aerospace alloys in the United States. “We make some, we stock some and we can machine them,” he says, particularly with the recent addition of CNC machines built for “higher volume and capability.”

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Face to face

When Bobish took over sales and operations in January 2017, Aviva Metals employed a small outside sales force. “We were not in front of customers enough. You have to see people face to face and identify their pain, and determine how we can work differently to help them. It could be a stocking program or a blanket contract, locked-in pricing or a consignment program.”

Aviva has since increased its outside sales force by 40 percent. “That has made a difference. We learn more about our market.” On certain accounts, Bobish travels with salespeople. “Some customers will ask, ‘Are any one of you local?’ And I can say, ‘Marty is local’ or ‘Courtney is local. So if you need help, they can come over.’”

As a result, “You see a completely new look on their face. If you’re local, the customer can identify where you live. And Aviva Metals has continued to provide better service in the field. It’s helping our business grow. The customer wants to know: Am I important to you, or not? Are you committed to my business?”

Sheet and strip

Another step toward increased market relevance is Aviva Metals’ expansion into sheet and strip products. Bobish came from the flat-rolled products arena and turned to his long-time sources.

Sheet and strip demand are about equal to that of alloy long products. They are each about 1 billion pounds a year. Aviva Metals, he says, was an afterthought with sheet product for many customers. “I know all the key players, so I set up meetings and told them I would start carrying their products.

“Because we carry mostly rod, bar and plate, I must believe we will be able to add sales with strip products. I would expect that this additional strip inventory could increase sales 10 percent in the first year and 20 percent next year,” says Bobish.

The vendor relationship will benefit Aviva’s clients. Bobish can assure customers of inventory on the floor and the volume of orders scheduled at the mill. “I call it aggravation free. So many people say they’ll do something, like the electrician who doesn’t show up or doesn’t call. You feel used.”

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Lead-free alloys are in high demand in the wake of health and environmental restrictions.

No guesswork

“What I convey to my staff is that the people we sell are not the end customer, but have promised their customer a finished part by next week and they need four days to machine it,” Bobish relates. “We have to deliver on time and deliver the right product. If they don’t get it, their customer will ask, ‘Why are you still dealing with those bums?’

“People are tired of excuses,” he continues. “How do you overcome the things that happen, like a ship that may have sunk three weeks ago? The customer would wonder, why didn’t you tell me that? You want to look people in the eye and let them know as soon as you learn something, what’s going on.”

Even if it’s great news, such as being able to deliver orders early, he tells sales to reach out just to say, ‘It’s here.’

“That puts people at ease. We don’t need to have customers guessing. If they order 20,000 pounds, I tell them how much has arrived, how much is on order, and we have plenty of material for you. They don’t even have to ask. They are busy trying to run their business. We just want to tell them that everything is OK,” Bobish says. “That’s how we win more business.” MM


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